Massachusetts Patent of the Month – October 2021
Optical fibers are used to send information in telecommunications, but each fiber can only send a set amount of data. This amount can be increased using multiple optical signals, each with a different wavelength. A WDM (wavelength division multiplex) can be used at one end of an optical fiber to combine light from a group of optical fibers into the single optical fiber. A WDM at the other end of the fiber can separate the signals into another group of fibers. Acacia Communications, Inc. has developed a rare-earth ion-doped chip which can be used to amplify these waveguides.
Their solution uses a silicon photonics chip and a rare-earth-ion-doped waveguide amplifier chip coupled together. On its own, the silicon photonic is not able to efficiently introduce optical power due to the low power requirements in most applications. The addition of the waveguide amplifier can overcome this, but most attempts have used materials that require even more power to operate properly. These materials have band gaps that prevent it from effectively amplifying with the silicon chip. Acacia has discovered that a rare-earth-doped waveguide amplifier, especially one made of erbium, can be well integrated into a silicon photonics chip. Their design can also use neodymium, ytterbium, thulium, praseodymium, or holmium. Acacia has worked towards developing low power digital signal processing technology with these integrated chips, leveraging their plentiful experience in the industry to create this extreme efficiency. The rare-earth waveguide amplifier can better integrate with the silicon photonics chips and increase the available data transfer and power.
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