LONDON – APIC Corp. (Culver City, Calif.), a supplier of photonic ICs to the U.S. military, has announced that a research team under the leadership of APIC chairman and CEO Birendra "Raj" Dutt, has succeeded in getting germanium to act as a laser.
This opens up the prospect of using germanium as an on-chip light source for a future generation of silicon-based photonic ICs, the company said. Allowing circuits to use light instead of electrons could result in higher performance ICs that consume less power, the company added.
Acting as principal investigator Dutt led a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and APIC to achieve the research result. APIC did not indicate what had been done to make a germanium laser or at what wavelength photons were emitted.
Germanium is compatible with conventional silicon manufacturing and is already used in silicon-germanium process technology to improve electronic circuits enabling a relatively easy transition from electronics to photonics. Although ultimately both data and control circuits could be photonic one example circuit that could benefit from on-chip optics could be an optical clocking circuit. Optical processing – already sometimes performed using lenses to process data fields – has the additional advantage of readily supporting parallel processing.
Photonic chips would use a fraction of the power currently needed in electronic circuits we the beneficial effect that much of the cooling plant and energy expenditure associated with computers and data centers could also become unnecessary.
APIC said it has teamed with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in New York State (CNSE), with a plan to produce a fully manufacturable photonic chip based on the technology within two years.
"We will now be able to use photons for many of the information functions that electrons have performed on silicon computer chips -- drastically reducing their power consumption while supercharging performance," said Dutt, in a statement. "Photonics is naturally Green. Along with the energy savings, optical data communications networks provide massive increases in processor speed and computational capabilities," he added.
APIC operates a wholly owned wafer fab in Honolulu, Hawaii, called Advanced Integration Photonics (AIP) that supplies foundry services in CMOS-compatible processes in silicon-on-insulator wafers.
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