CORNERSTONE: Capability for OptoelectRoNics, mEtamateRialS, nanoTechnOlogy aNd sEnsing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)

Abstract

This proposal seeks funding to acquire a stepper and associated wafer coater, tools to enable photolithographic patterning of semiconductor wafers for device and circuit fabrication. The stepper will be located at Southampton University in the recent £120m cleanroom complex. It will relieve the bottleneck within the cleanroom, an electron beam lithography tool, which is a slower alternative patterning tool. This will increase capacity within the cleanroom complex and facilitate and underpin a wealth of world class research. Not only will research at Southampton be enhanced, but Southampton (SOU), Glasgow (GLA), and Surrey (SUR) universities will pool resources to establish a Silicon Photonics Fabrication Capability within the UK, to facilitate an increasing demand for the fabrication of Silicon Photonics devices from the UK's premier researchers. This will encourage wider usage of world class equipment within the UK, in line with EPSRC policy. We seek funding for both the equipment and 3.5 RAs across the 3 institutions, over a 4 year period, to establish and deliver the Capability. Access to a very significant inventory of additional equipment at these 3 universities will be facilitated. The Capability is extremely timely, as silicon foundry services around the world are moving towards a model in which standard platforms and devices will be offered, making it more difficult for researchers to carry out innovative work at the device level, or in non-standard platforms.

The proposal is supported by 36 members of academic staff at Southampton, with a total current research portfolio of projects valued in excess of £88m. Furthermore we have 10 project partners who will take part in the use and assessment of the silicon photonics capability by designing and subsequently testing fabricated devices. Their total in-kind contribution is valued at £793,300. These partners have expressed an interest in using the capability after the project has been completed. In addition have contacted a few example potential users from within the industrial sector (SMEs), and from around the world who have also provided letters of support indicating that they would use the capability after the project is complete. Taking this net proposed usage, it is clear that the equipment will be sustained beyond the period of the funded project. The Southampton users alone need only generate a tiny fraction (0.2%) of their research portfolio to cover running costs and depreciation. Consumables will increase with usage, but clearly, the silicon photonics capability will generate paying users, to further sustain the capability beyond the project, which will, in turn, allow UK researchers to compete effectively on the world stage in the buoyant field of silicon photonics.

Beyond the 4 year project, the Silicon Photonics Capability will be operated by the commercial arms of the 3 partner universities, all of whom have provided letters of support confirming their ongoing participation.

Planned Impact

The impact of this strategic equipment grant lies in the new research that it will enable, and the range of technologies it will enhance. The research described in the Case for Support has wide-ranging impacts nationally and internationally in a number of important sectors, comprising the facilitation of high quality research by world leading groups that could fundamentally change those technologies and their exploitation. Furthermore, the introduction of a Silicon Photonics fabrication Capability within the UK will allow UK researchers to compete on the world-wide stage in this specific discipline, without having to rely on collaborators generosity, or to be limited to the "standard" devices and platforms that are developing in foundries both in Europe and the rest of the world. The list of UK universities providing letters of support is already impressive, and contains all of the leading silicon photonics groups in the UK, as well as other photonics activities that will utilise silicon photonics in some way. These groups represent the cream of the UK research community who are already operating world class activities. Their ability to utilise a "local" fabrication capability will enhance their effectiveness, and their productivity, and the impact of their work can only increase even more. Such impact will drive more publicity and hence additional users. Already the reaction from around the world is extremely positive.

To demonstrate this, we have invited selected additional potential users both from inside and from outside of the UK to write letters of support, indicating that they would utilise the Capability in the longer term. These include universities and SMEs. The purpose of these letters is to underline both the impact and the longer term viability of the proposed Capability. With foundry services moving away from device level research, there is a requirement to facilitate such work, in the way that some flexible foundry services have done until their move to standard platforms. This has established these foundries as international leaders in the field, and we anticipate a similar opportunity for a UK based Capability due to the dearth of alternative options for researchers to access, and hence this is a significant opportunity for the UK. Furthermore, We are now supported by Dr Andrew Rickman, the world's most successful Silicon Photonics entrepreneur. The existence of a flexible fabrication capability within the UK will be instrumental in Dr Rickman establishing his new venture within the UK, thus immediate impact is likely.

