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An 'avalanche' of better-performing comms devices

Posted: 10 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:photonics silicon? photodetector avalanche? sensor light?

Intel Labs researchers have demonstrated what they claim is a "world-record performance" in silicon photonics using its silicon-based avalanche photodetector (APD).

The silicon-based APD is a light sensor that detects light and amplifies weak signals by multiplying electrons as light is directed onto silicon.

"It has a unique performance," said Yimin Kang, senior optical researcher at Intel and lead researcher of the project. "Not only can it detect [signals], but it can multiply signals into a much higher level so you won't need an amplifier to amplify signals."

Using silicon and CMOS processing, APD achieved a gain-bandwidth product of 340GHz, which Intel Labs claims is the best result ever measured for this key APD performance metric. A high gain-bandwidth product means better amplification at a given speed. Hence, this silicon photonics device enables lower cost for optical links running at 40Gbit/s or higher data rates, proving that silicon photonics devices can exceed the performance of devices made with traditional, expensive optical materials (i.e. indium phosphide) and expanding opportunities for future devices.

"We used standard CMOS process, which is a very high quality, reliable process," Kang said. "Overall, silicon photonics is a very promising technology and it can definitely bring much better performance in optical devices."

Besides optical communication, the silicon-based APD could be used in other areas such as sensing, imaging, quantum cryptography and remote medicine, the Intel researcher added.

Kang's team worked with industry and academic collaborators. APD experts Joe Campell, professor at Unitversity of Virginia, and John Bowers, professor at University of California Santa Barbara, provided consultation and assisted with testing of the research. The research, whose results were published in Nature Photonics on Dec. 8, 2008, was jointly funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Meanwhile, Numonyx provided manufacturing and process development.

- EE Times Asia

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