17 November 2010

HELIOS European silicon photonics project demos 10Gb/s modulator

Grenoble-based CEA-Leti (the French government’s Laboratory for Electronics & Information Technology), which coordinates the pan-European consortium HELIOS (pHotonics ELectronics functional Integration on CMOS) to accelerate commercialization of silicon photonics, says that project partners have demonstrated a 10Gb/s silicon modulator using a process that is compatible with complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processing, in addition to the project's CMOS-compatible laser.

Silicon photonics is an emerging technology for overcoming electrical connections’ limits in processing increasingly data-rich content and reducing the cost of photonic systems by integrating optical and electronic functions on the same chip. The technology may enable low-cost solutions for a range of applications such as optical communications, chip-to-chip and rack-to-rack connections, data-center cables, optical signal processing, optical sensing, and biological applications.

Launched by the European Commission in May 2008 within the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) theme of its 7th Framework Program (FP7), the €8.5m, four-year project is designed to drive European R&D in CMOS photonics and to pave the way for industrial development. Specifically, it aims to develop microelectronics fabrication processes for integrating compound semiconductor-based photonics with CMOS silicon circuits and to make the technology available to a wide variety of users.

Project partners include CNRS, Alcatel Thales III-V lab, Thales, University of Paris-Sud, 3S Photonics and Photline Technologies in France; IMEC in Belgium; Phoenix BV in The Netherlands; IHP and the University of Berlin in Germany; Austriamicrosystems AG and the University of Vienna in Austria; IMM and the University of Trento in Italy; the University of Valencia, the University of Barcelona and DAS Photonics in Spain; and the University of Surrey in the UK. The overall project cost is €12m.

Now in its second year, the project is now developing building blocks and processes to accelerate the adoption of silicon photonics. The laser was fabricated by first bonding the III-V material indium phosphide (InP) on top of a CMOS wafer and then processing it using the same equipment as in microelectronics production.

The 10Gb/s silicon modulator has an extinction ratio of 7dB. A 40Gb/s version has already been designed by the consortium and being fabricated. The first characterization results are expected next year.

“The capability of manufacturing optical components within the CMOS-processing infrastructure is key to realizing the potential of silicon photonics,” says HELIOS coordinator Laurent Fulbert, photonics programs manager at Leti. “HELIOS partners are focused on bringing this technology to foundries and component manufacturers for high-volume applications,” he adds.

In addition to the laser and silicon modulator, building blocks under development by HELIOS partners include a light modulator, passive waveguides and photodetectors.

Other recent results of the project include:

  • demonstration of high-responsivity (0.8–1A/W), low-dark-current and high-bandwidth photodiodes (up to 130GHz);
  • efficient passive waveguides (mux/demux, polarization diversity circuit, fiber coupling, rib/strip transition);
  • establishment of a photonics design flow; and
  • investigation of novel concepts for light emission and modulation.

Most of the results of the project’s second year were presented at the 7th IEEE International Conference on Group IV Photonics (GFP 2010) in Beijing, China (1–3 September).

The HELIOS consortium has also developed a free, 21-hour training course addressing all aspects of silicon photonics, available on the HELIOS website.

See related items:

EU CMOS photonics project achieves phase-one goals

Tags: HELIOS Silicon photonics 10Gb/s modulator

Visit: www.helios-project.eu/Download/Silicon-photonics-course

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