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Ultra-low energy photoreceivers for optical interconnects


Optical interconnects are increasingly important for our communication and data center systems, and are forecasted to be an essential component of future computers. In order to meet these future demands, optical interconnects must be improved to consume less power than they do today. To do this, both more efficient transmitters and more sensitive receivers must be developed. This work addresses the latter, focusing on device level improvements to tightly couple a low capacitance photodiode with the first stage transistor of the receiver as a single phototransistor device.

First I motivate the need for a coupled phototransistor using a simple circuit model which shows how receiver sensitivity is determined by photodiode capacitance and the length of wire connecting it to the first transistor in a receiver amplifier. Then I describe our use of the unique rapid melt growth technique, which is used to integrate crystalline germanium on silicon photonics substrates without an epitaxial reactor. The resulting material quality is demonstrated with high quality (0.95 A/W, 40+ GHz) germanium photodiodes on silicon waveguides.

Next I describe two germanium phototransistors I have developed. One is a germanium- gated MOSFET on silicon photonics which has up to 18 A/W gate-controlled responsivity at 1550 nm. Simulations show how MOSFET scaling rules can be easily applied to increase both speed and sensitivity. The second is a floating base germanium bipolar phototransistor on silicon photonics with a 15 GHz gain x bandwidth product. The photoBJT also has a clear scaling path, and it is proposed to create a separate gain and absorption region photoBJT to realize the maximum benefit of scaling the BJT without negatively affecting its absorption and photocarrier collection. Following this design a 120 GHz gain x bandwidth photoBJT is simulated. Finally I present a metal-cavity, which can have over 50% quantum efficiency absorption in sub-100 aF germanium photodiodes, which addresses the issue of absorption in photodiodes which have been scaled to near sub-wavelength dimensions.

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