Air Force Funds Silicon Photonics Program
ARLINGTON, Va., March 14, 2011 — The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research is funding a program to build inexpensive, next-generation silicon-based electro-optical chips at the University of Washington’s Nanophotonics Lab.
The chips are critical to the Air Force because of their size, weight, power, rapid cycle time and program risk reduction. They also improve data communications, lasers and detectors.
A dark-field optical image of a silicon photonic chip is shown in comparison to the size of a penny. (Image: Elijah Douglas Christenson)
The Optoelectronic Systems Integration in Silicon (Opsis) program, which is hosted by the university's Institute for Photonic Integration, is using shared infrastructure at the foundry at BAE Systems in Manassas. There, scientists are working toward creating onshore manufacturing capabilities that ultimately will be made available to the wider community. In the past few years, complex photonic circuitry has not been accessible to researchers because of the expense and a lack of standard processes.
"The Opsis program will help advance the field of silicon photonics by bringing prototyping capability within reach of startup companies and researchers," said UW professor Michael Hochberg, who is head of the program. "They will provide design rules, device design support and design-flow development, so that even nonexperts will be able to design and integrate photonics and electronics."
Silicon photonics has developed over the past decade, and the transition from using devices to systems is something that has occurred only recently.
"The digital electronics revolution over the past 40 years has had a transformative effect on how the Air Force systems are built, and we're hoping to have a similar impact on photonic systems," he said.
For more information, visit: www.washington.edu
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