£6.1m project to create silicon optical integrated circuits

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Researchers from University College London (UCL), with collaborators from Cambridge, Cardiff and Southampton Universities, have been awarded a five-year £6.1 million, UKRI-EPSRC programme grant to create the first optical integrated circuits on silicon with monolithically integrated quantum dot laser sources. 

The Quantum Dots on Silicon (QUDOS) programme will investigate new ways of integrating all the parts that are needed for high capacity optical communications and signal processing on a single silicon chip.

The sensing, processing and transport of information is at the heart of modern life, as can be seen from the ubiquity of smart-phone usage on any street. The internet depends on optical systems from fibre to the home, through data centres to the trans-oceanic optical cables that link the nations of the earth. Creating these systems requires the mechanical alignment of components to accuracies of less than a micron, about one hundredth of the diameter of a human hair, a costly and labour intensive process.   

The QUDOS research team have invented technologies to integrate the required components on silicon chips in the same manner as electronic systems are now realised as integrated circuits, making possible the first data interconnects, switches and sensors that use lasers monolithically integrated on silicon. QUDOS offers the potential to transform Information and Communication Technology (ICT) by changing fundamentally the way in which data is sensed, transferred between and processed on silicon chips.

The programme builds on previous work by team members which demonstrated the world's first successful telecommunications wavelength lasers directly integrated on silicon substrates.

Removing the need to assemble individual components will enable vastly increased scale and functionality for information systems at greatly reduced cost. 

Professor Alwyn Seeds, principal investigator for QUDOS, said: 'The QUDOS programme, through the monolithic integration of all required optical ICT functions on silicon, will have a similar transformative effect on ICT to that which the creation of the first silicon integrated electronic circuits had on electronics. I look forward to working with distinguished colleagues from Cambridge, Cardiff and Southampton Universities, together with outstanding industrial partners spanning the supply chain from materials to systems, to make this vision a reality.'

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