Silicon photonics project takes leap forward

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Project partners of the European Helios project to accelerate commercialisation of silicon photonics have demonstrated a laser and a 10Gb/s silicon modulator using a process that is compatible with CMOS processing.

Silicon photonics is an emerging technology for overcoming electrical connections' limits in processing increasingly data-rich content and reducing the cost of photonic systems by integrating optical and electronic functions on the same chip. The technology may enable low-cost solutions for a range of applications such as optical communications, chip-to-chip and rack-to-rack connections, data centre cables, optical signal processing, optical sensing, and biological applications.

The project, in its second year, is developing building blocks and processes to accelerate the adoption of silicon photonics. The laser was fabricated by first bonding a III-V material (indium phosphide) on top of a CMOS wafer and then processing it using the same equipment as in microelectronics production.

The consortium also demonstrated a 10Gb/s silicon modulator with an extinction ratio of 7dB. The 40Gb/s version has already been designed by the consortium and is under fabrication. First characterisation results are expected next year.

'The capability of manufacturing optical components within the CMOS-processing infrastructure is key to realising the potential of silicon photonics,' said Laurent Fulbert, photonics programs manager at CEA-Leti and coordinator of Helios. 'The Helios partners are focused on bringing this technology to foundries and component manufacturers for high-volume applications.'