Another key part of our impact strategy is to enhance the diverse research within Southampton University. 36 members of academic staff (and their groups) support this bid. The introduction of the stepper will increase capacity in the Southampton cleanroom by releasing the pressure on the current bottleneck which is the electron-beam lithography system. Many of these researchers are already world leaders in their field, and the opportunity to be even more effective should not be missed, since their proven track record indicates the likelihood of success. The additional capacity will also inevitably result in new and additional research, enhancing the quality and volume of work at Southampton and in the UK. This will, in turn, allow enhanced training capability (RAs, undergraduates, MSc, and PhD students), more access to fabrication facilities for PhD students, and support of younger academics. Particularly important will be the emergence of the RAs employed on the project. They will be recognised as experts in the fields of device fabrication and silicon photonics, as has been observed in the example of RAs employed by the "Epixfab" foundry service.Their involvement will catapult them to prominence.
 
Description The CORNERSTONE platform is now well established and becoming known throughout the world.

Processes are now developed for fabrication on the UK's only university based 248nm Photolithography scanner, for the benefit of UK researchers. Waveguide loss has been measued to be as low as 0.62dB/cm (multimode) and 1.82dB/cm (singlemode), as good as commercial foundries.
Exploitation Route Users are so impressed with the platform that they have requested additional platforms and capabilities. We are discussing with EPSRC how best to facilitate such provision.
By February 2019 we have fabricated 96 separate designs from 19 research groups across the UK, and several users around the world. We have established a website for users to submit their designs and linked with Software company Luceda to establish a Process Design Kit for users. The entire platform offering now looks much more professional with established implementation processes.

We will continue to develop processes to support the needs of UK researchers in the field of Silicon Photonics. They can then design Silicon Photonics circuits and have them fabricated by the grant team. This will support device and circuit innovation within the UK
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Healthcare

 
Description By February 2019 we have fabricated 96 separate designs from 19 research groups across the UK, and several users around the world. We have established a website for users to submit their designs and linked with Software company Luceda to establish a Process Design Kit for users. One of the aims of the grant was to provide silicon photonics devices to UK researchers in order to support their work. We have completed 3 fabrication runs and 2 are in process and one more call is live. So far we have had 34 different designs submitted over the 5 fabrication runs. This has come from 14 different users (although some are in different Departments at the same university. The original proposal contained 9 project partners, and we have no recruited 3 further UK universities and an external user in hong kong who wish to participate. We have also been approached by potential partners in France, Spain, Singapore and Australia. We also have several repeat users indicating satisfaction with previous runs.
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic

 
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 Prosperity Partnership
Amount £4,800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R003076/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2022
 
Title Critical Dimension Scanning Electron Microsope (CD SEM) 
Description Critical Dimension Scanning Electron Microscope (model S-8840, manufactured by Hitachi High Precision, Ltd.) is used for inspection of the patterned 200mm-diameter wafers processed in the DUV scanenr and the wafer prodcessing station (track). This is a critical inspection tool that assures the quality of the patterning by verifying that the dimensions of the patterned features are, within a certain tolerance, identical to the designed dimensions. This is an standard industrial tool and complements the DUV scanner and wafer processing station (track), allowing industrial-grade DUV photolthographic capability at the University of Southampton. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This is another essential tool that underpins the CORNERSTONE MPW Service. MPW service based on this tool was offered starting from 2017 (call 4). In this call, 14 researches from across 5 UK universities submitted their designs, that will be fabricated by the end of July 2018. Call 5 and Call 6 have already been announced and 6 more fabrication calls (one for active devices and 5 for passive devices) is scheduled to be annouced by the end of 2018. It is expected that photonic devices made in this fabrication runs will demonstrate state-of-the-art characteristis, which will result in publication of a variety of articles in the high-impact factor journals. Most importantly, very few foundries in the world offer such MPW services in photonics and most of these come from professional fabs. In view of that, CORNERSTONE MPW service offered by the University of Southampton, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and the University of Surrey (Ion Beam Centre), significantly increases the reputation not only of the UK universities involved in CORNERSTONE, but of the UK academia as a whole. Also, due to this fabrication capability, University of Southampton is becoming an increasingly attractive partner for many international academic institutions. In addition to this, this fabrication capability is also starting to attract industrial partners as well. 
URL http://www.cornerstone.sotonfab.co.uk/
 
