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Silicon photonics is a research effort at Intel to revolutionize computing platforms by creating optical communication devices using traditional silicon manufacturing techniques. Bringing optical technology into the computing industry will transform the way computers work and the value that they provide to people.

Mario Paniccia receives Innovator of the Year Award
Dr. Mario Paniccia received the 2011 EE Times’ “ACE award for Innovator of the Year. These awards celebrate technologists who demonstrate leadership and innovation to change the electronics industry and the world. He won this for leading the research team that developed the 50Gbps Silicon Photonics Link, a concept fiber-optic connection designed to validate Marios vision to siliconize photonics.

For more information, read Intel Technologist ACEs Tech Award

Research Milestone: 50G Silicon Photonics Link

Intel Labs has announced an important advance in the quest to use lasers to replace the use of electrons to carry data in and around PCs and servers ? a 50Gbps Silicon Photonics Link. This research prototype represents the world?s first silicon-based optical data connection with integrated lasers. This concept vehicle is the result of a multi-year silicon photonics research agenda, which included numerous ?world firsts.? It is composed of a silicon transmitter and a receiver chip, each integrating all the necessary building blocks from previous Intel breakthroughs including the first Hybrid Silicon Laser (see below) as well as high-speed optical modulators and photodetectors announced in 2007.

The transmitter chip is composed of four such lasers, whose light beams each travel into an optical modulator that encodes data onto them at 12.5Gbps. The four beams are then combined and output to a single optical fiber for a total data rate of 50Gbps. At the other end of the link, the receiver chip separates the four optical beams and directs them into photo detectors, which convert data back into electrical signals. Both chips are assembled using low-cost manufacturing techniques familiar to the semiconductor industry.

For more information, read the 50G Silicon Photonics Link whitepaper or download the technical paper presented at the Integrated Photonics Research conference.  

Research Breakthrough: Hybrid Silicon Laser

Intel and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) announced the demonstration of the world's first electrically driven Hybrid Silicon Laser. This device successfully integrates the light-emitting capabilities of Indium Phosphide with the light-routing and low cost advantages of silicon. The researchers believe that with this development, silicon photonic chips containing dozens or even hundreds of hybrid silicon lasers could someday be built using standard high-volume, low-cost silicon manufacturing techniques. This development addresses one of the last hurdles to producing low-cost, highly integrated silicon photonic chips for use inside and around PCs, Servers, and data centers.

Building Block Research 

In order to "siliconize" photonics, there are six main areas or building blocks for investigation. These include generating the light, selectively guiding and transporting it within the silicon, encoding light, detecting light, packaging the devices and finally, intelligently controlling all of these photonic functions. Intel is working to address these areas, and this research has produced a few recent success stories, including the Hybrid Silicon Laser as well as modulators and detectors running at up to 40 Gbps.

Building Blocks

Research Breakthrough: Avalanche Photodetector
As announced in Nature Photonics, Intel has collaborated with industry, academic, and government partners to develop a silicon-based avalanche photodetector (APD). APDs are light sensors that process optical communications to electrical signals. Intel's APD has a gain-bandwidth product of 340GHz, the best result ever reported for an APD.

Learn more about Intel's APD breakthrough by reading the Nature journal article, viewing an explanatory animation, reading the APD press release, or visiting Intel's APD web site.

First Continuous Silicon Laser 
In a paper published February 17, 2005 by the prestigious scientific journal Nature, Intel researchers disclosed the development of the first continuous wave all-silicon laser using a physical property called the Raman Effect. They built the experimental device using Intel's existing standard CMOS high-volume manufacturing processes. This is the third silicon photonics paper Intel has published in Nature since 2004, beginning with the modulator breakthrough (see the Learn More section).

The breakthrough device could lead to such practical applications as optical amplifiers, lasers, wavelength converters, and new kinds of lossless optical devices. A low-cost all-silicon Raman laser could also inspire innovation in the development of new medical, sensor, and spectroscopy devices.

Download the silicon laser white paper [PDF 168KB].

First GHz Silicon Modulator
Optical modulators are used to encode a high-quality data signal onto an optical beam, effectively by turning the beam on and off rapidly to create ones and zeros. Before the year 2004, no one had built an optical modulator from silicon that was faster than about 20 MHz. In February of 2004, Intel announced in the prestigious scientific journal Nature the first gigahertz silicon optical modulator. By integrating a novel transistor-like device, Intel was able to create a modulator that scaled much faster than previous attempts. In 2005, Intel researchers further demonstrated that this silicon modulator is capable of transmitting data up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps).

Download a white paper[PDF 435KB] on the original breakthrough modulator.

