UK Silicon Photonics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Electronics and Computer Science


Silicon Photonics is a field that has seen rapid growth and dramatic changes in the past 5 years. According to the MIT Communications Technology Roadmap, which aims to establish a common architecture platform across market sectors with a potential $20B in annual revenue, silicon photonics is among the top ten emerging technologies. This has in part been a consequence of the recent involvement of large semiconductor companies in the USA such as Intel and IBM, who have realised the enormous potential of the technology, as well as large investment in the field by DARPA in the USA under the Electronic and Photonic Integrated Circuit (EPIC) initiative. Significant investment in the technology has also followed in Japan, Korea, and to a lesser extent in the European Union (IMEC and LETI). The technology offers an opportunity to revolutionise a range of application areas by providing excellent performance at moderate cost due primarily to the fact that silicon is a thoroughly studied material, and unsurpassed in quality of fabrication with very high yield due to decades of investment from the microelectronics industry. The proposed work is a collaboration between 5 UK Universities (Surrey, St. Andrews, Leeds, Warwick and Southampton) with input from the industrial sector both in the UK and the USA. We will target primarily the interconnect applications, as they are receiving the most attention worldwide and have the largest potential for wealth creation, based on the scalability of silicon-based processes. However, we will ensure that our approach is more broadly applicable to other applications. This can be achieved by targeting device functions that are generic, and introducing specificity only when a particular application is targeted. The generic device functions we envisage are as follows: Optical modulation; coupling from fibre to sub-micron silicon waveguides; interfacing of optical signals within sub micron waveguides; optical filtering; optical/electronic integration; optical detection; optical amplification. In each of these areas we propose to design, fabricate, and test devices that will improve the current state of the art. Subsequently we will integrate these optical devices with electronics to further improve the state of the art in optical/electronic integration in silicon.We have included in our list of objectives, benchmark targets for each of our proposed devices to give a clear and unequivocal statement of ambition and intent.We believe we have assembled an excellent consortium to deliver the proposed work, and to enable the UK to compete on an international level. The combination of skills and expertise is unique in the UK and entirely complementary within the consortium. Further, each member of the consortium is recognised as a leading international researcher in their field.The results of this work have the potential to have very significant impact to wealth creation opportunities within the UK and around the world. For example emerging applications such as optical interconnect, both intra-chip, and inter-chip, as well as board to board and rack to rack, and Fibre To The Home for internet and other large bandwidth applications, will require highly cost effective and mass production solutions. Silicon Photonics is a seen as a leading candidate technology in these application areas if suitable performance can be achieved.
Description This was a large collaborative programme that developed a series of components for transceivers in silicon, aimed at short reach communications. At the time of publication the modulators in particular were the world's best performing devices. Several patents have been filed. The modulator designs are also becoming a standard approach in the field of research. We also developed a demonstration communications link to showcase the devices which formed part of a one day conference event that was very well attended.

Several papers have emerged since the end of this grants that have their origins in this project.
Exploitation Route The results have attracted further funding from a company, who may wish to utilise the device designs in their future products.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)


Description The two patents mentioned last year have now successfully been assigned to US start-up Pointcloud, and the University of Southampton have taken equity in the company. In 2019, two of the patents originating from this award are in the process of being assigned to US start-up company Pointcloud Inc. Many publications and conference presentations have been made including many invited talks. This publicity resulted in further funding has been obtained from a company with a view to utilising some of our device designs, customised for the application. Furthermore, additional publications have emerged after the project was completed that have their origins in this grant. A particular type of optical multiplexer was developed in this programme, and was further enhanced in a subsequent grant "Silicon Photonics for future Systems". We then received additional funding from a start up company to study the device further (amongst other work), in order to see if it can be applied to their technology. As of February 2018 we are in discussions with a company regarding licencing of a patent filed during this programme
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic

Description Four channel silicon optical modulators
Amount £476,965 (GBP)
Funding ID n/a 
Organisation Huawei Technologies 
Sector Private
Country China
Start 07/2019 
End 02/2021
Description Horizon 2020: PICTURE
Amount € 3,924,533 (EUR)
Funding ID 780930 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2018 
End 02/2022
Description Industry Funding
Amount £380,000 (GBP)
Organisation Huawei Technologies 
Sector Private
Country China
Start 07/2015 
End 02/2017
Description National Hub in High Value Photonic Manufacturing
Amount £10,220,725 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N00762X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2022
Description Prosperity Partnership
Amount £4,800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R003076/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2022
Title Electro-optic device 
Description An electro - optic device (110), comprising a layer of light - carrying material; and a rib (121), projecting from the layer of light - carrying material, for guiding optical signals propagating through the device (110). The layer of light - carrying material comprises a first doped region (118) of a first type extending into the rib, and a second doped region (121) of a second, different type extending into the rib such that a pn junction is formed within the rib (121). The pn junction extends substantially parallel to at least two contiguous faces of the rib (121), resulting in a more efficient device. In addition, a self-aligned fabrication process can be used in order to simplify the fabrication process and increase reliability and yield. 
IP Reference GB2490850 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2012
Licensed No
Impact Additional research funding. As of February 2018 we are in discussions with a company regarding licencing of this patent
Title Electro-optic modulator with asymmetric electrode spacing 
Description The present invention provides an electro-optic modulator and an optical communication system in which a wider signal electrode may be used without affecting the characteristic impedance of the device or the efficiency of the optical modulation. In embodiments of the invention, asymmetric coplanar electrodes are provided such that the gap Loptimal between the signal electrode 112 and one reference electrode 114 may be optimized for the optical waveguide and the semiconductor section surrounding it, and the gap Ltuned between the signal electrode 112 and the other reference electrode 116 may be optimized for a particular characteristic impedance. Such that the gaps Loptimal and Ltuned are not of equal width. 
IP Reference GB2493690 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2013
Licensed No
Impact Additionally research funding
Description Dr Stevan Stankovic and Mr Nathan Soper were speakers at the Science and Engineering Festival 2016, part of British Science Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact General Public invited to see the technology of Southampton University. The University of Southampton opened its doors to thousands of people for its biggest outreach event of the year, Science and Engineering Festival 2016, part of British Science Week. Amongst the huge range of activities, tours and shows on offer was the opportunity to see inside the state-of-the-art Zepler Institute Cleanroom Complex, home to the best set of nanoelectronics and photonics fabrication capabilities in the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Outreach to community. Mr Nathan Soper (PhD student).5. Speaker at Pint of Science Southampton,RHS Flower Show, Student Outreach programmes, and Southampton Science and Engineering day. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 1. 2016 Photonics Day at the University for year 8-9 children.
2. 2015 RHS Flower Show Tatton Park - which won a SEPnet Public engagement award.
3. Science and Engineering Day 2016
4. Numerous events with 'Lightwave' the ORC's student outreach program, as described in the original proposal.
5. Speaker at Pint of Science Southampton, in which scientists and engineers engage with the public in a relaxed environment, typically a pub, to describe their research work and its impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017