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Researchers Develop Hybrid Silicon Laser

The device could have big implications for future optical communications.

SAN FRANCISCO — Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) have developed a new laser that could have big implications for future optical communications.

This hybrid laser, developed by bonding optical gain layers directly to a silicon laser cavity, offers an alternative to silicon Raman lasers and is an order of magnitude shorter, according to its creators.

John Bowers, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB, said in a statement issued by UCSB that the ability to combine "the best of both worlds," such as III-V gain material with silicon photonics, "could lead to a new way of enabling highly integrated laser sources with intelligent opto-electronic devices for future optical communications at low cost.”

The UCSB laser is described as optically pumped, and operates in continuous wave mode with only needs 30 milliwatts of input pump power. UCSB said the evanescent silicon laser demonstration is the first step toward an electrically pumped hybrid silicon laser.

Researchers believe that optical interconnects could alleviate electrical interconnect limitations. The challenge, according to the UCSB researchers, has been to create a semiconductor laser that can be fully integrated with silicon microelectronics.

The laser was developed by Bowers and his students, Alex Fang and Hyundai Park. The work was funded by DARPA and Intel Corp.

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