Ultrafast Hybrid Active Materials and Devices for Compact RF Photonics

Award Information
Department of Defense
Air Force
Award Year:
Phase II
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
EM Photonics, Incorporated
51 East Main Street, Suite 203, Newark, DE, -
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator
 Ahmed Sharkawy
 Vice President of Photonics
 (302) 456-9003
Business Contact
 Eric Kelmelis
Title: CEO
Phone: (302) 456-9003
Email: kelmelis@emphotonics.com
Research Institution
 University of Delaware
 Dennis Prather
 Electrical and Computer Engine
140 Evans Hall
Newark, DE, 19711-
 (302) 831-8170
 Nonprofit college or university
ABSTRACT: Optical control of RF-signal transmission presents an attractive avenue for processing and transmitting RF information using various optical components, as opposed to electronic control, where metallic wires/cables are required. On a macroscopic scale, optical fibers offer low transmission losses, and hence are suitable for the distribution of control signals over long distances for large phased arrays and in remotely controlled antenna applications. Additional advantages include light-weight (1/10 the weight of copper wires), compactness, and flexibility making them desirable for airborne and space applications where volume and weight savings are crucial. On the microscopic scale, optical waveguides, switches, high speed modulators, filters, etc. offer an additional reduction of the physical size and weight of the overall RF-System with the advantage of high power handling capability with picosecond timing precision. Optical components for RF-photonic applications such as communication satellites, avionics, optical networks, sensors and phase array radar will require highspeed, high capacity and low power. Such requirements are indeed demanding, stretching the limit of current technology. To address such issues, in the path of developing the next generation of RF-photonic technologies, a key element is a high speed modulator. Due to the nature of crystalline electro-optic materials (LiNbO3, GaAs, InP, etc.) todays commercial electro-optical devices do not perform well above 40 GHz. This limitation can be circumvented by utilizing organic materials unique properties (nonlinearity, electro-activity, conductivity and electro-opticity). Since amorphous polymers do not have lattice mismatch problems, incorporation of organic (polymeric) materials with conventional materials like Si, SiGe, GaAs, InP and GaN should open up multiple possibilities of achieving high-frequency, high-bandwidth applications such as high-capacity optical networks, THz and mmW imaging, wireless communication, phase array radar and antennae, lightweight broadband avionics to name a few. Several RF applications will also benefit from the development of such technology, including high-speed switching and gating of RF signals, the development of optically reconfigurable multifunctional antennas, and high speed EO-modulators. BENEFIT: This proposal focuses on developing revolutionary, ultrafast silicon photonic devices using silicon-organic hybrid technology. Today, all-optical modulators with signal gain at THz bandwidth simply do not exist, and EO modulators with sub-1 Volt bias-free V values do not exist. Practical chip-scale all-optical modulators with THz bandwidth and signal gain could become the basis of ultra-high-speed all-optical logic on-chip. The most notable application for such a capability would be as a path to higher bandwidth logic than is possible with conventional electronic millimeter-wave integrated circuits. Low-power EO modulators could radically alter the design of RF photonic systems, eliminating the need (for instance) to amplify signals coming off of antennas before launching the RF signals onto an optical fiber. The best competing technologies for highly linear analog modulators, based on lithium niobate, use a very mature technology which is unlikely to scale below a couple of volts V at 20 GHz (for example). Our approach offers a path to 2-3 order-of-magnitude improvements in operating voltage, and 4-6 order-of-magnitude improvements in operating power. Very low voltage EO modulators, coupled to sensitive on-chip antennas, may also provide the basis for ultra-sensitive electric field and RF probes, and as components of revolutionary analog-over-fiber systems. The Hochberg laboratory has demonstrated world-record low voltage electro-optic modulators with this approach as bench prototypes, operating at low speeds. And they have shown that their approach can be scaled-down by additional orders of magnitude through the use of advanced lithography and modern electro-optic materials. Their process has the potential to radically change the fundamental tradeoffs in the design of radio frequency and millimeter wave systems, from radars to high speed analog signal processing chips. In addition, this type of device may find wide application in the data communications market, where EO modulators provide the gateway between electronic circuits and optical fibers.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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