My watch list
my.chemeurope.com  
Login  

1,000 times more efficient nano-LED opens door to faster microchips

06-Feb-2017

Eindhoven University of Technology

This is a scanning electron microscope picture of the new nano-LED, including some details.

The electronic data connections within and between microchips are increasingly becoming a bottleneck in the exponential growth of data traffic worldwide. Optical connections are the obvious successors but optical data transmission requires an adequate nanoscale light source, and this has been lacking. Scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) now have created a light source that has the right characteristics: a nano-LED that is 1000 times more efficient than its predecessors, and is capable of handling gigabits per second data speeds.

With electrical cables reaching their limits, optical connections like fiberglass are increasingly becoming the standard for data traffic. Over longer distances almost all data transmission is optical. Within computer systems and microchips, too, the growth of data traffic is exponential, but that traffic is still electronic, and this is increasingly becoming a bottleneck. Since these connections ('interconnects') account for the majority of the energy consumed by chips, many scientists around the world are working on enabling optical (photonic) interconnects. Crucial to this is the light source that converts the data into light signals which must be small enough to fit into the microscopic structures of microchips. At the same time, the output capacity and efficiency have to be good. Especially the efficiency is a challenge, as small light sources, powered by nano- or microwatts, have always performed very inefficiently to date.

Researchers at TU Eindhoven have now developed a light-emitting diode (LED) of some hundred nanometers with an integrated light channel (waveguide) to transport the light signal. This integrated nano-LED is a 1000 times more efficient than the best variants developed elsewhere. The Eindhoven-based researchers have especially made progress in the quality of the integrated coupling of the light source and the waveguide whereby much less light is lost and therefore far more light enters the waveguide. The efficiency of the new nano-LED currently lies between 0.01 and 1 percent, but the researchers expect to be well above that figure soon thanks to a new production method.

Another key characteristic of the new nano-LED is that it is integrated into a silicon substrate on a membrane of indium phosphide. Silicon is the basic material for microchips but is not suitable for light sources whereas indium phosphide is. Furthermore, tests reveal that the new element converts electrical signals rapidly into optical signals and can handle data speeds of several gigabits per second.

The researchers in Eindhoven believe that their nano-LED is a viable solution that will take the brake off the growth of data traffic on chips. However, they are cautious about the prospects. The development is not yet at the stage where it can be exploited by the industry and the production technology that is needed still has to get off the ground.

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about TU Eindhoven
  • News

    The walking polymer

    Scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology and Kent State University have developed a new material that can undulate and therefore propel itself forward under the influence of light. To this end, they clamp a strip of this polymer material in a rectangular frame. When illuminated it g ... more

    Controlling electron spin makes water splitting more efficient

    One of the main obstacles in the production of hydrogen through water splitting is that hydrogen peroxide is also formed, which affects the efficiency stability of the reaction and the stability of the production. Dutch and Israelian researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology and t ... more

    Cement made from steel production byproduct can lead to a huge CO2 reduction

    Steel production generates some hundred million tons of steel slag worldwide each year. This giant mountain of leftovers is largely dumped. Eindhoven University of Technology professor of building materials, Jos Brouwers, will be working with industrial partners to investigate whether he ca ... more

  • Videos

    World's first directly light powered walking device

    Scientists have developed a polymer film with liquid crystals, that can undulate under the influence of light. They clamped a strip of this material in a rectangular frame, and it goes for a walk all on its own when illuminated. This research, performed by scientists of Eindhoven University ... more

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE