Intelhybridlaser1 s Intel & UCSB Built Hybrid Silicon Laser

Researchers from Intel and the University of California, Santa
Barbara (UCSB) have built the world’s first electrically powered Hybrid Silicon
Laser using standard silicon manufacturing processes. This breakthrough
addresses one of the last major barriers to producing low-cost, high-bandwidth
silicon photonics devices for use inside and around future computers and data
centers.
“This could bring low-cost, terabit-level optical ‘data pipes’ inside future
computers and help make possible a new era of high-performance computing
applications," said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel’s Photonics Technology
Lab. "While still far from becoming a commercial product, we believe dozens,
maybe even hundreds of hybrid silicon lasers could be integrated with other
silicon photonic components onto a single silicon chip.”

Intelhybridlaser1 Intel & UCSB Built Hybrid Silicon Laser

Researchers from Intel Corporation and the University of California, Santa
Barbara (UCSB) have built the world’s first electrically powered Hybrid Silicon
Laser using standard silicon manufacturing processes. This breakthrough
addresses one of the last major barriers to producing low-cost, high-bandwidth
silicon photonics devices for use inside and around future computers and data
centers.

The researchers were able to combine the light-emitting properties of Indium
Phosphide with the light-routing capabilities of silicon into a single hybrid
chip. When voltage is applied, light generated in the Indium Phosphide enters
the silicon waveguide to create a continuous laser beam that can be used to
drive other silicon photonic devices. A laser based on silicon could drive wider
use of photonics in computers because the cost can be greatly reduced by using
high-volume silicon manufacturing techniques.

“This could bring low-cost, terabit-level optical ‘data pipes’ inside future
computers and help make possible a new era of high-performance computing
applications," said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel’s Photonics Technology
Lab. "While still far from becoming a commercial product, we believe dozens,
maybe even hundreds of hybrid silicon lasers could be integrated with other
silicon photonic components onto a single silicon chip.”

"Our research program with Intel highlights how industry and academia can work
together to advance the state of science and technology," said John Bowers, a
professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. “By
combining UCSB’s expertise with Indium Phosphide and Intel’s silicon photonics
expertise, we have demonstrated a novel laser structure based on a bonding
method that can be used at the wafer-, partial-wafer or die-level, and could be
a solution for large-scale optical integration onto a silicon platform. This
marks the beginning of highly integrated silicon photonic chips that can be mass
produced at low cost.”

Technical Details

While widely used to mass produce affordable digital electronics today, silicon
can also be used to route, detect, modulate and even amplify light, but not to
effectively generate light. In contrast, Indium Phosphide-based lasers are
commonly used today in telecommunications equipment. But the need to
individually assemble and align them has made them too expensive to build in the
high volumes and at the low costs needed by the PC industry.

The hybrid silicon laser involves a novel design employing Indium Phosphide-based
material for light generation and amplification while using the silicon
waveguide to contain and control the laser. The key to manufacturing the device
is the use of a low-temperature, oxygen plasma — an electrically charged oxygen
gas — to create a thin oxide layer (roughly 25 atoms thick) on the surfaces of
both materials.

When heated and pressed together the oxide layer functions as a “glass-glue”
fusing the two materials into a single chip. When voltage is applied, light
generated in the Indium Phosphide-based material passes through the oxide
“glass-glue” layer and into the silicon chip’s waveguide, where it is contained
and controlled, creating a hybrid silicon laser. The design of the waveguide is
critical to determining the performance and specific wavelength of the hybrid
silicon laser. More information on the Hybrid Silicon Laser can be found at
http://www.intel.com/research/platform/sp/hybridlaser.htm.

Today’s announcement builds on Intel’s other accomplishments in its long-term
research program to “siliconize” photonics using standard silicon manufacturing
processes. In 2004, Intel researchers were the first to demonstrate a
silicon-based optical modulator with a bandwidth in excess of 1GHz, nearly 50
times faster than previous demonstrations of modulation in silicon. In 2005,
Intel researchers were the first to demonstrate that silicon could be used to
amplify light using an external light source to produce a continuous wave
laser-on-a-chip based on the “Raman effect.”

Bowers has worked with Indium Phosphide-based materials and lasers for more than
25 years. Currently his research is focused on developing novel optoelectronic
devices with data rates as high as 160Gb/s and techniques to bond dissimilar
materials together to create new devices with improved performance.