John Bowers, Di Liang, Alexander Fang,
Hyundai Park, Richard Jones and Mario Paniccia
Hybrid Silicon Lasers
The Final Frontier to Integrated Computing
Silicon photonics may revolutionize the 21st century by bringing together two
technological areas that transformed the 20th—photonics and microelectronics.
Here, the team that pioneered electrically pumped hybrid silicon lasers describes
their groundbreaking work and where this exciting field is headed.
Silicon wafer showing integration of hybrid silicon lasers with
low-loss waveguides, passive splitters, switches, arrayed
waveguide routers, optical amplifiers and 2R regenerators.
he transistor and the laser—two world-changing inven-
tions of the 20th century—were developed in parallel,
from concept to lab demonstration. Silicon forms the
backbone of the multi-hundred-billion dollar microelectron-
ics industry. The combination of silicon-based transistors and
integrated circuits has enabled the computing advances that
have ushered in the Information Age in which we now live.
Lasers have been similarly far-reaching in their impact.
They have influenced nearly every aspect of how we live today,
from fiber-optic communications to health care to DVDs
and CDs. Lasers have enabled the explosive growth of the
Internet through extremely high bandwidth communications— 20,000 Gbit/s per fiber—at extremely low cost.
The question now is whether microelectronics and photonics can be merged by making lasers on silicon. Doing so would
integrate the communications capabilities of light with the
sophisticated CMOS processing of silicon wafers. This intriguing idea has fascinated scientists and engineers for decades, and
now industrial giants such as Intel, IBM and Hewlett Packard
are all actively engaged in the field.
Optical interconnects on CMOS chips are an important
driver for silicon lasers. These interconnects offer larger bandwidth, lower power consumption (i.e., lower heat dissipation),
28 | OPN Optics & Photonics News