Photo credit: KAIST

A KAIST research team unveils new path for dense photonic integration​

Photo credit: KAIST

Photo credit: KAIST



Integrated optical semiconductor (hereinafter referred to as optical semiconductor) technology is a next-generation semiconductor technology for which many researches and investments are being made worldwide because it can make complex optical systems such as LiDAR and quantum sensors and computers into a single small chip. In the existing semiconductor technology, the key was how small it was to make it in units of 5 nanometers or 2 nanometers, but increasing the degree of integration in optical semiconductor devices can be said to be a key technology that determines performance, price, and energy efficiency.

KAIST (President Kwang-Hyung Lee) announced on the 19th that a research team led by Professor Sangsik Kim of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering discovered a new optical coupling mechanism that can increase the degree of integration of optical semiconductor devices by more than 100 times.

The degree of the number of elements that can be configured per chip is called the degree of integration. However, it is very difficult to increase the degree of integration of optical semiconductor devices, because crosstalk occurs between photons between adjacent devices due to the wave nature of light.

In previous studies, it was possible to reduce crosstalk of light only in specific polarizations, but in this study, the research team developed a method to increase the degree of integration even under polarization conditions, which were previously considered impossible, by discovering a new light coupling mechanism.

This study, led by Professor Sangsik Kim as a corresponding author and conducted with students he taught at Texas Tech University, was published in the international journal 'Light: Science & Applications' [IF=20.257] on June 2nd. done. (Paper title: Anisotropic leaky-like perturbation with subwavelength gratings enables zero crosstalk).

Professor Sangsik Kim said, "The interesting thing about this study is that it paradoxically eliminated the confusion through leaky waves (light tends to spread sideways), which was previously thought to increase the crosstalk." He went on to add, “If the optical coupling method using the leaky wave revealed in this study is applied, it will be possible to develop various optical semiconductor devices that are smaller and that has less noise.”

Illustration depicting light propagation without crosstalk in the waveguide array of the developed metamaterial-based optical semiconductor
Illustration depicting light propagation without crosstalk in the waveguide array of the developed metamaterial-based optical semiconductor

Professor Sangsik Kim is a researcher recognized for his expertise and research in optical semiconductor integration. Through his previous research, he developed an all-dielectric metamaterial that can control the degree of light spreading laterally by patterning a semiconductor structure at a size smaller than the wavelength, and proved this through experiments to improve the degree of integration of optical semiconductors. These studies were reported in ‘Nature Communications’ (Vol. 9, Article 1893, 2018) and ‘Optica’ (Vol. 7, pp. 881-887, 2020). In recognition of these achievements, Professor Kim has received the NSF Career Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Young Scientist Award from the Association of Korean-American Scientists and Engineers.

Meanwhile, this research was carried out with the support from the New Research Project of Excellence of the National Research Foundation of Korea and and the National Science Foundation of the US.

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