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Research Funds Reshape Silicon Photonics

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SOUTHAMPTON, England, Jan. 30, 2014 — Funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will kick-start a project aimed at bringing silicon photonics to mass markets and revolutionizing a range of applications, including computing, communications, domestic appliances and health care.

Nearly £6.1 million (about $10 million) was awarded to the University of Southampton to fund the Silicon Photonics for Future Systems project. Led by Professor Graham Reed of the university’s Zepler Institute and Optoelectronics Research Centre, a team will tackle challenges in photonic communications and innovations in low-cost photonics.

Long-path-length interferometer fabricated in silicon photonics. Courtesy of Goran Mashanovich, University of Southampton.

“The key is that the technology must follow an aggressively low-cost model, which implies that an approach similar to that developed by the microelectronics industry is required for photonics,” Reed said. “If we are successful in tackling these challenges, the results will do nothing less than revolutionize the field.”

He added that overcoming these hurdles will lead to the mass production of silicon photonic technology worldwide. These challenges include developing a low-cost method of comprehensively testing at the wafer scale; a passive-alignment coupling technique from fiber to optical chip; a means of scaling the functionality of the photonic circuit; very low power, high-data-rate modulators; and low-cost integrated lasers within silicon photonic chips.

The project also will provide training and opportunities for a new generation of researchers and leaders, and new start-up companies and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) will be able to take advantage of the enhanced capabilities and low-cost provision of silicon photonics technology.

The project includes industrial partners Oclaro Inc. of San Jose, Calif., Wentworth Laboratories of Brookfield, Conn., and England-based Sharp Laboratories of Europe, as well as academic partner KAIST of Korea.

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Jan 2014
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research CouncilEnglandEPSRCEuropefiber opticsGraham Reedfiberindustriallow costoptical chipsopticsOptoelectronics Research CentreResearch & Technologysilicon photonicsUniversity of SouthamptonWafersZepler Institutephotonic communicationslasers

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