Duke University electrical engineers have found a new way of utilizing thin film-light guides on silicon that could replace copper in a wide variety of electronic devices.
Although metal has long been the standard for information transfer from one circuit to another, according to these engineers optical signals can carry a great deal more. The silicon structures in question contain light-emitting lasers and connect them to channels that guide the light to a target, usually another component or chip.
"We came up with a way of creating a thin film integrated structure on silicon that not only contains a light source that can be kept cool, but can also accurately guide the wave onto its next connection," said Sabarni Palit, who received her Ph.D. while working in the laboratory of Nan Marie Jokerst, J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "This integration of components is essential for any such chip-scale, light-based system."
The lasers in question are about one-hundredth the thickness of a human hair, and connected utilizing a microscopic layer of polymer.
Palit says the amount of power needed to run the silicon light systems are very small, in addition to being very inexpensive to produce, and should have application in a wide range of applications including consumer electronics, medical diagnostics, and environmental sensing.