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27 March 2009


UK awards £1.85m for continued R&D on uncooled photonic devices

As part of the its Collaborative R&D programme, the UK's Technology Strategy Board has invested £1.85m ($2.8m) in the follow-on three-year project ETOE II (Extended Temperature OptoElectronics) to develop integrated InP-based photonic devices and new active materials.

ETOE II will continue the £1.7m ($3m), 2.5-year ETOE I collaboration (begun in 2006) between consortium partners CIP Technologies (which manufactures photonic hybrid integrated circuits and InP-based optoelectronic chips, devices, arrays and modules), optical component, module and subsystem maker Bookham Technology, specialty chemical firm SAFC Hitech, Loughborough Surface Analysis Ltd (LSA), the University of Sheffield and the University of Surrey.

Reducing power consumption is now becoming one of the most significant challenges for the information and communications industry. A number of telecoms network operators have recently announced plans to cut their carbon footprints, and this is placing demands on equipment suppliers to develop energy efficient solutions.

What is not always appreciated is that, for each watt of power consumed within a device on an equipment card, another 2W can be required to remove the heat it produces from the building. This is particularly important for optoelectronic components such as lasers and amplifiers, because their operating temperature ranges need to be controlled by local thermoelectric cooling, wasting yet more power. ETOE II will therefore tackle this power efficiency problem by raising the allowable operating temperature range of optoelectronic components, and reducing or eliminating the fundamental need for cooling.

The new project therefore has two main thrusts. The first is the development of reliable aluminum-containing active photonic devices, to support the high-temperature operation of advanced functions such as integrated semiconductor optical amplifiers and electro-absorption modulators (SOA-EAMs), and widely tunable lasers with integrated MZ modulators (a digital supermode distributed Bragg reflector with a Mach Zehnder interferometer). A second, longer-range thrust is to look at alternative active-layer materials for InP and GaAs devices, including nitrogen, antimony and bismuth.

Results from the project are expected to lead to high-speed, high-power integrated devices that can operate uncooled, enabling drastic reductions in power consumption and closer stacking of optical interfaces.

The consortium partners’ expertise includes the development of new metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOVPE) growth processes from novel precursor technologies for the in-situ etching of aluminum-containing materials (SAFC Hitech), layer growth (Bookham, CIP and Sheffield), structural design and modelling (Bookham, CIP and Surrey) and device fabrication (Bookham and CIP), with comprehensive characterization at all stages to assess progress (LSA, Sheffield and Surrey).

"This project builds on successful technology developed under ETOE I, and I confidently expect it will result in advanced monolithic photonic devices offering higher-speed operation, wider temperature performance and greater tenability,” says project manager Ian Lealman of CIP.

"We are committed to stimulating the development and deployment of technologies which, as well as benefiting society, also represent major business opportunities for the UK,” says Mike Biddle (lead technologist for Electrical Systems) explaining the Technology Strategy Board's support for the ETOE II project.

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