Ashok Kodigala holds a gold plated wafer filled with thousands of minute lasers made at Sandia National Laboratories MESA facility.

What do you do with a shrunken laser?

August 9, 2023 8:00 am Published by

The laser is so small you need a microscope to see it properly. But it’s not just the size that scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are excited about.

The buzz is that the laser can now be combined with other microscale optical devices to make self-driving cars safer, data centers more efficient, biochemical sensors more portable and radars and other defense technologies more versatile.

Sandia has been awarded a patent for its new method of integrating many different materials onto silicon — the same starting material semiconductor fabrication plants use to make microchips.

This method enables Sandia to build high-bandwidth, high-speed optical devices, including indium phosphide lasers, lithium niobate modulators, germanium detectors and low-loss acousto-optic isolators — all critical components for high-power optical systems.

Research organizations interested in partnering with Sandia to develop silicon photonic technologies are invited to contact to learn about emerging opportunities.

Building a laser on silicon is a challenging and unusual feat that could extend America’s leadership in semiconductor technology. Other organizations, including the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Intel Corp., have built similar lasers, but Sandia has broadened the class of devices that can be integrated. For the first time, these devices could work together on optical microchips, also called photonic integrated circuits.

“This allows the U.S. to lead and have less dependency on foreign manufacturing capabilities,” Sandia’s Patrick Chu said.

Chu co-leads the National Security Photonics Center, a group of more than 60 photonics scientists and engineers at Sandia’s Microsystems Engineering, Science and Applications complex.

Read the complete news release.

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