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 Open, flexible assembly platform for optical systems
23.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnologie IPT

nachricht A big nano boost for solar cells
18.01.2017 | Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>