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AIM Photonics partners land NSF grants

16 Aug 2018

$1.2M for three affiliated groups, including a San Diego effort to produce chip-level Fourier transform spectrometers.

SUNY fab facility

SUNY fab facility

Three academic groups collaborating with the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) organization have won a combined $1.2 million in research grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

The AIM public-private partnership, headquartered in upstate New York and financed largely via the Department of Defense, will partner on efforts with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Delaware (UD).

The three new projects will each look to exploit the state-of-the-art capability offered by the AIM Photonics foundry at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, along with the associated test, assembly and packaging (TAP) facility in Rochester - the latter is currently slated for its official opening next month.

Broad scope
Together, the three projects cover a broad scope of applications for photonic integrated circuits (PICs), beyond AIM’s primary focus area of optical communications. The $423,000 RIT project, led by principal investigator Stefan Preble from the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, will look to produce high-performance neural networks for high-bandwidth computational devices expected to find use in future autonomous systems, information networks, cybersecurity, and robotics.

“We are excited to partner with AIM Photonics on this research project,” said Preble. “The hybrid electronic-photonic neuromorphic chips my Co-PI (Dhireesha Kudithipudi) and I are developing are directly enabled by the state-of-the-art PIC and TAP capabilities of AIM Photonics.”

Meanwhile UCSD researchers led by Yeshaiahu Fainman, the Cymer Chair in Advanced Optical Technologies, are aiming to take advantage of PIC functionality to realize chip-sized Fourier transform (FT) spectrometers.

Under this $405,000 effort the UCSD team will rapidly prototype and test miniaturized optical spectrometers suitable for chemical identification functionality inside mobile phones. Having reported the principles behind the approach earlier this year, the NSF-backed effort will see full-scale manufacturing runs at AIM Photonics’ foundry within the Albany Nanotech Complex.

“The integrated chip-scale Fourier transform spectrometer is to be fully CMOS compatible for use in mobile phones and other mobile platforms with potential impacts in areas ranging from environmental management, medicine, and security,” said AIM. FT spectrometer technology typically requires bench-scale hardware.

“The kit will initially be implemented in an undergraduate lab curriculum, with the goal to prepare the future task force through hands-on experience in this evolving field,” added Fainman.

Unique access
The effort at UD, awarded $360,000 by the NSF, will focus on developing new heterogeneous manufacturing approaches for making photonic devices, including direct integration of lithium niobate functions within a CMOS process.

More specifically, the goal is to realize high-performance radio frequency-photonic devices including ultra-high frequency modulators (defined as more than 100 GHz) used in datacoms applications like chip-scale routers for advanced data centers.

Principal investigator Dennis Prather said: “The heterogeneous integration of lithium niobate with silicon photonics allows for the use of the best properties of both material systems, thereby enabling truly innovative systems for countless emerging applications.”

Filbert Bartoli, director of the NSF division that funds the AIM-related collaborations, said: “Partnering with AIM Photonics provides NSF-funded researchers unique access to world-class manufacturing facilities, stimulating innovation and enabling faculty to span the spectrum from fundamental research breakthroughs to translational advances in integrated photonics devices and circuits that directly impact society.”

AIM’s CEO Michael Liehr added: “We are proud to be the central driver of photonics-based advances that can significantly improve the technologies our society depends on.”

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