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/Integrated photonics/Expertise/HI-PED: integrating new electro-optic materials in a silicon photonics platform

HI-PED: integrating new electro-optic materials in a silicon photonics platform

Want to boost your next-gen photonic applications? Imec is looking into high-performance integrated photonics electro-optic devices (HI-PED) to increase the performance of silicon photonics.

What does the future of silicon photonics look like?

On the one hand, we’re looking at more innovative materials that deliver a higher performance, especially for applications such as:

  • Transferring hundreds of gigabits per second in datacenters.
  • Building a concept for energy-efficient photonics quantum computing.

On the other hand, we want to hold on to silicon’s many advantages: affordability, scalability and integration potential.

Can we go beyond silicon photonics without losing its benefits? That’s what imec’s HI-PED program wants to achieve, by exploring new materials and integrating them into imec’s existing silicon photonics platform.

Join our research

Improving modulators with electro-optic materials

If you want to enhance the performance of an integrated photonic circuit, the modulator is a critical bottleneck. The bandwidth it needs to manipulate increasing amounts of data is fast approaching what silicon can accommodate.

The refractive index of electro-optic materials changes when a voltage is applied to them – leading to a phase shift of the signal that passes through. They show no loss, and a low voltage leads to a large phase shift. This enables the creation of extremely efficient devices that modulate at high frequencies while consuming very little power.

That makes electro-optic materials ideal for building high-performing and energy-efficient modulators. Especially if they can be integrated with silicon photonics components.

Two candidate materials

Imec is looking at two promising electro-optic materials:

  1. Thin-film lithium niobate (TFLN) is already commercially available and can be integrated in a silicon photonics platform relatively soon by post-processing it outside the cleanroom. The remaining challenges are the optimization of the post-processing steps and the circuit design.
  2. Barium titanate (BTO) enables an even higher efficiency than TFLN. Moreover, it’s not a foundry contaminant and can therefore be post-processed inside the cleanroom. However, some material science challenges need to be addressed before it can be used for photonic applications.

Thanks to its combined expertise in material science, circuit design, and foundry technologies, imec is ideally positioned to address these challenges and enable the integration of TFLN (in the near term) and BTO (in the long term) in a silicon photonics platform.

Work with us

Imec’s HI-PED research can provide a breakthrough for photonic applications that urgently need to crack current performance limitations.

Does this apply to your business? Contact us to become a HI-PED program partner, get access to the research results and help shape the program roadmap.

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