Vision and Applications
Over time, Intel's vision is to develop integrated, high-volume silicon photonic chips that could dramatically change the way that enterprises use photonics links for their systems and networks. Simply having photonics could eliminate bandwidth and distance limitations, allowing for radically new flexible architectures capable of processing data more efficiently. Silicon photonics may even have applications beyond digital communications, including optical debug of high-speed data, expanding wireless networks by transporting analog RF signals, and enabling lower-cost lasers for certain biomedical applications.

Learn More
Explore the following links for more details on silicon photonics research.

Silicon Photonics in the Press

Without Silicon Photonics, Moore's Law Won't Matter, by Tiffany Trader, HPCwire, 9 Feb 2011.

Researchers Hope Sharing Costs Will Spur Optical Chips, by Don Clark, Wall Street Journal, 1 Feb 2011.

Intel Makes Advance in Silicon-Based Lasers, by Don Clark, Wall Street Journal, 28 Jul 2010.A Record-Breaking Optical Chip, by Kate Greene, Technology Review, 25 Jun 2008.

Intel Shows Off Its Enviro-lovin' Side, by Stacey Higginbotham, Earth2Tech, 14 Jun 2008.

Intel’s High Speed Optical Trinity, by Ori Reshef, The Future of Things, 24 Oct 2007.

Intel Completes Photonics Trifecta, by Kate Greene, Technology Review, 10 Oct 2007.

Illuminating Silicon, by Kate Greene, Technology Review, Oct 2007.

Intel has world’s fastest Si-Ge Photo detector, by Tim Smalley, bit-tech, 18 Sep 2007.

Intel Developer Forum - the show begins, by Rupert Goodwins, ZDNet, 18 Sep 2007.

40G photodetector: The other end of the link, by Sean Koehl, http://blogs.intel.com/research/, 17 Sep 2007.

The Silicon SolutionIEEE Spectrum, Oct 2005.

Silicon Photonics Could Revolutionize Future Servers and Networks, by Sean Koehl, Converge! Network Digest, 26 Sep 2005.

Intel's Breakthrough: Its new silicon laser could add decades to Moore's Law, by Robert Service, Technology Review, Jul 2005.

Silicon Shines On, by Jerome Faist, Nature, 17 Feb 2005.

All-silicon laser makes its debut, by Belle Dume, PhysicsWorld, 5 Jan 2005.

The Optical Age of Silicon by Graham T. Reed, Nature, 12 Feb 2004.



Technical Papers

Laser Publications

Mode locked and distributed feedback silicon evanescent lasers, by B. R. Koch, A. W. Fang, E. Lively, R. Jones, O. Cohen, D. J. Blumenthal, and J. E. Bowers, Laser and Photonics Reviews, Rev. 3, No. 4, pp. 355-369, 24 Nov 2008.

Integration of hybrid silicon lasers and electroabsorption modulators, by M. N. Sysak, J. O. Anthes, J. E. Bowers, O. Raday, and R. Jones, Optics Expresss,, Vol. 16, Issue 17, pp. 12478-12486, 18 Aug 2008.

Photonic Integration on the Hybrid Silicon Evanescent Device Platform, by H. Park, A. Fang, D. Liang, Y. H. Kuo, H. H. Chang, B. R. Koch, H. W. Chen, M. N. Sysak, R. Jones, J. E. Bowers, Advances in Optical Technologies, Volume March 2008.

A hybrid AlGaInAs-silicon evanescent preamplifier and photodetector, by H. Park, Y. H. Kuo, A. W. Fang, R. Jones, O. Cohen, M. J. Pannicia and J. E. Bowers,  Optics Express, Vol. 15, No. 21, 17 Oct 2007.

Electrically pumped hybrid AlGaInAs-silicon evanescent laser, by A. W. Fang, H. Park, O. Cohen, R. Jones, M. J. Paniccia, and J. Bowers, Optics Express, Vol. 14, Issue 20, pp. 9203-9210, 2 Oct 2006.


Raman Laser Publications

A Cascaded Silicon Raman Laser, by H. Rong, S. Xu, O. Cohen, O. Raday, M. Lee, V. Sih and M. J. Paniccia, Nature Photonics, pp.170-174, 24 Feb 2008.

Low-threshold continuous-wave Raman silicon laser, by H. Rong, S. Xu, Y. Kuo, V. Sih, O. Cohen, O. Raday and M. J. Paniccia, Nature Photonics, pp. 232-237, 2 Apr 2007.

A Continuous-Wave Raman Silicon Laser, by H. Rong, R. Jones, A. Liu, O. Cohen, D. Hak, A. Fang, and M. J. Paniccia, Nature, 17 Feb 2005.

An all-silicon Raman laser, by H. Rong, A. Liu, R. Jones, O. Cohen, D. Hak, R. Nicolaescu, A. Fang, and M. J. Paniccia, Nature, 20 Jan 2005.


