Following three years of extensive research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) physicist Dr. Uriel Levy and his team have created technology that will enable our computers—and all optic communication devices—to run 100 times faster through terahertz microchips.
Until now, two major challenges stood in the way of creating the terahertz microchip: overheating and scalability.
However, in a paper published this week in Laser and Photonics Review, Dr. Levy, head of HU’s Nano-Opto Group and HU emeritus professor Joseph Shappir have shown proof of concept for an optic technology that integrates the speed of optic (light) communications with the reliability—and manufacturing scalability—of electronics.
Optic communications encompass all technologies that use light and transmit through fiber optic cables, such as the internet, email, text messages, phone calls, the cloud and data centers, among others. Optic communications are super fast but in microchips they become unreliable and difficult to replicate in large quantities.
Now, by using a Metal-Oxide-Nitride-Oxide-Silicon (MONOS) structure, Levy and his team have come up with a new integrated circuit that uses flash memory technology—the kind used in flash drives and discs-on-key—in microchips. If successful, this technology will enable standard 8-16 gigahertz computers to run 100 times faster and will bring all optic devices closer to the holy grail of communications: the terahertz chip.
As Dr. Uriel Levy shared, “this discovery could help fill the ‘THz gap’ and create new and more powerful wireless devices that could transmit data at significantly higher speeds than currently possible. In the world of hi-tech advances, this is game-changing technology,”
Meir Grajower, the leading HU PhD student on the project, added, “It will now be possible to manufacture any optical device with the precision and cost-effectiveness of flash technology”.
Nonvolatile flash memory technology is widely used in our daily life. Following the recent progress in silicon photonics, there is now an opportunity to embed flash memories also in photonic applications. As of today, chip scale photonic devices, e.g., micro‐resonators, are becoming essential building blocks in modern silicon photonics. However, their properties, such as their resonance frequencies, fluctuate due to fabrication tolerances, significantly limiting their applicability. Here, by integrating the well‐established non‐volatile flash memory technology into silicon photonic circuitry, this major obstacle is tackled and electrical post trimming of such resonators is demonstrated. Specifically, the Metal‐Oxide‐Nitride‐Oxide‐Silicon (MONOS) structure is used to trap charges in the thin silicon nitride layer, located in close proximity to the silicon device layer. This enables accumulating charges in the silicon, modifying the effective index of the optical mode and consequently the resonance frequency. By doing so, a robust and CMOS compatible nonvolatile memory solution is provided, which not only allows for precise trimming of the resonance frequency of the photonic device, but can also be easily manufactured and commercialized. This approach paves the way for efficient utilization of photonic structures such as resonators and interferometers in chip scale silicon photonics and electro optic systems, with a wide range of applications spanning from filters, switches and modulators, to sensors, and even lasers.