News

Breakthrough in photonics: data-transmitting light signal gets power boost from nanosized amplifier

An international team of researchers from Aalto University and Université Paris-Sud has significantly improved the propagation of data inside a microchip
John Rönn Micronova
The researchers utilized the exceptional facilities of Micronova Nanofabrication Cleanroom. Photo: Antti Matikainen

Light is a more energy efficient and faster way of transferring data than electricity. Until now, the rapid attenuation of light signals in microchips has prevented the use of light as a source of an information signal.

With international collaboration, researchers at Aalto University have now developed a nanosized amplifier to help light signals propagate through microchips. In their study published in Nature Communications, the researchers show that signal attenuation can be significantly reduced when data is transferred inside a microchip, for example, from one processor to another.

‘Photonics, or light transfer that is already widely used in internet connections, is increasingly being used by microcircuit systems because light is a more energy efficient and faster way of transferring data than electricity. The increase in information also requires an increase in performance. Boosting performance through electronic methods is getting to be very difficult, which is why we’re looking towards photonics for answers,’ says doctoral candidate John Rönn.

Help from atomic layer deposition

The researchers made their breakthrough with the help of a Finnish invention: the atomic layer deposition method. According to the team, the method is ideal for processing various kinds of microcircuits, as it plays an important role in manufacturing today's microprocessors. 

So far, the atomic layer deposition method has been used mainly in electronic applications. However, the newly released study indicates that possible applications also exist in photonics. In the development of photonics, new components must also ideally work with electricity—that is, in electronics.

‘Silicon is a key material in electronics, and that’s why it’s also included in our light amplifiers together with the amplification element erbium,’ Rönn says.

‘Today's compound semiconductors, which are used, for instance, in LED technology, can also be used effectively in light amplification. That being said, most compound semiconductors are not compatible with silicon, which is a problem for mass production.’

The study showed that a light signal can be potentially boosted in all kinds of structures and that the structure of a microchip is not limited to a specific type. The results indicate that atomic layer deposition is a promising method for developing microchip photonic processes.

‘Our international collaboration made a breakthrough with one component: a nanosized amplifier. The amplification that we got was very significant. But we’ll still need more components before light can completely replace electricity in data transfer systems. The first possible applications are in nanolasers, and in sending and amplifying data,’ says Professor Zhipei Sun.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on 25 January.
Link to the article (nature.com)

Further information:

Doctoral candidate John Rönn
Aalto University, Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering
[email protected]

Professor Zhipei Sun
Aalto University, Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering
tel. +358 50 430 2820
[email protected]

  • Published:
  • Updated:
Share
URL copied!

Related news

aalto university comet interceptor image: George Brydon, MSSL/UCL
Press releases, Research & Art Published:

The ESA Comet Interceptor enters mission analysis phase with significant Finnish contributions

A new Comet Interceptor mission was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the early mission analysis phase. Comet Interceptor, planned to be launched in 2028, will study an entirely new comet which is flying through our Solar System for the first time.
Sotavangit
Press releases Published:

WarSampo publishes new Linked Open Data on the over 4,000 Finnish prisoners of war in Soviet Union

The Prisoners of War web application is based on archival material from Finland and Russia. The data is a part of the WarSampo application, which has been used by over half a million Finns to date.
Starting Up Pic: Aalto University
Press releases, Studies, University Published:

Aalto University launches free-for-all online entrepreneurship course 'to make sure no great idea goes unpursued'

Starting Up is co-created by students and the European startup community and is a new contribution to open education by the country that brought Elements of AI to the world
Äitiä ahdistanut raskaus voi näkyä pikkuvauvan tunnereaktioissa
Press releases Published:

Expectant mothers’ pregnancy-related anxiety may alter how infant brains respond to sad speech

Study shows correlation between mothers’ self-reported pregnancy-related anxiety, and babies’ blood flow to brain areas responsible for emotional responses when listening to sad speech