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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Membrane lasers embedded in CMOS for high speed communications

By Nick Flaherty

A new type of ultra-thin semiconductor laser under development at The University of Texas at Arlington can be embedded into mainstream same silicon substrates to provide increased capacity and energy efficiency.
Weidong Zhou, UTA electrical engineering professor, is working to develop a new ultrathin semiconductor laser that will increase the chip's speed and capacity. A three year grant from the US Army Research Office will develop a membrane laser less than one micron thick that is compatible with planar CMOS platforms. The key innovation is the integration of certain compound semiconductor material with a silicon photonic crystal cavity, which allows a laser to be built directly on a silicon chip next to other electrical components. This leads to higher speed and higher efficiency.
The first application of Zhou’s laser is in data centres, and the group is pursuing various membrane laser architectures for extreme energy efficient computing and communication systems. “We are looking for devices and components to be integrated on a chip,” said Zhou. “As we address electrical injection, integration with other devices on the chip and increased power capabilities, we can begin to apply this technology to products in the medical field or in the consumer arena. These applications could include portable electronics, sensing and imaging equipment, bio applications and wearable electronics.” 
“Big companies like IBM and Intel are using this technology for high-performance computing centres,” Zhou said. “The big push now is for the next big thing: smaller, faster, and less and less power consumption.”

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