Researchers realize breakthrough in miniaturizing light-based chips
A new way to control light moving through integrated circuits has been reported by researchers at the University of Rochester. This understanding paves the way in computing, communications and photonics.
Specific photonic integrated circuits that use light instead of electricity are promising greater speed, increased bandwidth and greater energy efficiency than traditional circuits that use electricity. However, the circuits are not yet small enough to compete in applications where electric circuits are used. Despite this, electrical engineers still believe research has taken a significant step in addressing that problem.
The team has created the smallest electro-optical modulator yet, out of materials commonly used by photonics researchers. The modulator is an integral part of a photonics-based chip, controlling how light moves through its circuits.
In the lab of Qiang Lin, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Rochester, researchers use a thin film of lithium niobate (LN) bonded on a silicon dioxide layer to create an energy efficient chip that operates at high speed.
This new approach is likely to have significant applications in microwave photonics, data communication and quantum photonics.
Currently, LN photonic devices are large and difficult to scale down in size, which limits operational efficiency.
Funding for the project comes from the National Science Foundation, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).