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Hybridising silicon devices with carbon nanotubes

Unifi contributes to the project financed by the EU
Silicon has positioned itself as the material of choice for a range of photonic applications, including DataCom and sensing. As a result, today you can find numerous photonic devices capable of emitting, propagating, modulating and detecting light at the silicon chip-scale. Yet even with this advancement, there remains the challenge of integrating all the photonic building blocks onto the same circuit. This is because doing so requires integrating a range of different materials onto silicon. Although technically possible, the process is not cost-effective, thus limiting the use of silicon photonics for a broad range of applications.

The Unifi team lead by Massimo Gurioli - Professor of Condensed Matter at the University of Florence, pictured with Francesco Biccari, Anna Vinattieri and Francesca Intonti - took part to The EU-funded CARTOON project.

The project overcame this challenge by developing a new strategy for hybridising silicon based devices that uses carbon nanotubes (CNT) as an integrated light source, modulator and detector in the near infrared wavelength range. "We ultimately selected semiconducting single wall carbon nanotubes (s-SWNT) as it is a very versatile material that also offers very good electronic and optical properties", says Project Coordinator Laurent Vivien. 

According to Vivien, the advantages of s-SWNT are many. For example, it displays strong room temperature emission in the NIR wavelength range, as well as strong thermal photo-stability. By selecting a precise nanotube diameter and chirality, one can easily control emissions for wavelengths from 1m to 1.6m. They can be integrated to make diodes and field effect transistors, thus opening the possibility of using electrical pumping for luminescence and photo detectors. Furthermore, their electronic transitions, via predicted Stark and Kerr effects, can also be used to obtain modulation effects. "For all these reasons, CNT is a very good candidate for solving the integration issues of silicon photonics, leading to a cost-effective and reliable photonics", says Vivien. 

CARTOON Francesco Biccari Anna Vinattieri Massimo Gurioli and Francesca Intonti
23 May 2017