The University of Southampton

Silicon photonics technologies break new ground at Photonics West 2021

Published: 9 March 2021
Professor Graham Reed delivers plenary at Photonics West 2021

Transformative breakthroughs in silicon photonics were reported at Photonics West 2021 in a special plenary event with industry pioneer Professor Graham Reed.

The Deputy Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton highlighted three areas of silicon photonics that are demonstrating unprecedented performance or introducing new technology.

Photonics West is the world's premier lasers, biomedical optics, and optoelectronics event, providing a platform for world-class speakers to share the industry's latest challenges and advances.

Tuesday's OPTO Plenary Session centred on the dramatic work being spearheaded by the ORC within the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics.

Professor Reed, Head of Silicon Photonics Research Group, says: "Silicon photonics has emerged as a game-changing technology for data communications in recent years. However, the technology is also applicable to an increasing number of other applications. Even in the data-comm application, the relentless demand for more data requires the performance of silicon photonics to continue to improve."

Southampton researchers have recently demonstrated the first all-silicon single channel optical transmitter at 100Gbps and beyond without the use of digital signal processing.

"Traditionally, electronic and photonic components have been designed separately and then brought together with an integration technique," Professor Reed explains. "We have proposed a more synergistic design of all components to achieve this significant milestone. We've received some new funding to take this work further so watch this space."

Automated wafer scale testing is a crucial part of large scale manufacturing process and critical in reducing production costs while increasing productivity. The plenary event's second technology focus discussed the ORC's pursuit of a comprehensive testing technique for complex photonic circuits.

The studies found that Ge implantation into silicon can introduce large refractive index changes that facilitates technology for wafer scale testing, device trimming and programmable photonics. The latter can make non-volatile changes to the programmed circuit, requiring no additional power to retain a given circuit configuration.

Thirdly, Professor Reed reported work with Pointcloud Inc on 3D imaging via an integrated LiDAR system, which has demonstrated millimetre accuracy for measurements made at distances beyond 70m.

The low-cost solution could pave the way for large volume production of low-cost and high-performance 3D imaging cameras for use in robotics, autonomous navigation systems, the mapping of building sites and healthcare.

Professor Reed explains: "The technology takes a form similar to a conventional digital camera and can deliver unprecedented performance for a small, highly integrated solid state system. The technique illuminates parts of the scene sequentially and coordinates the received signals to build up an image of the entire scene, which minimises wasted light with the most effective optical power budget."

Photonics West 2021 is running from 6-11 March. Find out details of all sessions, including the OPTO Plenary Session, on the conference website.

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