Silicon-based laser reaches 100 mW at room temperature

Collaborating researchers from University College London and the University of Arkansas have developed a silicon-based laser with a threshold current density of 200 A/cm2 and an output power exceeding 100 mW at room temperature.

SEM of the fabricated laser diode on a Si substrate. (Image credit: phys.org)
SEM of the fabricated laser diode on a Si substrate. (Image credit: phys.org)

IMAGE: SEM of the fabricated laser diode on a Si substrate. (Image credit: phys.org)

Collaborating researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Arkansas have developed a silicon-based laser with a threshold current density of 200 A/cm2 and an output power exceeding 100 mW at room temperature. The work could permit the creation of complex optoelectronic circuits, enabling chip-to-chip and system-to-system communications on silicon (Si) substrates.

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"Our demonstration of laser operation at temperatures over 100°C indicates that our III-V materials grown on silicon substrates are as good as those grown on native substrates," said Siming Chen from UCL, the lead author in this work. "The ability to grow III-V materials on the whole Si substrate and then fabricating it to provide electrically pumped lasers makes mass-production possible."

With silicon-based electronics reaching its limits, silicon photonics, which combines the advantages of photonics and electronics, has been under intense development over the last 30 years as a technology to create ultra-fast optical data processing. Rapid progress has already been made in developing Si-based modulation and detection technologies and most of the passive components are now at a stage where they can be used. Silcon lasers, on the other hand, have not been achieved, because Si is an indirect bandgap material and the process of accomplishing efficient irradiative recombination is naturally inefficient. The requirements for an electrically pumped laser to lase are much more challenging than for an optically pumped laser, but the market importance is much greater, as an electrically pumped laser enables monolithic integration of the laser with electronics, and no need for off-chip optical sources. According to Chen, the Si laser is "now considered to be the holy grail of Si photonics because of the technical challenge, the applications importance and the market value of lasers among all the Si-based photonic components."

A few years ago, the UCL team were the first to demonstrate the operation of an electrically pumped InAs/GaAs quantum-dot laser epitaxially grown on a Si substrate. This was achieved using InGaAs/GaAs strained layer superlattices as dislocation filter layers to reduce the density of the threading dislocations. The team has since been working on optimizing this buffer layer, and has achieved a higher performance by using InAlAs/GaAs. In their latest work, presented in Electronics Letters, they demonstrate the highest lasing temperature for InAs/GaAs QDs lasers directly grown on Si substrates.

"While modern silicon electronic chips often work at 65°C or above, measured by an on-chip thermal coupler, the actual temperature of the transistors may be higher," said Chen. "As our laser is designed for silicon photonics, it is vital that lasers can work at high temperatures. Our Letter demonstrates quantum dot lasers monolithically grown on a silicon substrate that can work efficiently at the same temperature as the electronic devices. In this aspect, the work is in advance of all other approaches to fabricate lasers on silicon substrates."

Over the next decade, the researchers expect to see the realization of III-V quantum dot lasers, monolithically integrated on Si, with a performance and operating lifetime approaching the state of the art GaAs- or InP-based lasers operating at optical communications wavelengths. "Given the increasing interest in this field and the urgent demand for high performance Si-based light sources, commercial-grade Si-based III-V QD lasers should be achieved in the next decade," said Chen.

SOURCE: PhysOrg; http://phys.org/news/2014-09-powerful-silicon-based-laser.html

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