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Nanolasers on Silicon

NSF Award:

NSF Engineering Research Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN)  (University of Arizona)

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Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a method to integrate nanolasers on silicon. This accomplishment is a crucial step toward marrying electronic devices and photonic devices, which operate using light.

By augmenting electronics with photonics, powerful new applications become possible. Photonic devices can perform in ways that silicon electronics cannot. For example, optical signals allow computer chips to carry and transmit more data, improving computing speed and efficiency. The miniature lasers could make possible, new technologies for signal processing and biochemical sensors as well as cost-effective, silicon-based lighting and displays.

Silicon and compound-material semiconductors are the respective foundations of modern electronics and photonics. Integrating these materials offers a promising route for implementing silicon photonics. However, material, temperature and compatibility issues have prevented such integration in the past. The team has overcome these obstacles by working at the nanoscale to grow compound-material nanopillars on silicon. The small footprint of these crystals allows for integration onto chips after electronics fabrication. By adding the crystals at the end of the electronics process, the researchers can keep costs low.

Lasers require structures that strongly confine light inside the semiconductor in order to amplify it. The nanopillar geometry possesses a natural laser cavity that traps light by circulating it up and down the nanopillar in a helical fashion. The combination of these technological achievements has resulted in nanolasers on silicon.

The researchers are connected with the Center for Integrated Access Networks, an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center headquartered at the University of Arizona.

The work was published in Nature Photonics.


  • images of nanolasers on silicon
Nanolasers grown on silicon.
Connie Chang-Hasnain, University of California-Berkeley

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