Multimillion-pound research to transform how data is sensed, transferred and processed on silicon chips
Researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) are investigating new ways of integrating high capacity optical communications and signal processing onto a single silicon chip as part of an ambitious new £6.1 million research programme.
The Quantum Dots on Silicon - QUDOS programme unites collaborators from University College London, Cambridge, Cardiff and Southampton to fundamentally change the way in which data is sensed, transferred between and processed on silicon chips.
The new research within the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics is aiming to create the first optical integrated circuits on silicon with monolithically integrated quantum dot laser sources.
Dr Frederic Gardes, Professor and Southampton QUDOS lead, says: "The QUDOS programme is paving the way for mass manufacturing of photonic circuits and aims to establish silicon as a native photonic platform. The Zepler Institute hosts one of the world's leading research groups in silicon photonics and will play a key role in the programme by integrating monolithically on silicon the photonic building blocks necessary for the fabrication of complex photonic circuits and systems."
The sensing, processing and transport of information is at the heart of modern life. The internet depends on optical systems from fibre to the home, through data centres to the trans-oceanic optical cables that link the nations of the earth.
Creating these systems currently requires the mechanical alignment of components to accuracies of less than a micron, about one hundredth of the diameter of a human hair, a costly and labour intensive process. The QUDOS research team has invented technologies to integrate the required components on silicon chips in the same manner as electronic systems are now realised as integrated circuits, making possible the first data interconnects, switches and sensors that use lasers monolithically integrated on silicon.
Removing the need to assemble individual components will enable vastly increased scale and functionality for information systems at greatly reduced cost.
Professor Alwyn Seeds, Principal Investigator for QUDOS at UCL, says: "The QUDOS Programme, through the monolithic integration of all required optical ICT functions on silicon, will have a similar transformative effect on ICT to that which the creation of the first silicon integrated electronic circuits had on electronics.
"I look forward to working with distinguished colleagues from Cambridge, Cardiff and Southampton Universities, together with outstanding industrial partners spanning the supply chain from materials to systems, to make this vision a reality."
The five-year programme is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).