As announced in Nature Photonics, Intel has collaborated with industry, academic, and government partners to develop a silicon-based avalanche photodetector (APD). APDs are light sensors that process optical communications to electrical signals. Intel's APD has a gain-bandwidth product of 340GHz, the best result ever reported for an APD.
Learn more about Intel's APD breakthrough by reading the Nature journal article, or view the explanatory animation.
The Next Silicon Photonics Breakthrough
Intel's avalanche photodetector breakthrough represents the first time that a silicon photonic device beats an equivalent made from traditional optical materials. Avalanche photodetectors are optical devices that sense light and amplify signals. Intel's silicon-based avalanche photodetector has the highest gain-bandwidth product ever seen (340 GHz). The gain-bandwidth product is a standard measure for APD performance that multiplies the device's amplification capability (gain) by the fastest speed signal that can be detected (bandwidth). This means that Intel's new APD device has the capability to detect signals at higher speeds and lower power levels than commercial APDs today. This breakthrough creates the possibility of using APDs for 40 Gbps optical communication links.
Implications of the Breakthrough
The avalanche photodetector breakthrough further validates Intel's vision for Silicon Photonics, which is to revolutionize computing platforms by manufacturing optical communications devices using traditional CMOS manufacturing techniques. There are numerous potential applications for silicon-based avalanche photodetectors, including support for multiple high-definition video feeds, higher performance for PCs and servers, and near-perfect security for data transmissions.
Justin Rattner, Intel Chief Technology Officer, is excited about the breakthrough: "These fundamental scientific advances made by our silicon photonics team give me confidence that for decades to come, we will have the communications and I/O bandwidths to match the continued increases in computing performance provided by Moore’s Law."
A Collaborative Effort
This work is funded jointly by Intel and DARPA. Intel leads the design efforts and also draws upon expertise from professor Joe Campbell at the University of Virginia and professor John Bowers at UCSB. Professor Campbell is regarded as the world expert on APD technology. John Bowers is a renowned expert in the Indium Phosphide technology used to create APDs today. Numonyx, a leading maker of NOR, NAND, RAM and phase change non-volatile memory technologies, provided manufacturing and process expertise.
See how avalanche photodetectors are built and how they work.
Watch animation >