Intel, U.C. Santa Barbara develop first hybrid silicon laser, advance computing and data speeds and technology

SANTA CLARA, Calif., 22 September 2006. 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. It 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.

Sep 22nd, 2006

SANTA CLARA, Calif., 22 September 2006. 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. It 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 combined 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.

"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," says 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."

The hybrid silicon laser involves a design employing indium phosphide-based material for light generation and amplification, while using the silicon waveguide to contain and control the laser. 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.

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