New Hybrid Integrated Platform to be The Face of Next-Generation Electronics

A team of physicists at ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS), have developed a new hybrid integrated platform that claims to be a more advanced alternative to conventional integrated circuits available. The researchers demonstrated that their approach is mass manufacturable, making it possible to be integrated into everyday electronic equipment like smartphones and computers. For the end user this technical advance means that it may lead to faster internet on their next-generation electronic devices.

IC's are used in everyday electronic equipment like mobile phones and computers. They are a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material, normally silicon. But this material has some limitations when it comes to processing data. To overcome these limitations and improve data processing, researchers are developing optical circuits made of chalcogenide glass. This special type of glass is used for ultrafast telecommunication networks, transferring information at the speed of light.

Integrating these glass optical circuits into silicon chips could lead to a more advanced communications system, processing data a hundred times faster. In collaboration with physicists from the University of Sydney’s Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST), the Australian National University (ANU) and RMIT University, the CUDOS research group around PhD candidate Blair Morrison and Senior Researcher Dr. Alvaro Casas Bedoya created compact, mass manufacturable optical circuits with enhanced functionalities by combining nonlinear glasses with silicon-based material.

According to CUDOS Director and ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Benjamin Eggleton from the University of Sydney, the new approach will one day allow the industry to miniaturize the photonics functionalities from devices that are the size of a laptop to the size of a smartphone and even smaller, allowing for deployment in real world applications. It is a platform which is more compatible with existing semiconductor manufacturing and will allow integrating multiple functionalities on a single silicon chip, with active and passive components, such as detectors and modulators, required for advanced applications.

The multi-university research team went through the whole manufacturing process for the research. The fabrication of the devices used silicon wafers from a semiconductor foundry in Belgium, a dedicated facility in ANU’s Laser Physics Centre for the glass deposition, lithography in the RMIT University’s School of Engineering and were then characterized and tested in the University of Sydney’s AINST.

To showcase the potential of the new approach, the CUDOS researchers further demonstrated a compact novel laser based on the light-sound interactions, the first time in an integrated optical circuit. According to the team, the breakthrough here is the realization that they can actually integrate that glass onto silicon and then vice versa very efficiently harnessing the best of both worlds.

The work was published in the leading journal Optica and links fundamental research in light matter interactions at the nanoscale with an end user perspective and strong coupling to industry. Click here to learn more.