Electronic-Photonic Convergence: A Platform Grant

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


The theme of this platform grant is electronic-photonic convergence. It underpins expertise in integrated photonics platforms such as silicon photonics, mid-IR photonics, non-linear photonics and high speed electronics, all of which make use of a common fabrication platform. The convergence of electronics and photonics underpins a host of technologies ranging from future internet to consumer products, and from biological and chemical sensing to communications. The integration of electronics and photonics is recognised as the only way to manage the massive data demands of the future, and is consequently crucial to the continuation of the digital age.

Silicon Photonics is an example of an emerging technology that will bring photonics to mass markets via integration with electronics. Integrated silicon systems are projected to serve a market in excess of $700M by 2024 (Yole Development, 2014), but is reliant on photonics converging with electronics. Furthermore, some aspects of silicon photonics will encompass non-linear photonics in second generation devices for all optical processing in a fully integrated platform. Similarly, related technologies such as SiGe-on-Insulator and Ge-on-Insulator are poised to revolutionise the next generation of communications and integrated sensor technologies, all on an integrated platform with electronics and non-linear photonics. Underpinning a team in these crucial areas of expertise supported by a flexible funding platform will enable us to pioneer work in these technology areas, and to add value to ideas that emerge.

The convergence of electronics and photonics will result in complex integrated systems, linked via fabrication technologies. Electronic-photonic integration has yet to be addressed in a meaningful way in silicon based technologies, and this team collectively have the essential skills to do so, at an institution that possesses the key fabrication equipment to facilitate success. Due to the complex nature of fabrication for research, existing RAs are fully utilised, and have little or no additional scope for strategic research. The platform grant will give us the opportunity to dedicate fabrication resource and RA skills to strategic projects, and specific innovation. We will do this by utilising the RAs within the project to deliver work of significant strategic importance to the portfolio of grants held by the group, whilst also developing the research and managerial skills of the RAs by giving them specific management responsibilities whilst being mentored by one of the investigators.

Planned Impact

The convergence of electronics and photonics is driven by the need for more efficient and flexible systems, as well as more energy efficient systems. Whilst many applications relate to communications based industries, in particular internet and computing systems, there are a plethora of ICT systems that need to be more efficient as well as more technically effective for future generations of system implementations, or these systems will not be viable in a digital age in which energy is not limitless. The impact on society will be through the enhanced performance of ICT platforms for the digital economy and the reduction in greenhouse gases and energy usage of these platforms (currently the ICT sector contributes 2% of global carbon emission, more than the entire airline industry ). This will be enabled by the development of energy efficient optoelectronic circuits in silicon-based material systems for a plethora of applications. Direct benefits include: the ability to fabricate fully integrated optoelectronic circuits on silicon and silicon compounds, providing a way to increase the (now limited) number of interconnections that can be made to/from future generations of microprocessors (for example) and enabling freestanding remote sensors combined with processing electronics for both diagnostic and analysis based systems. This will provide improved performance and functionality, facilitate a reduction in the carbon footprint and open up a number of new applications.

The results of our research will have economic impact in the longer term, in a large number of fields by facilitating the mass production of circuits that include both electronics and photonics. That will be of benefit to a number of UK based manufacturers, particularly our project partners who will be well positioned to develop the work further. Similarly researchers within the field will enjoy increased opportunities for device and system level complexity and functionality, as well as increased numbers of application areas facilitated by potential integrated electronic-photonic devices, circuits, and systems. The impact on society will be through a variety of applications in mass production environments. These include, but are not limited to applications that provide high data transmission (typically via internet), faster computing and low power consumption and which will therefore impact day to day life.

The results will be monitored for any opportunities to file worthwhile patents. Exploitation of arising IP is likely to be via licensing or start-up opportunities. Southampton has substantial research support resources and considerable experience in the commercial exploitation of research as it has been the driving force behind a cluster of new companies that develop and manufacture products based on photonics technology.


