How a nanosized amplifier boosts data transfer in a microchip

An image to illustrate a nanosized amplifier in use
©Antti Matikainen

A nanosized amplifier significantly improves the data transfer inside a microchip, according to new findings of an international team of researchers from Aalto University and Université Paris-Sud.

The new nanosized amplifier

The new nanosized amplifier improves photonics technology by allowing light signals to propagate through microchips.

The researchers made their breakthrough using the Finnish invention, the atomic layer deposition method. The team said that this method was ideal for processing various types of microcircuits, because it already plays an importance role in electronics, that of manufacturing current microprocessors.

Although the atomic layer disposition method is currently used in mainly electronic applications, the new research suggests that it has other possible applications in photonics.

Current technology

Discussing some of the challenges that the sector faces in terms of materials, doctoral candidate John Rönn said:”Silicon is a key material in electronics, and that’s why it’s also included in our light amplifiers together with the amplification element erbium,’

“Today’s compound semiconductors, which are used, for instance, in LED technology, can also be used effectively in light amplification. That being said, most compound semiconductors are not compatible with silicon, which is a problem for mass production.”

The significance of photonics

Photonics already has many applications. Discussing these, Rönn added: “Photonics, or light transfer that is already widely used in internet connections, is increasingly being used by microcircuit systems because light is a more energy efficient and faster way of transferring data than electricity.The increase in information also requires an increase in performance. Boosting performance through electronic methods is getting to be very difficult, which is why we’re looking towards photonics for answers.”

Professor Zhipei Sun concluded: “Our international collaboration made a breakthrough with one component: a nanosized amplifier. The amplification that we got was very significant. But we’ll still need more components before light can completely replace electricity in data transfer systems. The first possible applications are in nanolasers, and in sending and amplifying data.”

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