Waveguide optical modulator and tunable filter fabricated using standard CMOS techniques

Boulder, CO--Silicon-photonics researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, MA), and the University of California, Berkeley have created a waveguide optical modulator and a waveguide tunable optical filter that not only are as energy-efficient as some of the best previous devices around, say the researchers, but were built using a standard IBM CMOS process.

Waveguide optical modulator and tunable filter fabricated using standard CMOS techniques
Waveguide optical modulator and tunable filter fabricated using standard CMOS techniques

Boulder, CO--Silicon-photonics researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, MA), and the University of California, Berkeley have created a waveguide optical modulator and a waveguide tunable optical filter that not only are as energy-efficient as some of the best previous devices around, say the researchers, but were built using a standard IBM advanced CMOS process.

"As far as we know, we're the first ones to get silicon photonics natively integrated into an advanced CMOS process and to achieve energy efficiencies that are very competitive with electronics," said Mark Wade of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who will present his team’s work at OFC.

Si Ph3

3D renders show a waveguide optical modulator (left) and tunable filter (right), both fabricated in silicon using standard advanced CMOS techniques. (Credit: Mark Wade)

Researchers anticipate that integrated photonic computing and data communications will be at least 10 times more energy efficient than electronics. Chip-to-chip communication links using these photonic devices could have at least 10 times higher bandwidth density.

But so far, Wade explains, photonic devices used in chip-to-chip communication have been primarily custom-built using specialized methods, limiting their commercial applicability; pre-existing devices that have been created with more standardized techniques rely on older technology, which limits their ability to compete with cutting-edge electronics.

"IBM’s CMOS process has already been commercially proven to make high-quality microelectronics products," Wade says. The work was part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA's) Photonically Optimized Embedded Microprocessors (POEM) project.

Presentation Tu2E.7, titled “Energy-efficient active photonics in a zero-change, state-of-the-art CMOS process,” will take place Tuesday, March 11 at 3:30 p.m. in room 123 of the Moscone Center.

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