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Scaling silicon photonics toward terabit/s communications

​Silicon photonics—integrated optical circuits on silicon substrates—first emerged around 20 years ago. Since then, the now-crucial technology has gained traction on growing demand for very-high-speed fiber optic communications. Scientists at CEA-Leti are pushing silicon photonics to new limits to bring data centers and supercomputers the terabit/s capabilities they need.

Published on 19 October 2021

​Integrated photonic components have been steadily replacing discrete photonic components in data centers for around a decade now to increase short-distance data transmission speeds. 

CEA-Leti is investigating several approaches that could support this ongoing shift. The first is miniaturizing the photonic module so that the photonic transmitter can be tightly integrated with an electronic chip. Co-packaging could help achieve this and would give the chip terabit/s optical communication capabilities.

The 3D or “monolithic” integration techniques CEA-Leti has been developing for microelectronics are also now gradually making inroads into photonics, which could also help achieve the higher-density interconnects required. Researchers are also looking at how to integrate the laser directly onto the photonic circuit using bonding, and how to connect the optical fiber to the photonic components more efficiently.

Last but not least, new generations of more efficient modulators made from new materials are being engineered. Ultimately, these developments will help bring silicon photonics to optical-networks-on-chip (ONoCs), a new generation high-performance microcomputer. 

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