In February, Hossam Shoman won first place in ECE Heat’s 3MT Competition and has also secured a spot in the UBC 3MT Semi-Finals for his presentation, “A Stable Laser, without an Isolator”. His research began in September 2016, which focused on improving the performance of electronic chips using photonics. Photonics is a term that combines optics (photons) and electronics. As the speed of data communication on electronic chips starts to saturate, integrating optics with electronics on the same silicon chip – making the so-called photonic chip – can push these speeds beyond what electronics can do on their own. The first element required in a photonic chip is an integrated laser. Following the laser, is an isolator, a device that provides stability to the laser’s operation. These isolators are made of rare earth elements, which are bulky, expensive and do not easily integrate on silicon platforms. This has been a major blockade for the large-scale integration of photonic chips and several applications that rely on on-chip solutions.
Currently, he and his team have found a cost-effective way to stabilize semiconductor lasers. Instead of using rare earth elements to make optical isolators, they design an optical circuit, on the same silicon platform that contains the photonic components, that can perform similarly to an isolator. The way they stabilize the laser is much more cost-effective compared to the current methods. This means that lasers used in data centres and high-speed communication systems can be produced at a large-scale and low-cost.
This is significant as their technology does not rely on any changes to the current CMOS foundries that fabricate electronic chips, which is a requisite for the large-scale deployment of electronic-photonic chips on silicon platforms, and a key enabler of several revolutionizing technologies that rely on on-chip solutions, such as future quantum communication and computing systems.
Currently, they have a proof-of-concept of their working technology. A patent for their work has also been submitted, and they are in the process of writing a manuscript to publish their findings. The next step is to do market research and eventually set up a company to commercialize their technology.