Important Breakthrough of Silicon-based Photonic Integrated Circuits (Apr. 18, 2009) — Nature Photonics has published the first experimental proof of all-optical ultra-fast communication signal processing with silicon-based devices for transmission speeds above 100Gbit/s.

silicon-integrated-circuitsResearchers from University of Karlsruhe, IMEC and its associated laboratory INTEC at Ghent University, Lehigh University and ETH Zürich fabricated an innovative optical waveguide structure by combining deep-ultraviolet lithography, standard CMOS processing and organic molecular beam deposition. This so-called silicon-organic hybrid (SOH) approach enables the fabrication of waveguides which pave the way towards all-optical processing, where photons do no longer need to be converted to electrons. This is considered to be one of the most promising ways to handle the rapidly increasing global communication traffic.

A 4mm long SOH waveguide with a record non linearity coefficient of γ ≈ 105(Wkm)-1 in the 1.55µm telecommunication window proved the capability of the SOH concept. As such, record values predicted by theory have for the first time been experimentally confirmed. Based on these waveguides, all-optical demultiplexing of a 170.8Gbit/s telecommunication signal to 42.7Gbit/s was performed using four-wave mixing.

This is the fastest silicon photonic optical signal processing demonstrated to date. This experiment proved the viability of the SOH waveguides for all-optical processing of broadband telecommunication signals.

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