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Caltech-Led Engineers Solve Longstanding Problem in Photonic Chip Technology

Photonic computer chips

Image courtesy of Caltech/Liang Feng

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers have created a method to isolate light signals on a silicon chip, which they say could lead to the development of photonic computer chips.

Photonic chips with integrated circuits that use light instead of electricity will allow for faster computers and less data loss when connected to fiber-optic networks. "We want to take everything on an electronic chip and reproduce it on a photonic chip," says Caltech's Liang Feng.

The researchers plan to develop a photonic analog of a diode, known as an optical isolator. An optical isolator allows light to travel in just one direction between devices on a chip. To isolate light, the researchers designed a 0.8-micron-wide silicon device that allows light to go in one direction but changes the mode of the light when it travels in the opposite direction. The light travels in a symmetric mode in one direction, and in an asymmetric mode in the other direction, allowing the two beams of light to pass through each other.

Although their research is just a proof-of-principle experiment, the Caltech team is developing an optical isolator that can be built onto a silicon chip.

From California Institute of Technology
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