Silicon, a technological superstar for its impact on electronics and computing, still has a few tricks up its ‘blue metallic’ sleeve. In truth, it is not the lowest loss optical material around, but it is transparent enough to be useful in the infrared region, and for some applications, transparency is less important than other factors. Silicon is the material of choice for the complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) trillion-dollar industry and holds huge potential for the photonics industry because it allows optical circuits and electronics to be so closely integrated on a chip.
The building blocks of silicon photonics are tiny: components that that can be squeezed within micrometre areas, giving the function of bulk components you might find on an optical bench in a lab. They include photonic crystals, ring resonators, filters, and nanowires.
Dr Alvaro Casas Bedoya from CUDOS at the University of Sydney is part of the worldwide effort to develop silicon photonics and hybrid integration. In the past, most photonic chips he used had to be manufactured overseas. However, with the establishment of the Research and Prototyping Foundry at Sydney Nano, it is now possible to use their new, state-of-the-art facilities including the Elionix Electron Beam Lithography system and the Oxford Instruments ICP etcher to start to make optical silicon photonics circuits in Sydney.
The initial aim of this project is to exploit the silicon nonlinear properties to create microwave photonics applications and continue the efforts towards hybrid integration of different materials with exotic optical properties.
Main equipment used for this project: