IMEC, the independent nanoelectronics research institute, has devised a method for integrating high-speed CMOS electronics and nanophotonic circuitry based on plasmonic effects. Metal-based nanophotonics, or plasmonics, can squeeze light into nanoscale structures that are much smaller than conventional optical components.
Plasmonic technology has potential in applications such as nanoscale optical interconnects for high performance computer chips, extremely sensitive (bio)molecular sensors, and highly efficient thin-film solar cells.
Nanostructured metals have optical properties that make them promising candidates for use in nanophotonic applications. When such nanostructures are illuminated with visible to near-infrared light, the excitation of surface plasmons generates strong optical resonances. In addition, surface plasmons are capable of capturing, guiding, and focusing electromagnetic energy in deep-subwavelength length-scales, that is, at less than the diffraction limit of the light. This is unlike conventional dielectric optical waveguides, which are limited by the wavelength of the light, and which therefore cannot be scaled down to tens of nanometers.
Nanoscale plasmonic circuits would allow massively parallel routing of optical information on integrated circuits. But eventually that high-bandwidth optical information has to be converted to electrical signals. To make ICs that combine high-speed CMOS electronics and plasmonic circuitry, efficient and fast interfacing components are needed that couple the signals from plasmon waveguides to electrical devices.
As an important stepping stone to such components, IMEC has now demonstrated integrated electrical detection of highly confined short-wavelength surface plasmon polaritons in metal-dielectric-metal plasmon waveguides and has set up a number of experiments that unambiguously demonstrate this electrical detection.
According to IMEC, these results pave the way for the integration of nanoscale plasmonic circuitry and high-speed electronics.
For more information, visit the IMEC website: http://www2.imec.be/imec_com/plasmon-based-nanophotonic.php