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PhD in Engineering - Future on-chip optical communications

College of Science and Engineering

About the Project

With the emergence of Internet of Things the demand of high performance computing systems is increasing. The interconnects inside the computing chips have evolved into a sophisticated network often referred to to as Network on Chip (NoC). When NOC is implemented on a large scale such as in a Multicore Multichip (MCMC) system the length of interconnects increase. This results in issues such as power dissipation, interconnect delays, clock synchronization and electrical noise. The increasing demand for data movement, requires novel interconnect technologies.

Photonic interconnects have been considered a viable on-chip option
due to their ability to provide higher bandwidth than electrical interconnects. The low optical attenuation of photonics enables on-chip communications with lower power losses but there is a significant footprint associated with photonic devices, as their size is limited by diffraction. In addition active optoelectronic devices based on pure photonic elements rely on inherently weak light-matter-interaction.
Plasmonics have recently emerged as a very promising technology platform for driving down optical circuitry size. This relies on the propagation of electromagnetic waves, Surface Plasmon Polaritons (SPPs), along a metal-dielectric interface. This leads to strong optical mode confinements and structures with subwavelength dimensions. The main limiting factor in propagating plasmons stems from their high propagation losses, as most plasmonic waveguide structures restrict signal propagation over a few tens of micrometers due to internal damping of radiation in metal.
An alternative is to implement an in-plane wireless communication system compatible with the modern on-chip technology. Some of the advantages are, among others, lower losses and reduction in the number of required waveguides. Most on-chip optical technology uses near-infrared wavelengths, but for visible wavelengths the surface plasmon antenna (Plasmonic Antenna) is an ideal candidate to perform in-plane communication. This has the advantage of reduced size. Further, it has been demonstrated that specially designed plasmonic antenna can collect free-space radiation and convert it into propagating surface plasmons by a momentum up-conversion process. (Conversely,they can perform a momentum down-conversion process by converting surface plasmons into photons),

In this PhD project improved intra-chip interconnects by the transmission of optical signals through integrated nanophotonic SPP waveguides and/or wireless transmission via plasmonic antenna will be investigated. Wireless interconnects offer easy integration with CMOS fabrication but guided energy solutions may offer better energy efficiency and higher bandwidth. The PhD project will work on the design, modelling, implementation and lab based measurements of innovative solutions.

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover tuition fees for Home/EU/International student and provide a stipend at the UKRI rate for 3.5 years (£15,245 for session 2020/21).

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