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Nov 22nd, 2012
Antenna-on-a-chip promises faster light processing with silicon photonics
Researchers from Rice U. say they have developed a micron-scale spatial light modulator (SLM) built on SOI that runs orders-of-magnitude faster than its siblings used in sensing and imaging devices.
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Fig 1: Antenna-on-a-chip for spatial light modulation.
Fig 1: Antenna-on-a-chip for spatial light modulation.

The "antenna-on-a-chip for light modulation," developed with backing from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is described in Nature's Scientific Reports.

While light processing has found use in consumer electronics (CDs and DVDs), communications (fiber optics), of course lighting applications (LEDs) and even industrial materials processing (lasers for cutting, welding, etc.), photonics for computing applications are still being explored, and reliant upon waveguides in 2D space. So-called "free space" spatial light modulators (SLM), however, could tap into "the massive multiplexing capability of optics," in that "multiple light beams can propagate in the same space without affecting each other," explains researcher Qianfan Xu.

Fig 1: An illustration showing the design of Rice University researchers' antenna-on-a-chip for spatial light modulation. The chip couples with incident light and makes possible the manipulation of infrared light at very high speeds for signal processing and other optical applications.

Figure 2: Crystalline silicon
Figure 2: Crystalline silicon

Fig 2: Crystalline silicon sits between two electrodes in the antenna-on-a-chip.  (Credit: Xu Group/Rice University).

To demonstrate, the Rice team built SLM chips with nanoscale ribs of crystalline silicon surrounded by SiO2 claddings, forming a cavity between positively and negatively dopes Si connected to metallic electrodes. The positions of the ribs are subject to nanoscale "perturbations" and tune the resonating cavity to couple with incident light outside. This coupling pulls incident light into the cavity; infrared light passes through silicon but is captured by the SML and can be manipulated to the chip on the other side, with electrodes' field switched on/off at very high speeds.

To read more: http://www.electroiq.com/articles/stm/2012/11/antenna-on-a-chip-promises-faster-light-processing-with-silicon-photonics.html?cmpid=EnlSSTDailyNovember202012


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