£6m boost for UK photonics research

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University of Southampton researchers have been given a £6million grant to bring silicon photonics to the mass market.

The science of photonics, where light meets electronics, is expected to benefit industries including computing, communications and healthcare. However, several key research challenges still need to be overcome to enable the mass production of the technology. The Southampton team, led by Professor Graham Reed, will use the funding to develop: a low cost method for testing at the wafer scale; a passive alignment coupling technique from fibre to optical chip; low power, high data rate modulators; and a means of scaling the functionality of photonic circuits. Professor Reed noted: "Photonic communications technology, already so vital in core systems, currently stands at the threshold of the mass market. To make this vital transition it must exploit the mass-precision-processing technology developed for silicon microelectronics. "We will place the UK at the forefront of this transition by bringing our microelectronics and photonics skills together to address several remaining key research challenges for silicon photonics. Key to the research effort will be making the technology follow a low cost model, Reed says. "If we are successful in tackling this challenges, the results will do nothing less than revolutionise the field," he concluded. For more on photonics research, see the 28 January cover story here.