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III-V Lasers Grown on Silicon Wafers Could Advance Silicon Photonics

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Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have directly grown 1.5-μm III-V lasers on industry-standard 220-nm silicon-on-insulators (SOI) wafers without buffer. This work could advance the use of III-V light sources with silicon (Si)-based photonic devices.

In conventional approaches to integrating III-V lasers on Si, III-V buffers up to a few μm thick are applied to reduce the defect densities. The thickness of these buffers can make the interface between the III-V lasers and the Si-based waveguides less efficient. The HKUST team devised a growth scheme that eliminates the need for thick III-V buffers to allow more efficient light coupling into the Si-waveguides.

The group led by professor Lau Kei-May used metal organic chemical vapor deposition to grow the III-V lasers on SOI wafers. This approach featured epitaxy inside trapezoidal troughs to enable the flexible integration of different III-V compounds on SOIs with different Si device layer thicknesses. The researchers characterized the crystalline quality of these III-V materials through photoluminescence measurements and extensive use of transmission electron microscopy.

Schematic of III-V laser array directly grown on Si-photonics 220 nm SOI platform. Courtesy of HKUST.

Schematic of III-V laser array directly grown on Si-photonic 220-nm SOI platform. Courtesy of HKUST.

The team designed and fabricated the air-cladded laser cavities based on numerical simulations. Tests showed that the lasers could sustain room-temperature and low-threshold lasing in the technologically important 1.5-μm band under pulsed optical excitation.

The work by the HKUST researchers could make it possible to monolithically integrate III-V lasers on industry-standard 220-nm SOI wafers in an economical, compact, scalable way.

“If practically applied, our technology could enable a significant improvement of the speed, power consumption, cost-effectiveness, and functionality of current Si-based integrated circuits,” professor Lau said. “Our daily electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and TVs — basically everything connected to the internet — will be much faster, cheaper, using much less power and [will be] multifunctional.”

Researcher Han Yu said that the next step will be to design and demonstrate the first electrically driven 1.5-μm III-V lasers directly grown on the 220-nm SOI platforms, and devise a scheme to efficiently couple light from the III-V lasers into Si-waveguides to conceptually demonstrate fully integrated Si-photonics circuits.

The research was published in Optica, a publication of OSA, The Optical Society. (www.doi.org/10.1364/OPTICA.381745). 

Photonics Spectra
May 2020
GLOSSARY
optoelectronics
A sub-field of photonics that pertains to an electronic device that responds to optical power, emits or modifies optical radiation, or utilizes optical radiation for its internal operation. Any device that functions as an electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducer. Electro-optic often is used erroneously as a synonym.
Research & TechnologyeducationAsia-PacificHong Kong University of Science and Technologylaserslight sourcesopticsoptoelectronicsIII-V laserssilicon photonicsintegrated photonicssemiconductorsindustrialCommunicationsintegrated photonics circuitssilicon-on-insulatorTech Pulse

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