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UK funding for uncooled photonic devices

06 Apr 2009

Martlesham Heath, UK, March 27, 2009 - The UK's Technology Strategy Board has invested £1.85m ($2.8m) in a follow-on collaborative project to develop integrated InP-based photonic devices and new active materials. The project is part of the Technology Strategy Board’s Collaborative Research and Development programme, which supports the research and development of new technologies that will underpin products and services of the future. The organisations involved are CIP Technologies (CIP), Bookham Technology, SAFC Hitech, Loughborough Surface Analysis (LSA), the University of Sheffield and the University of Surrey.

The three year project is called ETOE II (Extended Temperature OptoElectronics), and continues the successful collaboration by the same partners in ETOE I. The new project has two main thrusts. The first is the development of reliable aluminium-containing active photonic devices, to support the high temperature operation of advanced functions such as integrated semiconductor optical amplifiers and electro-absorption modulators (SOA-EAMs), and widely-tuneable lasers with integrated MZ modulators (digital supermode distributed Bragg reflector with Mach Zehnder interferometer). A second, longer-range element of the project is to look at alternative active layer materials for InP and GaAs devices, including nitrogen, antimony and bismuth.

Reducing power consumption is now becoming one of the most significant challenges for the information and communications industry. A number of telecommunications network operators have recently announced plans to cut their carbon footprints and this is placing demands on equipment suppliers to develop energy efficient solutions.

What is not always appreciated is that for each watt of power consumed within a device on an equipment card, another two watts can be required to remove the heat it produces from the building. This is particularly important for optoelectronic components such as lasers and amplifiers, because their operating temperature ranges need to be controlled with local thermoelectric cooling - wasting yet more power. ETOE II will tackle this power efficiency problem by raising the allowable operating temperature range of optoelectronic components, and reducing or eliminating the fundamental need for cooling.

Results from the project are expected to lead to high speed, high power integrated devices that can operate uncooled, enabling drastic reductions in power consumption and closer stacking of optical interfaces.

The consortium's partners have the complete range of skills necessary to meet this ambitious goal. These include the development of new metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOVPE) growth processes from novel precursor technologies for the in-situ etching of aluminium-containing materials (SAFC Hitech), layer growth (Bookham, CIP and Sheffield), structural design and modelling (Bookham, CIP and Surrey) and device fabrication (Bookham and CIP), with comprehensive characterisation at all stages to assess progress (LSA, Sheffield and Surrey).

CIP’s Ian Lealman, project manager for ETOE II said, "This project builds on successful technology developed under ETOE I, and I confidently expect it will result in advanced monolithic photonic devices offering higher speed operation, wider temperature performance and greater tuneability."

Explaining the Technology Strategy Board's support for the ETOE II project, Lead Technologist for Electrical Systems, Mike Biddle said: "We are committed to stimulating the development and deployment of technologies which, as well as benefiting society, also represent major business opportunities for the UK. This project brings together the UK’s world class expertise to research and develop an innovative technology that could be exploited globally. We are delighted to offer our support and investment to CIP and their partners in this important project."

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