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Grating couplers with nanoscale periodicity have been fabricated on silicon-on-insulator (SOI) substrates by electron beam lithography and reactive ion etching. A versatile experimental apparatus has been implemented to measure the efficiency of these gratings in coupling free-space radiation into planar waveguides. This coupling efficiency has been measured as a function of grating depth and the angle and wavelength of incident radiation. Coupling efficiencies of at least 5% and as high as 20% are demonstrated for wavelengths in the vicinity of 1550 nm and incident angles around 45deg.