Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Electrical & Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Jan Van der Spiegel


High speed optical interconnects consuming low power at affordable prices are always a major area of research focus. For the backbone network infrastructure, the need for more bandwidth driven by streaming video and other data intensive applications such as cloud computing has been steadily pushing the link speed to the 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s domain. However, high power consumption, low link density and high cost seriously prevent traditional optical transceiver from being the next generation of optical link technology. For short reach communications, such as interconnects in supercomputers, the issues related to the existing electrical links become a major bottleneck for the next generation of High Performance Computing (HPC). Both applications are seeking for an innovative solution of optical links to tackle those current issues.

In order to target the next generation of supercomputers and data communication, we propose to develop a high performance optical transmitter by utilizing CISCO Systems®'s proprietary CMOS photonic technology. The research seeks to achieve the following outcomes:

1. Reduction of power consumption due to optical interconnects to less than 5pJ/bit without the need for Ring Resonators or DWDM and less than 300fJ/bit for short distance data bus applications.

2. Enable the increase in performance (computing speed) from Peta-Flop to Exa-Flops without the proportional increase in cost or power consumption that would be prohibitive to next generation system architectures by means of increasing the maximum data transmission rate over a single fiber.

3. Explore advanced modulation schemes such as PAM-16 (Pulse-Amplitude-Modulation with 16 levels) to increase the spectrum efficiency while keeping the same or less power figure.

This research will focus on the improvement of both the electrical IC and optical IC for the optical transmitter. An accurate circuit model of the optical device is created to speed up the performance optimization and enable co-simulation of electrical driver. Circuit architectures are chosen to minimize the power consumption without sacrificing the speed and noise immunity.

As a result, a silicon photonic based optical transmitter employing 1V supply, featuring 20Gb/s data rate is fabricated. The system consists of an electrical driver in 40nm CMOS and an optical MZI modulator with an RF length of less than 0.5mm in 0.13&mu m SOI CMOS. Two modulation schemes are successfully demonstrated: On-Off Keying (OOK) and Pulse-Amplitude-Modulation-N (PAM-N N=4, 16). Both versions demonstrate signal integrity, interface density, and scalability that fit into the next generation data communication and exa-scale computing. Modulation power at 20Gb/s data rate for OOK and PAM-16 of 4pJ/bit and 0.25pJ/bit are achieved for the first time of an MZI type optical modulator, respectively.

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