Modulator Publications

Silicon Photonic Modulator and Integration for High-Speed Applications, by L. Liao, A. Liu, J. Basak, H. Nguyen, M. J. Paniccia, Y. Chetrit, and D. Rubin, 2008 International Electron Devices Meeting, 15 Dec 2008.

40 Gbit/s silicon optical modulator for highspeed applications, by L. Liao, A. Liu, D. Rubin, J. Basak, Y. Chetrit, H. Nguyen, R. Cohen, N. Izhaky and M. J. Paniccia, Electronics Letters, Vol. 43, No. 22, 25 October 2007.

High speed silicon Mach-Zehnder modulator, by L. Liao, D. Samara-Rubio, M. Morse, A. Liu, D. Hodge, D. Rubin, U. Keil, and T. Franck, Optics Express, Vol. 13, No. 8, pp. 3129-3135, 18 Apr 2005.

A high-speed silicon optical modulator based on a metal-oxide-semiconductor capacitor, by A. Liu, R. Jones, L. Liao, D. Samara-Rubio, D. Rubin, O. Cohen, R. Nicolaescu, and M. J. Paniccia, Nature, 12 Feb 2004.


Photodetector Publications

Silicon Photonics Reinvents Avalanche Photodetectors, by Y. Kang and M. Morse, Laser Focus World, Vol. 45, Issue 10, pp. 35-37, 1 Oct 2009.

Monolithic germanium/silicon avalanche photodiodes with 340 GHz gain–bandwidth product, by Y. Kang, H. Liu, M. Morse, M. J. Paniccia, M. Zadka, S. Litski, G. Sarid, A. Pauchard, Y. Kuo, H. Chen, W. S. Zaoui, J. E. Bowers, A. Beling, D. C. McIntosh, X. Zheng and J. C. Campbell, Nature Photonics, pp. 59-63, 7 Dec 2008.

31 GHz Ge n-i-p waveguide photodetectors on Silicon-on-Insulator substrate, by T. Yin, R. Cohen, M. Morse, G. Sarid, Y. Chetrit, D. Rubin, and M. J. Paniccia, Optics Express, Vol. 15, Issue 21, pp. 13965-13971, 9 Oct 2007.

A hybrid AlGaInAs-silicon evanescent waveguide photodetector, by H. Park, A. W. Fang, R. Jones, O. Cohen, O. Raday,M. N. Sysak, M. J. Paniccia, and J. E. Bowers, Optics Express,  Vol. 15, No. 10, 14 May 2007.

Performance of Ge-on-Si p-i-n Photodetectors for Standard Receiver Modules, by M. Morse, O. Dosunmu, G. Sarid and Y. Chetrit, IEEE Photonics Technology Letters, Vol. 18, No. 23, pp. 2442-2444, 13 November 2006.


Other Publications

Demonstration of a High Speed 4-Channel Integrated Silicon Photonics WDM Link with Hybrid Silicon Lasers, by A. Alduino, L. Liao, R. Jones, M. Morse, B. Kim, W. Lo, J. Basak, B. Koch, H. Liu, H. Rong, M. Sysak, C. Krause, R. Saba, D. Lazar, L. Horwitz, R. Bar, S. Litski, A. Liu, K. Sullivan, O. Dosunmu, N. Na, T. Yin, F. Haubensack, I. Hsieh, J. Heck, R. Beatty, H. Park, J. Bovington, S. Lee, H. Nguyen, H. Au, K. Nguyen, P. Merani, M. Hakami, and M. J. Paniccia, Integrated Photonics Research, Silicon and Nanophotonics (IPRSN), 25 Jul 2010.

Optical Amplification and Lasing by Stimulated Raman Scattering in Silicon Waveguides, by M. J. Paniccia, A. Liu, H. Rong, R. Jones, O. Cohen and D. Hak, Journal of Lightwave Technology, Mar 2006.

High efficiency wavelength conversion of 10 Gb/s data in silicon waveguides, by H. Rong, Y. Kuo, A. Liu, M. J. Paniccia, and O. Cohen, Optics Express, Vol. 14, Issue 3, pp. 1182-1188, 6 Feb 2006.



White Papers

50G Silicon Photonics Link [PDF 219KB]

Hybrid Silicon Laser [PDF 44KB]

Introducing Intel's Advances in Silicon Photonics [PDF 434KB]

Additional Resources
Nature, the home page for the international weekly journal of science. This journal is the flagship product of the Nature Publishing Group, which aims to provide the world's premier information resources for the basic biological and physical sciences.
More Information

Latest Milestone: 50G Silicon Photonics Link

Intel demonstrates the first end-to-end silicon photonics data connection with integrated lasers.

Learn more >>

Research@Intel Blog

Intel Fellow Dr. Mario Paniccia, director of Intel's Photonics Technology Lab, discusses the significance of the 50G Silicon Photonics link.

Read blog >>