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All-Silicon, High-Gain Laser Advances Photonic Integration

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Researchers at Fudan University have demonstrated an optically pumped, all-silicon (Si) distributed feedback laser that overcomes traditional efficiency issues. Researchers used active layers of high-density silicon nanocrystals to develop the laser, which provides high optical gains, overcoming the low efficiency that has been historically exhibited in silicon laser emissions.


According to the researchers, theirs is the world’s first all-silicon laser. They believe this optically pumped laser could lead to the realization of an electrically pumped, all-silicon laser for integrating microelectronics and optoelectronics, thus enabling integrated silicon photonics.

To enhance silicon emission intensity, the researchers developed a film growth technique for high-density silicon nanocrystals. They then designed and fabricated a DFB resonance cavity using these high-gain nanocrystals. The lasing emission was observed by optical pumping with femtosecond pulses.


The researchers used a high-pressure, low-temperature passivation approach. They found that, compared with normal-pressure hydrogen passivation at higher temperatures (greater than 500 degrees Celsius), a prolonged high-pressure passivation at relatively low temperatures contributed a full saturation of dangling bonds. This led to optical gains comparable to those achieved by gallium arsenide (GaAs) and indium phosphide (InP).

The silicon nanocrystal-embedded layer (Si NC layer) was prepared on a fused quartz substrate. The gain of the Si NC layer was measured by means of variable stripe length. To correct the measured gain, optical loss was acquired by means of a shifting excitation spot technique.

The laser showed reliable repeatability. The lasing peaks of the four samples made under similar fabrication conditions were within the spectral range of 760 to 770 nm. The team said that the variation in the lasing peak was due to the slight difference in effective refractive indices. The full width half maximum of the emission peak was narrowed from about 120 nm to 7 nm when the laser was pumped above threshold.


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