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US researchers win $600k grant to develop membrane lasers

Integration of III-V materials with silicon shows promise for mainstream electronics

A new type of ultra-thin semiconductor laser under development at the University of Texas at Arlington can be integrated with mainstream electronics on the same silicon substrate with increased capacity and energy efficiency, according to the research team.

Weidong Zhou, an electrical engineering professor at UTA, will use a three-year, $600,000 grant from the US Army Research Office to build on advances made through previous grants he has received for printed photonic crystals and silicon lab-on-a-chip' technology. Yuze "Alice" Sun, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UTA, is co-principal investigator.

"We are looking for devices and components to be integrated on a chip," Zhou said. "As we address electrical injection, integration with other devices on the chip and increased power capabilities, we can begin to apply this technology to products in the medical field or in the consumer arena. These applications could include portable electronics, sensing and imaging equipment, bio applications and wearable electronics."

The development they are building on is a membrane laser less than one micron thick  compatible with planar CMOS silicon platforms. The key innovation is the integration of compound semiconductor material with a silicon photonic crystal cavity, which allows a laser to be built directly on a silicon chip next to other electrical components. Zhou holds three issued patents related to the technology

Findings from related research supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Army Research Office were published last month in Nature Scientific Reports in a paper 'Printed Large-Area Single-Mode Photonic Crystal Bandedge Surface-Emitting Lasers on Silicon' by Deyin Zhao et al. In this article, the researchers reported on an optically pumped hybrid III-V/silicon photoic crystal surface emitting laser (PCSEL), consisting of a heterogeneously integrated InGaAsP quantum well heterostructure gain medium, printed on a silicon photonic crystal  bandedge cavity. 

The UTA team will use the latest grant to continue innovations in high-performance membrane lasers, including the one reported in Nature Photonics in 2012 'Transfer printing stacked nanomembrane lasers on silicon'.

Zhou also has recently received a three-year, $935,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to explore extreme energy efficiency lasers, in collaboration with Professors Shanhui Fan at Stanford and Xiuling Li at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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