“This dramatic improvement in performance is the result of manipulating the optical and electrical properties at the scale of just a few tens of atoms to achieve performance well beyond accepted boundaries,” said Dr. Assefa, the lead author on the paper. “These tiny devices are capable of detecting very weak pulses of light and amplifying them with unprecedented bandwidth and minimal addition of unwanted noise.”
In IBM’s device, the avalanche multiplication takes place within just a few tens of nanometers (one-thousandths of a millimeter) and that happens very fast. The tiny size also means that multiplication noise is suppressed by 50% - 70% with respect to conventional avalanche photodetectors. The IBM device is made of Silicon and Germanium, the materials already widely used in production of microprocessor chips. Moreover it is made with standard processes used in chip manufacturing. Thus, thousands of these devices can be built side-by-side with silicon transistors for high-bandwidth on-chip optical communications.
The Avalanche Photodetector achievement, which is the last in a series of prior reports from IBM Research, is the last piece of the puzzle that completes the development of the “nanophotonics toolbox” of devices necessary to build the on-chip interconnects.
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