Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Engineers develop smallest device to control light, advance silicon technology

20.01.2006


An electrical engineer at the University of Texas at Austin has made a laser light blink while passing through a miniaturized silicon chip, a major step toward developing commercially viable optical interconnects for high performance computers and other devices.



Researchers for decades have sought to harness light as a messenger on silicon chips because light can move thousands of times faster through solid materials than electrons and can carry more information at once, while requiring less energy.

Ray Chen, a professor of electrical engineering, and graduate students Wei Jiang, YongQiang Jiang and Lanlan Gu created a chip made of silicon “photonic crystals” whose complex internal structure slowed light traveling through the chip. The laser light slowed down enough that a small electric current could alter, or modulate, the pattern of light transmission.


“We were able to get our new silicon modulator to control the transmission of laser light, while using 10 times less power than normally needed for silicon modulators,” said Chen, who holds the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellowship No. 4.

He will give an invited talk about the latest update on the miniaturized device on Jan. 25, at the Optoelectronics 2006 Symposia of the SPIE Photonics West Conference in San Jose, Calif.

For light to encode meaningful information, its intensity or other characteristics need to be modulated, just as air that passes through a person’s vocal cords is modulated to produce speech sounds by actions that include moving the lips and tongue. Because Chen was able to modify light using electric current, which itself is modifiable, he expects to be able to modulate the light to blink on and off at different rates, or to change in intensity.

Once such silicon modulators are combined with lasers on a silicon platform, these optical chips could become a mainstay of consumer electronic devices, telecommunication systems, biosensors and other devices. In computers, the light-modulating chips would primarily serve to send information between a computer’s microprocessors and its memory, a process called interconnection.

“In a Pentium 4, over 50 percent of the computer’s power is consumed by interconnection,” Chen said.

Other advantages of optical chips based on silicon photonic crystals would include their reduced risk of overheating due to lower power needs, the ability to fabricate optical chips primarily with traditional mass-production practices in a silicon foundry and the expected smaller size of optical modulators and other optical silicon elements of the future.

Chen initially published findings on the silicon modulator in the Nov. 28, 2005, issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters. That article described how less than 3 milliwatts of power was needed for light modulation. The length of the special silicon chip the light needed to travel before being modifiable was 80 micrometers (.08 millimeters). That is about 10 times shorter than the best conventional silicon optical modulators. Smaller components help drive manufacturing costs down,and also transmit signals faster.

The shortened length was possible because Chen’s laboratory designed the silicon photonic crystals that are the key component of the modulator to have large regions of regularly spaced, nanosize holes that light would have to traverse. Navigating the Swiss cheese-like regions of the crystals, called line defects, slowed the light’s passage considerably.

Since the November publication, Chen’s laboratory has continued evaluating the specialized silicon chips and learning how to change the blinking rate of laser light traversing their silicon modulator.

This research is supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Jiang is now a research scientist at Omega Optics Inc. in Austin, Texas. For photos of Dr. Chen, go to: www.engr.utexas.edu/news/action_shots/pages/chen.cfm.

Becky Rische | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.engr.utexas.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat
18.05.2018 | DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

nachricht Researchers control the properties of graphene transistors using pressure
17.05.2018 | Columbia University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>