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IBM showcases wavelength multiplexed CMOS silicon photonics

Posted: 14 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IBM  CMOS  silicon photonics  transceiver 

IBM has unveiled what it describes as a fully integrated wavelength multiplexed CMOS silicon photonics chip. The CMOS chip is intended to be a less-costly, commercialisable way to process both light and electricity on the same chip, stated the company.

The demonstration by IBM Research included collaborators in labs both in Zurich and in the T.J. Watson Lab in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. The product of 15 years of silicon photonics research, the 100Gb/s transceiver, made with what IBM calls its CMOS Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology, demonstrates that IBM is now the leader in silicon photonics, according to Rick Doherty, research director at Envisioneering (Seaford, N.Y.).

The problem with silicon photonics has always been the optical interface to the chip, but IBM's photonics solution could be used on SoCs as well as transport light from chip-to-chip with an inexpensive standard edge connector or "just by butting the edges of CMOS chips together for chip-to-chip communications."

Fab cassette carrying several hundred chips for 100Gb/s transceivers

Fab cassette carrying several hundred chips for 100Gb/s transceivers, diced from a single CMOS wafer using IBM's Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology (INPT), which integrates optical and electrical devices on the same monolithic chip. (Source: IBM)

The demonstration chip marries four 25Gb/s channels, each on a slightly different wavelength, into a single 100Gb/s data channel "and I see no problem with IBM going to more channels, at least eight with its current technology."

IBM credits its success to long, hard labour in the research lab. "We've been doing silicon photonics research since 2000 because we understand all the opportunities they have for processing data. We believe our efforts will result in the first marketable chip to put CMOS and silicon photonics on the same chip," said Supratik Guha, director of Physical Sciences, IBM Research.

Right now, four laser channels--running at 25Gb/s come on-chip where the CMOS chip uses germanium photo detectors and optical demultiplexers to fuse them into a single 100Gb/s electrical signal that can be processed as needed. The electrical signal then uses interferometers to modulate four off-chip lasers into pulses of light that is routed off the edge of the chip.

"The lasers are brought in from off-chip in order to be modulated, but eventually we hope to incorporate III-V lasers right on the chip," said Will Green, manager of the Silicon Photonics Group at IBM Research.

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