Lithium Niobate on Insulator integrated photonics

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering


Lithium Niobate (LN) contributed to the optical communications revolution. In recent years the introduction on the market of Lithium Niobate on Insulator (LNOI) reignited the interest in this material. This new paradigm for integrated photonics opens up entirely new on-chip photonics applications and sets new upper limits in term of theoretical performance. Several proofs of principle devices have been demonstrated as of today: CMOS compatible modulators, single-photon emitters, efficient non-linear devise on-chip. Still, high complexity systems and system integration are missing. The research objectives of the project are the development and demonstration of multi-features integrated photonics systems based on the novel Lithium Niobate on Insulator (LNOI) platform. This project targets the investigation of scalable LNOI and LNOI hybrids integrated photonics platforms as a mean to demonstrated novel integrated photonics systems. The platform will be used to demonstrate a photonic integrated circuit with performance beyond state of the art. Transceivers for short reach and long-haul communications, integrated systems for non-linear optics, quantum and ranging applications will be the main aims. Communication systems will mainly leverage the high electro-optic coefficient of the LN. As a primary objective and demonstrator of the project, transmitters will aim at a modulation speed >100GHz, which is beyond what any other scalable technology can offer today. These same systems will integrate coherent light sources (Kerr-comb generators), which will provide the optical signal to be modulated. Further, depending on the evolution of the project and the vision of the student, other proof-of-principle systems can be contemplated. Examples of these are quantum integrated circuits, LIDAR and ranging systems. They will leverage the high-efficiency non-linear conversion of LN (x(2)) and its large transparency window (visible to MID-IR).

Planned Impact

The impact of the CDT in Connected Electronic and Photonic Systems is expected to be wide ranging and include both scientific research and industry outcomes. In terms of academia, it is envisaged that there will be a growing range of research activity in this converged field in coming years, and so the research students should not only have opportunities to continue their work as research fellows, but also to increasingly find posts as academics and indeed in policy advice and consulting.

The main area of impact, however, is expected to be industrial manufacturing and service industries. Relevant industries will include those involved in all areas of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), together with printing, consumer electronics, construction, infrastructure, defence, energy, engineering, security, medicine and indeed systems companies providing information systems, for example for the financial, retail and medical sectors. Such industries will be at the heart of the digital economy, energy, healthcare, security and manufacturing fields. These industries have huge markets, for example the global consumer electronics market is expected to reach $2.97 trillion in 2020. The photonics sector itself represents a huge enterprise. The global photonics market was $510B in 2013 and is expected to grow to $766 billion in 2020. The UK has the fifth largest manufacturing base in electronics in the world, with annual turnover of £78 billion and employing 800,000 people (TechUK 2016). The UK photonics industry is also world leading with annual turnover of over £10.5 billion, employing 70,000 people and showing sustained growth of 6% to 8% per year over the last three decades (Hansard, 25 January 2017 Col. 122WH). As well as involving large companies, such as Airbus, Leonardo and ARM, there are over 10,000 UK SMEs in the electronics and photonics manufacturing sector, according to Innovate UK. Evidence of the entrepreneurial culture that exists and the potential for benefit to the UK economy from establishing the CDT includes the founding of companies such as Smart Holograms, PervasID, Light Blue Optics, Zinwave, Eight19 and Photon Design by staff and our former PhD students. Indeed, over 20 companies have been spun out in the last 10 years from the groups proposing this CDT.

The success of these industries has depended upon the availability of highly skilled researchers to drive innovation and competitive edge. 70% of survey respondents in the Hennik Annual Manufacturing Report 2017 reported difficulty in recruiting suitably skilled workers. Contributing to meeting this acute need will be the primary impact of the CEPS CDT.

Centre research activities will contribute very strongly to research impact in the ICT area (Internet of Things (IoT), data centre interconnects, next generation access technologies, 5G+ network backhaul, converged photonic/electronic integration, quantum information processing etc), underpinning the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and Digital Economy themes and contributing strongly to the themes of Energy (low energy lighting, low energy large area photonic/electronics for e-posters and window shading, photovoltaics, energy efficient displays), Manufacturing the Future (integrated photonic and electronic circuits, smart materials processing with photonics, embedded intelligence and interconnects for Industry 4.0), Quantum Technologies (device and systems integration for quantum communications and information processing) Healthcare Technologies (optical coherence tomography, discrete and real time biosensing, personalised healthcare), Global Uncertainties and Living with Environmental Change (resilient converged communications, advanced sensing systems incorporating electronics with photonics).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022139/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2439049 Studentship EP/S022139/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Farah Comis