US group separates on-chip optics and electronics

MIT, Berkeley and BU team integrates components into existing chips enabling optimization of photonics away from electronics. A team of researchers led by groups at MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and Boston University have announced what they are calling “another milestone” in electro-optical chip development.

This is a new technique for assembling on-chip optics and electronic separately, which enables the use of more modern transistor technologies. New it may be, but the technique requires only existing manufacturing processes.

The latest breakthrough, reported in Nature, follows the group’s 2015 fabrication of a previous generation microprocessor, constructed using only existing manufacturing processes, which integrated electronic and optical components on the same chip.

At that time, the researchers’ approach required that the chip’s electrical components be built from the same layer of silicon as its optical components. That meant relying on an established chip technology in which the silicon layers for the electronics were thick enough for optics.

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