British scientists have achieved the Holy Grail in incredibly fast communication – a chip silicon laser. This incredible achievement was made possible by an amazing team of British scientists. Their first silicon laser is a practical device that could transform healthcare, energy and communication systems. Researchers from Cardiff University worked with academics from University College London and University of Sheffield to create the first ever practical silicon laser. Their breakthrough may transform many sectors. They claim that it could allow for super-fast communication between electronic systems and computer chips, which could completely change a wide range of industries. A schematic of the structure of an InAs/GaAsQD laser placed on a silicon substrate. (B) Cross-sectional SEM image showing the laser fabricated with as-cleaved faces. It shows very high facet quality. C) A SEM view of the entire III-V silicon laser. Image: Nature.com. Details of the research funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Councils (EPSRC) were published in Nature Photonics. Citation below. The most widely-used material for the production of electronic devices is silicon. Silicon is the most commonly used material in electronic device manufacturing. It’s used for making semiconductors. These are embedded in almost every piece of technology people use daily, including smartphones and computers, satellite communications, GPS, and computer systems. Technology is struggling to grow Electronic devices are getting more powerful, efficient, and more complex. This has created an increased demand for the technology underneath, many of whom say it’s bursting at its seams. According to scientists, it is impossible for us to keep up with the ever-growing demands of electrical interconnects between computers chips and other systems. They have therefore turned to the light as a possible super-fast connector. The future technology of silicon photonics involves data being transferred between computer chips using optical rays (light). Optic rays are able to carry much more information in a shorter time period than electric conductors. Combining silicon and a semiconductor laser has proved to be a major obstacle. Scientists wondered if it was possible until the latest breakthrough. These obstacles have been overcome by the British team who were able to successfully embed a laser onto a silicon substrate. Huiyun Liu (Professor of Semiconductor Photonics, UCL) was the leader of this activity. He explained that the 1300 nm wavelength of laser can operate at temperatures as low as 120degC degF for up to 100,000hours. The future of silicon photonics, Professor Peter Smowton (Deputy Head of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy) stated: “Realising electricity-pumped lasers that are based on Si substrates, is a fundamental step toward silicon photonics. Although the exact outcomes are difficult to predict, it is clear that such a breakthrough will transform computing and healthcare, improve energy efficiency, and revolutionize the way we monitor patients. They have created a way to actually generate light on the chip. This is what silicon photonics has been waiting for. Image: Taken from YouTube Video below. Professor Alwyn Seeds is the Head of University College London’s Photonics Group. He stated that the Holy Grail in silicon photonics was the efficient, reliable, and electrically-driven semiconductor laser which can be integrated directly onto silicon substrates. Stella N. Elliott and Stella Liu are the authors. Seeds. Nature Photonics. 7 March, 2016. DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2016.21. Video: Why lasers will be the future of silicon. As the speed of silicon chips increases, copper cables used to transmit electricity between them is becoming less reliable. Optic signals are the obvious next step. It is however difficult to integrate them with silicon systems.
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