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Hybrid Si/III-V Lasers for Next-generation Coherent Optical Communication


Zhang, Zhewei (2021) Hybrid Si/III-V Lasers for Next-generation Coherent Optical Communication. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/y85t-nj39.


The most important application of semiconductor lasers is, without doubt, optical communication, the backbone of the information age. In the past few decades, incoherent optical communication with conventional semiconductor lasers, the III-V distributed feedback (DFB) lasers, has successfully fulfilled the global demand for the data rate. However, in order to support the rapidly growing Internet traffic of the 21st century, the transition from incoherent to coherent optical communication is inevitable, requiring new types of lasers, as the conventional III-V DFB lasers lack the phase coherence needed to serve as the light sources in coherent optical communication. The existent alternatives with high phase coherence are external cavity lasers (ECLs) and fiber lasers, whose high price and bulky size effectively thwart the upgrade of the current communication networks. This is the main motivation for us to develop high-coherence semiconductor lasers.

To achieve the goal, we shall rethink and redesign semiconductor lasers. Advanced modern fabrication technology helps us to turn bold ideas into reality. Not only do we build semiconductor lasers on hybrid platforms, but also engineer elaborately the optical mode to enhance the lasers’ phase coherence. The newly developed semiconductor lasers, hybrid Si/III-V lasers, are the core of the entire thesis. Their design principles, fabrication process, properties and performance in the coherent optical communication system will be presented and discussed. The experimental results show the Si/III-V lasers' superiority to their conventional counterparts.

Aside from possessing high phase coherence, the Si/III-V lasers have great potential to be the light sources on the integrated photonic platforms. The fundamental obstacle thwarting photonic integration is optical feedback, to which the conventional semiconductor lasers are very sensitive. Without the protection provided by optical isolators, which unfortunately cannot be fabricated on chip, the performance of the conventional III-V DFB lasers could get significantly degraded by optical feedback. The Si/III-V lasers, with their built-in high-Q resonators, are very robust against optical feedback and can function properly in the isolator-free coherent optical communication systems. Thus, the cost of future optical networks can be further reduced by monolithically integrating passive photonic devices such as modulators and demodulators with the Si/III-V lasers.

Finally, all the studies centered on laser coherence trigger us to think deeply about the underlying relation between different means of characterizing laser coherence. A rigorous mathematical relation, the Central Relation, has been derived here, which not only unveils the fundamental relation between laser lineshape and frequency noise power spectral density (PSD) but also provides new methods of frequency noise controlling like optical filtering.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Laser coherence; Coherent optical communication
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Yariv, Amnon
Group:Kavli Nanoscience Institute
Thesis Committee:
  • Vahala, Kerry J. (chair)
  • Yariv, Amnon
  • Faraon, Andrei
  • Marandi, Alireza
Defense Date:19 February 2021
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-16-C-0026
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-15-1-0584
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-14-P-0020
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)N66001-14-1-4062
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:02222021-054057067
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter III. adapted for Chapter III. adapted for Chapter IV. adapted for Chapter IV. adapted for Chapter V.
Zhang, Zhewei0000-0002-1211-7957
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14086
Deposited By: Zhewei Zhang
Deposited On:01 Mar 2021 17:38
Last Modified:02 Nov 2021 19:11

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