AIM Photonics receives $1.2m from US government to boost PIC research

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The American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), a public-private partnership advancing American photonics manufacturing capabilities, has received grants totalling $1.2 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which will enable collaborative photonics-centred research with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), University of California-San Diego (UCSD), and University of Delaware (UD).

The funding will support projects to enable more efficient identification of materials, as well as enhanced processes for manufacturing complex photonic devices and next-generation computing capabilities.

AIM Photonics features research, development, and commercialisation arms in Albany and Rochester in New York State, where state-of-the-art equipment and tools are being installed at AIM Photonics’ TAP facility.

‘Partnering with AIM Photonics provides NSF-funded researchers unique access to world-class manufacturing facilities, stimulating innovation and enabling faculty to span the spectrum from fundamental research breakthroughs to translational advances in integrated photonics devices and circuits that directly impact society,’ said Dr. Filbert Bartoli, director of the division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems in NSF’s Directorate for Engineering.

Rochester Institute of Technology's $423,000 NSF grant will be used to support the research project, 'PIC: Hybrid Silicon Electronic-Photonic Integrated Neuromorphic Networks,' focusing on the development of high-performance neural networks that will be integrated onto photonic chips for scalable and efficient architectures. In tandem with integrated electronics, these architectures will overcome challenges related to photonic memory and amplification - offering a hybrid, high-bandwidth computing approach for applications to autonomous systems, information networks, cybersecurity, and robotics. To develop these architectures, RIT will work with AIM Photonics to use its leading-edge PIC toolset, located at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, NY, and the AIM Photonics TAP facility in Rochester, NY—the world’s first 300mm open access PIC Test, Assembly, and Packaging (TAP) facility. The project will take place within RIT’s Future Photon Initiative (FPI) and Center for Human-Aware AI (CHAI).

This research effort will also provide educational opportunities for elementary through high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, and the AIM Photonics Academy will be able to disseminate the project’s findings to further increase understanding of this fast-growing area of research.

Using its $405,000 grant, the University of California-San Diego (UCSD's) AIM photonics project will focus on 'PIC: Mobile in Situ Fourier Transform Spectrometer on a Chip,' which will enable UCSD to rapidly prototype and test miniaturised and mobile platform-embedded optical spectrometers that will excel at chemical identification. The initial design, fabrication, and validation of such a spectrometer on a Si chip have been recently reported in Nature Communications. This effort will continue and culminate with full-scale manufacturing runs at AIM Photonics’ foundry at the Albany Nanotech Complex. The integrated chip-scale Fourier transform spectrometer is to be fully CMOS compatible for use in mobile phones and other mobile platforms with potential impacts in areas ranging from environmental management, medicine, and security.

Lastly, the University of Delaware (UD) will use a $360,000 for a the project, 'PIC: Hybrid Integration of Electro-Optic and Semiconductor Photonic Devices and Circuits with the AIM Photonics Institute.' This effort will allow UD to work with AIM Photonics to leverage the initiative’s expertise and state-of-the-art foundry for the development of new heterogeneous manufacturing processes for photonic devices, using new materials such as lithium niobate (LiNbO3), which can then be directly integrated with silicon CMOS systems for photonic devices and chip scale systems.

More specifically, the effort aims to realise high performance RF-photonic devices such as ultra-high frequency modulators (> 100 GHz) that are used in data networks; high-efficiency chip-scale routers for advanced data centres; and high-power phased array antenna photonic feed networks that are compatible with older and next-generation wireless communications; in addition to enabling a number of other wide-ranging commercial applications.

'The heterogeneous integration of LiNbO3 with Silicon Photonics allows for the use of the best properties of both material systems, thereby enabling truly innovative systems for countless emerging applications,' said project principal Investigator, Dr Dennis Prather, engineering alumni professor at the University of Delaware.

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