10 25 50
Description Several RA projects have produced results that facilitate either further work, or proposal preparation. Furthermore the investigator led project has extremely good results, leading to both further work, multiple papers and a research proposal. This has, in turn, led to additional funding, which has been entered into the additional funding section of this submission. Several investigators and team members have also been promoted during the duration of this grant.
One particular RA grant has led to ideas that were subsequently submitted for patenting.
In one of the RA projects, a new way of writing waveguides has been demonstrated. A 488nm laser is scanned across a layer of Ge deposited on Silicon, cause SiGe to be formed. Depending on the annealing conditions, different levels of interaction between Silicon and Germanium occur, resulting in a variable bandgap ship of up to 38nm. Waveguides have been demonstrated using this technique. In a second RA project, a new interface circuit built for PAM-4 based soft decision Forward Error Correction (FEC) has been designed, without the need for a dedicated Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC). In a third RA project. a thermally tunable on-chip spectrometer was demonstrated. This means that rather than needing to scan over multiple interferometers on a given chip, a single interferometer can be used to cover a wide spectral band by thermally tuning the spectrometer.
Exploitation Route The finding will lead to enhancement of RA CVs to facilitate career advancement. It will also be used as the basis for further funding.
Investigators have/will also write additional proposals for funding.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

Description Yr.1 Despite the fact that the grant is still in it's first year, we have initiated 3 RA managed mini-projects, as described in the proposal, in order to support the technical, managerial, and financial management capabilities of the RAs involved. Year 2: We have funded 6 further RA managed mini projects via the Innovation Reserve. In one case this has led to the RA concerned in securing an Additional £5000 in a competitive research bid to continue the work (Dr Milan Milosevic). We have also set up two secondments/collaborations that are working well, we have bridged one individual for 1 month (Nathan Soper), and we have embarked on a 1 year investiagtive piece of work led by Professor Mashanovich on Mid Infrared sensing, by employing an RA (Dr David Rowe) to carry out the exploratory work. Several papers have also been published, associated with the grant Yr 3. A Further 4 RA managed mini projects have been funded, and two investigator led projects Yr 4 Further bridging was implemented retain 4 RAs for short periods ranging from 1 to 3 months. Publications associated with the work remains strong. We have lost some time this year due to Maternity leave.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural

Description Four channel silicon optical modulators
Amount £476,965 (GBP)
Funding ID n/a 
Organisation Huawei Technologies 
Sector Private
Country China
Start 08/2019 
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 Photonics @ Interface: Heterogeneous Integrations for Generation, Detection, Conversion, and Modulation
Amount £1,143,279 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S034242/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 05/2023
Description Plasmoniac
Amount € 3,999,459 (EUR)
Funding ID H2020-ICT-06-2019-871391 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2020 
End 12/2022
Description Silicon-rich silicon nitride Nonlinear Integrated Photonic ciRcuits & Systems (juNIPeRS)
Amount £1,123,974 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T007303/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 03/2023
Description Collaboration 
Organisation Nanyang Technological University
Country Singapore 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative work. Both institutions can design and fabricate devices, but have complementary expertise, so sometimes devices are fabricated at one institution and sometimes at the other. Both also do device characterisation
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative work. Both institutions can design and fabricate devices, but have complementary expertise, so sometimes devices are fabricated at one institution and sometimes at the other. Both also do device characterisation
Impact Publications
Start Year 2015
Description Collaboration on laser processing of SiGe material platforms 
Organisation IHP Microelectronics GmbH
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have been laser processing the SiGe wafers to investigate direct writing of optical components within the wafers.
Collaborator Contribution IHP have provided us with several SiGe wafers for use in our laser materials processing work. They have also done some development work to deposit materials at our desired thickness and characterised the samples.
Impact N/A
Start Year 2019
Description Secondment 
Organisation Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This was a secondement setup with Huazhong to support the work of Professor Peacock, but has wider implications because other investigators are interested in the technology. We hosted the visit from the 13th of July to 9th of September 2017, and the visitor Dr Li Shen worked closely with Professor Peacock on non-linear silicon photonics.
Collaborator Contribution The partner provided the manpower to make the work possible. Whilst the visit is obviously complete, but the collaboration continues and has resulted in a student visiting Southampton for 1 year to work with the Programme Grant team on other aspects of Silicon Photonics under grant numberEP/L00044X/1
Impact Publications, Further visitors, funding applications.
Start Year 2017
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 University of Exeter 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Secondment from Exeter into our research team, working on design and measurement of novel Silicon Nitride devices and platforms
Collaborator Contribution Secondment from Exeter into our research team, working on design and measurement of novel Silicon Nitride devices and platforms
Impact Faneca J, Hogan BT, Diez IR, Gardes FY, Baldycheva A. "Tuning silicon-rich nitride microring resonances with graphene capacitors for high-performance computing applications." Optics Express. 2019 Nov 25;27(24):35129-40. Bucio TD, Lacava C, Clementi M, Faneca J, Skandalos I, Baldycheva A, Galli M, Debnath K, Petropoulos P, Gardes F. "Silicon Nitride Photonics for the Near-Infrared." IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics. 2019 Sep 5;26(2):1-3.
Start Year 2017
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/