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Structured Materials Wins Air Force Phase II Award to Produce Silicon Photonic Modulators

Structured Materials Industries, Inc. (SMI) reports that it has received an Air Force Phase II STTR to produce Si photonic modulators. Despite recent advances in integrating many optical components into single multi-function packages, the devices remain large and incompatible with the silicon CMOS microelectronic components producing data on the network. For example, a single electro-optic modulator fabricated in the lithium niobate material system occupies about 1 square centimeter. An equivalent silicon CMOS based component should occupy roughly 100 square microns – a million times smaller. The goal of this STTR project is to enable these chip-scale optical network components by unlocking the full potential of silicon photonics. Specifically, our overall program goal is to combine all of the active and passive optical functions needed to fabricate a low power, high bandwidth, high speed, and ultra-small multi-channel WDM transponder on a single optoelectronic silicon chip. Ultimately, the optical circuits will be directly integrated with the microelectronic memory and logic devices required to fully control operation of the transponder chip. With our all-silicon approach, we leverage the inherent infrastructure and cost benefits of the existing silicon CMOS manufacturing infrastructure, reducing chip costs. Moreover, by creating the entire optical system on a single chip, we greatly reduce the number of optical packages required, significantly reducing system size and cost.

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