Researcher s at the Photonics Research Labs of the Institute of Telecommunications and Multimedia (ITEAM) and its spin off company VLC Photonics have designed a novel and pioneering microwave photonic chip that includes all the necessary components for its operation: laser, modulator, filters and detectors.
José Capmany, iTEAM researcher and Project coordinator, explains that “this is the first time that a full monolithic chip is reported in the field of Microwave Photonics. The chip works with input and output radiofrequency signals but these are internally converted to photonic signals for agile and reconfigurable processing.
The key towards the integration of all the required components in the chip relies on the use of Indium Phosphide as a fabrication platform. This semiconductor material allows the growing both of active and passive photonic components. The results of this research have been published in Nature Photonics.
One of the main advantages of this chip is the potential reduction in fabrication costs, operation and power consumption. With respect to these, iTEAM researcher Pascual Muñoz states that if you have to assemble each component separately, each one requires a particular stabilization mechanism, an individual power consumption scheme and requires a certain amount of space. However, if one integrates all the components in the same monolithic chip then all these individual requirements can be handled in an integral way thus easing and optimizing the fabrication process and its costs. In addition, Muñoz outlines that this new monolithic chip brings unprecedented reconfiguration capabilities over a wide frequency range.
With respect to applications, UPV researchers point out several fields such as mobile communications, autonomous driving, distributed sensors, the Internet of Things, defense and surveillance and avionics. In general, they point out that this new chip is a significant step for any application field where high frequency wireless signals have to be interfaced with optical fiber links.
As VLC Photonics researcher David Domenech points out, for example in autonomous driving data from RF sensors needs to be continuously received and processed inside the vehicle. On another hand the chip would also enable the Access to internet inside aero planes by using it to interface the internal optical fiber bus with a RF antenna array placed on the fuselage.
The design and demonstration of this chip has been carried within the framework of the European project Paradigm, funded by the European Union.