Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), in collaboration with the DARPA, succeeded to grow lasers directly on microchips, a breaktrhrough that will enable the mass-production of inexpensive and robust microsystems that exceed the performance capabilities of current technologies.
Defense systems for instance, such as radar, communications, imaging and sensing payloads rely on a wide variety of microsystems devices. These diverse devices typically require particular substrates or base materials and different processing technologies specific to each application, preventing the integration of such devices into a single fabrication process. Integration of these technologies, historically, has required combining one microchip with another, which introduces significant bandwidth and latency limitations as compared to microsystems integrated on a single chip. Although many photonic components can now be fabricated directly on silicon, realizing an efficient laser source on silicon has proven to be very difficult.
Now, the engineers at UCSB showed it was possible to “grow” or deposit successive layers of indium arsenide material directly on silicon wafers to form billions of light-emitting dots known as “quantum dots.” This method of integrating electronic and photonic circuits on a common silicon substrate promises to eliminate wafer bonding, and has application in numerous military and civilian electronics where size, weight, power and packaging/assembly costs are critical.
DARPA’s Electronic-Photonic Heterogeneous Integration (E-PHI) program has successfully integrated billions of light-emitting dots on silicon to create an efficient silicon-based laser. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military.
” This method of integrating electronic and photonic circuits on a common silicon substrate promises to eliminate wafer bonding, and has application in numerous military and civilian electronics where size, weight, power and packaging/assembly costs are critical“.“It is anticipated that these E-PHI demonstrator microsystems will provide considerable performance improvement and size reduction versus state-of-the-art technologies,” said Josh Conway, DARPA program manager for E-PHI. “Not only can lasers be easily integrated onto silicon, but other components can as well, paving the way for advanced photonic integrated circuits with far more functionality than can be achieved today.”