Researchers have developed a new way to build power efficient and programmable integrated switching units on a silicon photonics chip. The new circuit technology is poised to reduce production costs by allowing a generic optical circuit to be fabricated in bulk and then later programmed for specific applications such as communications systems, LIDAR circuits or computing applications.
Silicon photonics is capable of integrating optical devices and advanced microelectronic circuits all on a single chip. We can expect configurable silicon photonics circuits to greatly expand the scope of applications for silicon photonics while also reducing costs, making this circuit technology more useful for consumer applications.
The researchers demonstrate the new approach in switching units that can be used as building blocks to create larger chip-based, programmable photonic circuits. The technology will have a wide range of applications. For example, it could be used to make integrated sensing devices to detect biochemical and medical substances as well as optical transceivers for connections used in high-performance computing systems and data centers.