Title DUV Lithography Scanner 
Description Scanner for deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography at 248nm, for patterning 200mm-diameter wafers. Manufacturer: Nikon; Model: NSR-S204B. Scanner is a critical tool in fabrication of photonic and electronic integrated circuits and is used for patterning wafers. The scanner installed at University of Southampton allows patterning of features with the critical dimensions down to 200nm on 200mm (8") diameter semiconductor wafers. Together with the accompanying equipment, the scanner allows fabrication of photonic integrated circuits and due to its high throughput enables running of a Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) service within the CORNERSTONE project that support researches across UK academia. Light source is provided by a KrF laser, emitting at 248nm. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact CORNERSTONE MPW Service based on this tool was offered starting from 2017 (call 4). In this call, 14 researches from across 5 UK universities submitted their designs, that will be fabricated by the end of July 2018. Call 5 and Call 6 have already been announced and 6 more fabrication calls (one for active devices and 5 for passive devices) is scheduled to be annouced by the end of 2018. It is expected that photonic devices made in this fabrication runs will demonstrate state-of-the-art characteristis, which will result in publication of a variety of articles in the high-impact factor journals. Most importantly, very few foundries in the world offer such MPW services in photonics and most of these come from professional fabs. In view of that, CORNERSTONE MPW service offered by the University of Southampton, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and the University of Surrey (Ion Beam Centre), significantly increases the reputation not only of the UK universities involved in CORNERSTONE, but of the UK academia as a whole. Also, due to this fabrication capability, University of Southampton is becoming an increasingly attractive partner for many international academic institutions. In addition to this, this fabrication capability is also starting to attract industrial partners as well. 
URL http://www.cornerstone.sotonfab.co.uk/
 
Title Wafer Processing Station - ACT8 Clean Track 
Description Clean Track ACT8 (manufacturer: Tokyo Electron) is a wafer processing station used for coating 8" wafers with the photoresist and developing them after the exposure in a DUV scanner. This tool is paired with the DUV scanner and configured to automatically hand over and receive wafers to and from the scanner. It is an industry-grade tool allowing high wafer processing throughput, in combination with the DUV scanner. At the University of Southampton, this tool is equipped with 2 small-volume dispense units, suitable for the smaller production volumes of the CORNERSTONE MPW service, compared to industry where hundreds of wafers are processed per day. This tool allows coating of wafers with a bottom anti-reflective coating (BARC) and a subsequent coating of the photoresist for deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography. After the exposure in the DUV scanner, the wafers are developed and spin-dried in the ACT-8 Clean Track. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact CORNERSTONE MPW Service based is also based on this tool. The service based on this tool was offered starting from 2017 (call 4). In this call, 14 researches from across 5 UK universities submitted their designs, that will be fabricated by the end of July 2018. Call 5 and Call 6 have already been announced and 6 more fabrication calls (one for active devices and 5 for passive devices) is scheduled to be annouced by the end of 2018. It is expected that photonic devices made in this fabrication runs will demonstrate state-of-the-art characteristis, which will result in publication of a variety of articles in the high-impact factor journals. Most importantly, very few foundries in the world offer such MPW services in photonics and most of these come from professional fabs. In view of that, CORNERSTONE MPW service offered by the University of Southampton, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and the University of Surrey (Ion Beam Centre), significantly increases the reputation not only of the UK universities involved in CORNERSTONE, but of the UK academia as a whole. Also, due to this fabrication capability, University of Southampton is becoming an increasingly attractive partner for many international academic institutions. In addition to this, this fabrication capability is also starting to attract industrial partners as well. 
URL http://www.cornerstone.sotonfab.co.uk/
 
