Fidelity in a marriage between electronic and optical effects

A key interface component between electronic and light-based circuits receives a boost in performance through Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) research that combines previously independent simulations of the two systems. This research highlights the scope to improve electro-optical circuits as critical components in modern communications systems.

Light offers particular advantages over conventional electronics — it can be transmitted with high fidelity over long distances, and can carry much more information. Optical fiber networks exploit these advantages for fast and efficient data communications. The devices at each end of an optical fiber, however, are usually built on conventional electronics, and the performance of this electro-optical interface is a factor that limits the rate of data transmission.

Much research has focused on the development of faster and smaller electro-optical components that can be integrated into conventional silicon-based electronic circuits and microchips. But progress has been hindered by the complexity of simulating both electronic and optical effects in the same device.

Soon Thor Lim and colleagues from the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing found a way to combine electronic and optical effects into a single numerical simulation model. They now demonstrate that it can significantly increase the performance of a silicon optical modulator.

“Optical modulators are electro-optical devices that modify the propagating light by applying electrical pulses,” says Lim. “They are used in optical communication systems to encode electronic information into laser beams.”

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