Brillouin laser in silicon emits light and sound

June 8, 2018
Researchers have demonstrated a new type of laser that amplifies light with sound waves in a silicon chip.

Northern Arizona University (NAU; Flagstaff, AZ) assistant professor Ryan Behunin collaborated with a team of physicists from Yale and the University of Texas at Austin in discovering an innovative way to manipulate light in silicon. By demonstrating a new type of laser that amplifies light with sound waves in a silicon chip, the team’s research represents a significant advance in the field of silicon photonics, as described in Science.

Realizing the full potential of silicon photonics has challenged scientists for decades. Due to the element's intrinsic properties, it is extremely difficult to generate laser light in silicona key ingredient for silicon photonics. With these findings, the team has taken a big step toward solving that problem.

RELATED ARTICLE: All-silicon laser achieves high optical gain

"We demonstrated a new type of laser, the Brillouin laser, in silicon," Behunin said. "This project dramatically expanded the way light can be manipulated and controlled within silicon. The laser is named for French physicist Léon Brillouin, for whom the effect of light-sound scattering is also named. By designing a new, specialized waveguide, the team's Brillouin laser uses sound to amplify light.

The laser's unique properties may enable applications ranging from timekeeping to new schemes for encoding and decoding information. The Brillouin laser can produce pure sound waves, in addition to emitting light. The emitted light can be used to power "photonic circuits," and the sound waves can be harnessed to carry out very sophisticated forms of precision sensing--all possible on a small chip.

"We've only scratched the surface with this work," Behunin said. "Using silicon, we can create a range of laser designs, each with unique properties customized for a specific application."


About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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