Dr Mario Paniccia, Intel Photonics Technology Lab director, said the technology could help bring low-cost, high-quality lasers and optical devices to mainstream use in computing, communications and medical applications.
As reported in the journal Nature, the Intel researchers found a way to use the so-called Raman effect and silicon’s crystalline structure to amplify light as it passes through it. When infused with light from an external source the experimental chip produces a continuous, high-quality laser beam.
“Fundamentally, we have demonstrated for the first time that standard silicon can be used to build devices that amplify light,” Paniccia said.
“The use of high-quality photonic devices has been limited because they are expensive to manufacture, assemble and package. This research is a major step toward bringing the benefits of low-cost, high-bandwidth silicon based optical devices to the mass market.”
According to Intel, building a Raman laser in silicon begins with etching a waveguide – a conduit for light on a chip. Silicon is transparent to infrared light so that when light is directed into a waveguide it can be contained and channelled across a chip.
Like the first laser developed in 1960, Intel researchers used an external source to “pump” light into their chip. As light is pumped in, the natural atomic vibrations in silicon amplify the light as it passes through the chip. This amplification – the Raman effect – is more than 10,000 times stronger in silicon than in glass fibres.
“Raman lasers and amplifiers are used today in the telecom industry and rely on miles of fibre to amplify light. By using silicon, we were able to achieve gain and lasing in a silicon chip just a few centimetres in size,” Paniccia explained.
More information on the research can be found at www.intel.com/go/sp/.
If you involved in or know of a project that uses innovative Australian electronics, then why not enter it into the 2006 EDN Innovation Awards? For criteria and entry forms, visit www.ferret.com.au/FerretAwards/EDNAwards.asp.