Electronics & Photonics Solutions Group: Projects

The Electronics and Photonics Solutions Group focuses on research breakthroughs in the following areas:

Hybrid Silicon Photonics: The main speed bottleneck in modern computers is the electrical transfer of data on and off the processor and memory components. Similar to a gas-guzzling engine, half the energy of a microchip is consumed just to perform this “interconnect” function. Institute researchers have developed high capacity CMOS compatible optical interconnects to increase the capacity of integrated circuits (ICs), while decreasing the amount of energy it takes to transfer each bit. 

Optical Integration and Networking: Modern optical networks need reconfigurable elements for dynamic allocation of transmission capacity. As these functions become more complicated, and as capacity increases, higher levels of integration are required. More complex photonic integrated chips (PICs) are needed to reduce the size, weight and power of optical interfaces and these require new functions such as wavelength conversion, coherent communications and narrow linewidth lasers.

Energy Conversion: In the U.S., more than 10% of all electricity generated is lost in power conversion, equivalent to the energy from 318 coal-fired power plants. The Institute has developed nitride-based electronics which work at higher voltages with higher efficiency than is possible with conventional silicon technology. This approach will lead to smaller, more efficient power electronics and lighter, longer-range electric vehicles.

High Speed Electronics: New transistor designs are being developed to increase the maximum transistor frequencies to beyond 1 THz. Novel circuit designs using these ultrafast transistors are being demonstrated for amplifiers with hundreds of GHz bandwidth, important for cellular and optical networks.

Our society is increasingly reliant on instant access to large amounts of data. These mobile connections to data stored in “the cloud” enable the reduction of paper consumption and consolidation of storage and computing in data centers that are more than 10x more energy efficient than individual desktop computers. With improvements in communication technology, physical transport of newspapers, magazines, books and such becomes less necessary, reducing the carbon footprint of all of us. Instant, true-to-life video conferencing reduces the expense, time, and environmental impact of travel. This requires increasing the capacity of optical networks by a factor of 100 over the next ten years, while improving the energy efficiency of data transport, processing and storage by more than a factor of 10. The Institute's work in our Electronics & Photonics Solutions Group is leading the charge to meet these challenges.

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