- The University of Surrey is to lead a five year £5m Government funded study into silicon photonics.
"There is renewed interest in silicon photonics because of the microprocessor interconnect bottleneck," programme leader Professor Graham Reed told EW. "If you do it optically, you get a huge bandwidth."
Although far from an ideal optical material, silicon can transmits light at the telecoms wavelengths of 1550 and 1300nm, and its oxide can be used as a cladding to constrain light. On-chip and chip-to-chip communications are targets.
Surrey with its partners will work on silicon optical modulators, detectors, filters and couplers. "What we are not doing is any light sources, partly because there is already enough heat on a microprocessor," said Reed. "We will bring it in through an optical fibre."
Couplers are particularly important, said Reed, because silicon optical modulators use carriers to alter refractive index, and to shift carriers at GHz the modulator has to be sub-micron - smaller than the core of an optical fibre - which is where the couplers come in.
The aim is generally to improve the technology of silicon photonics, and specifically to make a transmitter and a receiver that are compatible with microprocessor CMOS.