Photonic Integrated Modulators for Aerospace and Data/Telecom

Lead Research Organisation: CARDIFF UNIVERSITY
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The modern society's need for fast and reliable communications supports the operation of industries, the Internet of things, transportation systems, entertainment electronics and allows the exchange of information and knowledge. Most services rely on optical interconnects that provide low-cost, high-capacity, low-power consumption network connections, including data centers, satellites, supercomputers, and the Internet.
According to the Cisco report, the network traffic, including the Internet, has increased to 40 Zettabytes of data in 2020. To put the numbers in perspective, the total data generated from the beginning of humanity until 2003 is 0.5% of a Zettabyte. Furthermore, the ever-increasing data traffic accounted for 12% of total global emissions in 2020. As a result, it is crucial to develop efficient networks with higher capacity and reduced power consumption.
This project will contribute to more efficient modulators, which will impact communication systems used in ground and satellites to increase capacity, reduce pollution, and improve the environmental sustainability of optical interconnects in aerospace systems, data centers, high-performance computers, and networks.
This research will exploit the properties of indium arsenide quantum dots, including
1. the radiation and temperature resilience to demonstrate a modulator for aerospace applications: indium arsenide quantum dot's radiation and temperature tolerance will outperform competing developments employing quantum wells, which 1. tolerates 10x and 5x orders of magnitude less radiation and temperature, 2. offers less bandwidth, and 3. high power consumption mainly when operating at high temperatures. This modulator will contribute to substitute current solutions, where heavy, power-hungry, and slow electrical interconnects by light, low-power consumption, and ultra-fast optical interconnects. The research will leverage 1. high-data rates satellite communications underpinning improved services, including fast Internet in remote and rural areas, and 2. the reduced size and weight will improve spacecraft fuel consumption and pollution towards net-zero emission.
2. the resilience to threading dislocation, and material stress of quantum dots, will be exploited to grow the modulator over silicon to bring more efficient modulators to the silicon photonic platform. Due to the weak modulating effects in silicon, it is not possible to produce efficient modulators. On the other hand, quantum dots exhibit stronger effects than silicon leveraging more efficient modulators and will outperform current quantum well monolithic integration approaches due to their resilience when grown over silicon.
This development will impact the commercial optical interconnects using silicon-based photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and current networks relying on them. By integrating the quantum dot modulator into the existing commercial silicon-based PICs, the performance of ground optical interconnects will be improved, underpinning more efficient networks in data centers, high-performance computers, and the Internet. VTT, a silicon photonic foundry, will provide the silicon PICs.
To ensure commercial relevance of the research, this project partners with key industrial players in the aerospace and data/telecom sectors and includes Airbus, ALTER Technology, Bay Photonics, STAR-Dundee and VTT. Additionally, the work will be carried out at the National Epitaxy Facility and the Institute for Compound Semiconductors. Hence, this project is well placed on training researchers in relevant industrial problems, evaluating the technology's commercial relevance, and guiding future developments.


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