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Intel and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Create World's First Hybrid Silicon Laser

Dr. John Bowers at UCSB Speaks to NWN About How Nanotechnology Helped Create Hybrid Silicon Laser.
Intel hybrid laser
Intel, UCSB Hybrid Silicon Laser

Researchers from Intel and UCSB announced this month that they have jointly created the world’s first electrically powered Hybrid Silicon Laser using standard silicon manufacturing processes. The laser based on silicon brings the semiconductor industry one step closer to producing low-cost, high-bandwidth silicon photonics devices for future computers and data centers.

Dr. John Bowers, Director, Multidisciplinary Optical Switching Technology Center at the University of California-Santa Barbara, tells NWN that for this project, three important nanorelated discoveries greatly assists their work:

  1. “The gain comes from quantum wells in InP based material. The use of quantum wells gives us more gain for the same input power.
  2. We use a superlattice at the interface between the silicon waveguide and the InP material. The superlattice acts to trap defects and provides improved efficiency.
  3. We use an oxide bonding layer to combine the silicon and InP material. A key aspect is that this process is CMOS compatible, meaning that it is a back-end process that occurs after the silicon CMOS processing is completed. The wafer can't be subjected to temperatures above 400 C after CMOS processing, so the low temperature, oxide enhanced bonding is critical to integrating our photonic process with a CMOS process.”

In addition to Intel and Dr. Bowers’ research team and his Center, the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) at UCSB (run by Professor Hu) provides critical infrastructure for the silicon photonics processing.

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