Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Light on silicon better than copper?

Date:
October 22, 2010
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
As good as copper has been in zipping information from one circuit to another on silicon inside computers and other electronic devices, optical signals can carry much more, according to electrical engineers. So the engineers have designed and demonstrated microscopically small lasers integrated with thin film-light guides on silicon that could replace the copper in a host of electronic products.

This is Nan Jokerst, left, and Sabarni Palit in the lab.
Credit: Duke University Photography

Step aside copper and make way for a better carrier of information -- light.

As good as the metal has been in zipping information from one circuit to another on silicon inside computers and other electronic devices, optical signals can carry much more, according to Duke University electrical engineers. So the engineers have designed and demonstrated microscopically small lasers integrated with thin film-light guides on silicon that could replace the copper in a host of electronic products.

The structures on silicon not only contain tiny light-emitting lasers, but connect these lasers to channels that accurately guide the light to its target, typically another nearby chip or component. This new approach could help engineers who, in their drive to create tinier and faster computers and devices, are studying light as the basis for the next generation information carrier.

The engineers believe they have solved some of the unanswered riddles facing scientists trying to create and control light at such a miniscule scale.

"Getting light onto silicon and controlling it is the first step toward chip scale optical systems," said Sabarni Palit, who this summer received her Ph.D. while working in the laboratory of Nan Marie Jokerst, J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

The results of team's experiments, which were supported by the Army Research Office, were published online in the journal Optics Letters.

"The challenge has been creating light on such a small scale on silicon, and ensuring that it is received by the next component without losing most of the light," Palit said.

"We came up with a way of creating a thin film integrated structure on silicon that not only contains a light source that can be kept cool, but can also accurately guide the wave onto its next connection," she said. "This integration of components is essential for any such chip-scale, light-based system."

The Duke team developed a method of taking the thick substrate off of a laser, and bonding this thin film laser to silicon. The lasers are about one one-hundreth of the thickness of a human hair. These lasers are connected to other structures by laying down a microscopic layer of polymer that covers one end of the laser and goes off in a channel to other components. Each layer of the laser and light channel is given its specific characteristics, or functions, through nano- and micro-fabrication processes and by selectively removing portions of the substrate with chemicals.

"In the process of producing light, lasers produce heat, which can cause the laser to degrade," Sabarni said. "We found that including a very thin band of metals between the laser and the silicon substrate dissipated the heat, keeping the laser functional."

For Jokerst, the ability to reliably facilitate individual chips or components that "talk" to each other using light is the next big challenge in the continuing process of packing more processing power into smaller and smaller chip-scale packages.

"To use light in chip-scale systems is exciting," she said. "But the amount of power needed to run these systems has to be very small to make them portable, and they should be inexpensive to produce. There are applications for this in consumer electronics, medical diagnostics and environmental sensing."

The work on this project was conducted in Duke's Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility, which, like similar facilities in the semiconductor industry, allows the fabrication of intricate materials in a totally "clean" setting. Jokerst is the facility's executive director.

Other members of the team were Duke's Mengyuan Huang, as well as Dr. Jeremy Kirch and professor Luke Mawst from the University of Wisconsin at Madision.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sabarni Palit, Jeremy Kirch, Mengyuan Huang, Luke Mawst, Nan Marie Jokerst. Facet-embedded thin-film III–V edge-emitting lasers integrated with SU-8 waveguides on silicon. Optics Letters, 2010; 35 (20): 3474 DOI: 10.1364/OL.35.003474

Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Light on silicon better than copper?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101021113010.htm>.
Duke University. (2010, October 22). Light on silicon better than copper?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101021113010.htm
Duke University. "Light on silicon better than copper?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101021113010.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google Patents Contact Lens Cameras; Internet Is Wary

Google Patents Contact Lens Cameras; Internet Is Wary

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) Google has filed for a patent to develop contact lenses capable of taking photos. The company describes possible benefits to blind people. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dutch Highway Introduces Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

Dutch Highway Introduces Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

Newsy (Apr. 14, 2014) A Dutch highway has become the first lit by glow-in-the-dark paint — a project aimed at reducing street light use. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Buys Drone Maker, Hopes to Connect Rural World

Google Buys Drone Maker, Hopes to Connect Rural World

Newsy (Apr. 14, 2014) Formerly courted by Facebook, Titan Aerospace will become a part of Google's quest to blanket the world in Internet connectivity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins