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DARPA funds new photonic
research center at Illinois
E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
has received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
to create a photonic research center to develop ultra-fast light sources
for high-speed signal processing and optical communications systems.
The grant will provide $6.2 million in funding over four years.
The Hyper-Uniform Nanophotonic Technology Center is directed by Norman
K.Y. Cheng, a professor of electrical
and computer engineering and a researcher at the university’s Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. Illinois is the lead university for the center. Partner institutions
are Columbia University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Harvard
“The HUNT Center’s mission is to develop critical technologies
– including hyper-uniform nanophotonic fabrication methods, high-performance
quantum dot arrays and ultra-fast lasers – for optoelectronic
interconnects,” Cheng said. “The center will address the
high-performance optical switching and data routing technologies needed
for flexible connections-on-demand and efficient bandwidth delivery
in next-generation communications systems.”
A primary focus of the center is improvement in laser technology that
is now feasible due to the ultra-fast light-emitting transistor, recently
discovered by center researchers Milton Feng and Nick Holonyak Jr. The
light-emitting transistor can modulate both electrical and optical signals
simultaneously, and could extend the modulation bandwidth of a semiconductor
light source from 20 gigahertz to more than 100 gigahertz. Faster signal
processing and information transfer would result.
The development of long-wavelength quantum-dot microcavity laser technologies
would facilitate large-capacity seamless communications, Cheng said.
Researchers at the center will explore ways to improve the size, distribution
and optical quality of quantum dots that could be incorporated into
the active region of light-emitting-transistor-based lasers and long-wavelength
quantum-dot lasers. Proposed techniques include nanoscale semiconductor
growth and characterization, nanopatterning, and nanostructure device
design and fabrication.