Optical microscopy is an indispensable tool in the life sciences, allowing us to unravel the complexity of living organisms. Major breakthroughs in the understanding of genetic diseases (DNA), cancer, Alzheimer’s, drug development, and medical diagnostics, have been fueled by advances in (fluorescence) microscopy. Despite enormous progress in research, instrumentation and deployment, several novel advanced microscopy techniques are found only in specialized labs, limiting their accessibility, or are experiencing technological bottlenecks keeping them from having relevance in a medical research or clinical setting. At imec we are working on the development of advanced photonics technologies that address these current challenges in in-vivo and in-vitro microscopic imaging. Taking silicon chip fabrication technology with its advantages of mass production, function integration, high precision, and low cost as the starting point, we design, produce, and test customized chips and their applications. At the heart are photonic integrated circuits (PICs). These circuits allow to bring a complex and bulky optical setup into a small chip. Apart from passive components that guide visible light, we integrate active components that can modulate the phase and amplitude of the light. This allows to create small chips that can look through highly scattering media, create complex structured light fields for super-resolution microscopy, or can perform high resolution imaging with implantable probes. , Dense integration of these active photonic components is hampered by the footprint of electrical interconnects on- and off-chip. Monolithic integration with a CMOS driving circuit offers an elegant solution. In this master thesis topic, the student will be responsible for designing a suitable CMOS driver chip for an advanced optical modulators. The optical modulation happens through very precise embedded microheaters. The driver chip should hence embed a large array of programmable current sources with a suitable embedded controller to steer the right level of current at the right time into each microheater.
The student will need to propose a suitable chip architecture based on the requirements of the optical modulator, define electrical specifications (requirements on noise levels, stability, and heating, ...). Finally the student will be asked to design the analog current source array and perform layout as well. A suitable candidate has a keen interest in analog circuit design methodology and an affinity with photonics applications. The student needs to be familiar with Cadence, spectre/spice and should have completed a typical analog IC design exercise (schematic entry, simulation, layout & post layout verification).
Type of Project: Thesis; Internship
Master's degree: Master of Engineering Science
Master program: Electrotechnics/Electrical Engineering