Silicon photonics have been heralded as an opportunity to break through the processing speed limitations currently faced by electronics (limited to the speed of electricity). Light, being much faster than electricity, can improve the speed of the next generation of computing devices as the medium through which information is transferred, both on processing chips and over great distances “off-chip”. Photonics isn’t just another interconnect technology. The shift to photonics will benefit both chip and systems design, and will solve an input/output bottleneck.
The current CMOS chips in the microelectronics industry are based on (001) silicon (Si) substrates; hence initial photonic devices also have to be compatible with (001) silicon. Unfortunately, Si itself cannot emit light. To circumnavigate this problem, lasers made of other materials have been placed on the Si substrate. This field of development is known as silicon photonics.
Description of the technology
The technology described here is the first monolithic diode laser grown directly on a (001) silicon substrate with emission wavelength at around 1.3 microns. Making such an electrically pumped diode laser directly on silicon has proven to be a great challenge to the photonic industry, meaning this technology is an extremely important development for the progress of Si-photonics.
Lasers with emission wavelength at 1.3um are very desirable as this particular wavelength produces the least dispersion in SiO2, is transparent to silicon, and allows eye-safe operation. The emitted light has negligible attenuation in Si-based devices and more signals (or channels) can be accompanied if the light is guided using SiO2 based waveguides.
This technology is a first of its kind laser and its output power has already proven to be sufficiently large for silicon photonics-based applications (i.e. on-chip communication). With a waveguide and detector, these lasers can serve as a complete on-chip monolithic photonic link or optical interconnect. With future increase of the wavelength to 1.55 m, the Si-based lasers could be used in long-haul fiber-optic links.
These lasers show a very high temperature stability, meaning they could be deployed in a variety of applications where the environment can be challenging (e.g. smart car engine systems).
*Telecomm * Datacomm/Information Technology * High-performance computing * Data center networking * Enterprise networking * Mobile broadband Internet access * Metro and long haul data communications * Autonomous vehicle systems * Consumer electronics
- Easily transferred to the microelectronics industry
-  silicon based, thus CMOS-technology compatible
- The 1.3um emission wavelength allows eye-safe operation
- The 1.3um emission wavelength is ideal for multi-mode communication
- The lasers show very high temperature stability
- The laser output power is sufficiently large for Si-photonics applications
- Photonics, as a whole, is expected to be cost-effective and reliable compared to current technology