Researchers have developed new polymer materials that are ideal for making the optical links necessary to connect chip-based photonic components with board-level circuits or optical fibers. The polymers can be helpful to easily create interconnects between photonic chips and optically printed circuit boards, the light-based equivalent of electronic printed circuit boards.
These new materials and processes could lead to powerful new photonic modules based on silicon photonics. They could also be helpful for optical sensing or making holographic displays for augmented and virtual reality applications.
Silicon photonics technology allows the integration of light-based components onto a tiny chip. Although many basic building blocks of silicon photonic devices exist, better methods are needed to fabricate the optical links that connect these components to make more complex systems.
According to the researchers, the polymer optical interconnects worked well and showed low propagation and coupling losses, which means very little light was lost as it traveled within the interconnect or between it and the other components.
The researchers are now working to improve the material’s refractive index contrast and performance at high temperatures. A higher refractive index contrast would make the material more tolerant to manufacturing variations, while high-temperature performance enables the interconnect to withstand solder reflow processes, which take place above 200 °C.