Description Cardiff University 
Organisation Cardiff University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Cornerstone - Glasgow 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Southampton, University of Glasgow and University of Surrey are collaborators on this project. The three organisations pool resources to provide optical devices and circuits to user partners.
Collaborator Contribution University of Southampton, University of Glasgow and University of Surrey are collaborators on this project. The three organisations pool resources to provide optical devices and circuits to user partners.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Cornerstone - Surrey 
Organisation University of Surrey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Southampton, University of Glasgow and University of Surrey are collaborators on this project. The three organisations pool resources to provide optical devices and circuits to user partners.
Collaborator Contribution University of Southampton, University of Glasgow and University of Surrey are collaborators on this project. The three organisations pool resources to provide optical devices and circuits to user partners.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Filarete Foundation 
Organisation Filarete Foundation
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Heriot-Watt University 
Organisation Heriot-Watt University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Secondment 
Organisation Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This was a secondment in which Dr Du Jianbing, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China, spent 6 weeks working in The Southampton Silicon Photonics group
Collaborator Contribution Manpower, accommodation.
Impact Two IEEE journal papers and one international conference paper
Start Year 2017
 
Description The Rockley Group UK 
Organisation The Rockley Group, Inc.
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University College London 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of Bristol 
Organisation University of Bristol
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of Leeds 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of Nottingham 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of St Andrews 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of Strathclyde 
Organisation University of Strathclyde
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of York 
Organisation University of York
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Collaborator Contribution Equipment installation and discovery work to establish technical requirements.
Impact Outputs for the grant are projected in years 3 & 4, as per the project proposal.
Start Year 2014
 
Description external user 
Organisation Chinese University of Hong Kong
Department Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Country Hong Kong 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Fabrication of devices for the new partner
Collaborator Contribution Design and testing of devices
Impact £10,000 income.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Co chair of The Enlighten Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr C. G Littlejohns co - chair of The enlighten Conference. 10th October 2018, Ricoh Arena, Coventry. UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.photonex.org/conference/index.html
 
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
URL http://www.zeplerinstitute.ac.uk/news/4858
 
Description Industry Talk - EPIC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Dr David Thomson gave a talk - Silicon electro-optic devices - at the European industry event (EPIC) WORKSHOP ON PHOTONIC INTEGRATED CIRCUITS, 9-10 June 2015, Location: EVG, St. Florian am Inn, Austria. The purpose was to raise the profile of the working being done at Southampton and network with relevant industrial contacts.

Dr Thomson was also a member of an expert panel answering questions about the technology.

Dr Milan Milosevice gave a talk in February 2017 at an EPIC workshop in Austria.

Professor Reed gave a keynote presentation at an EPIC industry workshop in Brussels in March 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2017
URL http://www.epic-assoc.com/epic-workshop-on-photonic-integrated-circuits/
 
Description Invited Talk at the MIT Microphotonics Center 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Professor Reed delivered a presentation on the fabrication facility sponsored by EPSRC, together with a question and answer session regarding how international users could engage with the project. The discussion was perhaps a little early in the development cycle of the project, but should result in concrete engagement later.
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
 
Description Training course "Introduction to Si photonics foundries", 7pennies Photonic Integrated Circuit Training, Santa Clara, CA, USA, January 2019 (invited). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Dr Littlejohns was invited to run the following training course Introduction to Si photonics foundries", 7pennies Photonic Integrated Circuit Training, Santa Clara, CA, USA
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019