Lasers with ultra-low operating energy are desired for use in chip-to-chip and on-chip optical interconnects. If we are to reduce the operating energy, we must reduce the active volume. Therefore, a photonic crystal (PhC) laser with a wavelength-scale cavity has attracted a lot of attention because a PhC provides a large Q-factor with a small volume. To improve this device's performance, we employ an embedded active region structure in which the wavelength-scale active region is buried with an InP PhC slab. This structure enables us to achieve effective confinement of both carriers and photons, and to improve the thermal resistance of the device. Thus, we have obtained a large external differential quantum efficiency of 55% and an output power of -10 dBm by optical pumping. For electrical pumping, we use a lateral p-i-n structure that employs Zn diffusion and Si ion implantation for p-type and n-type doping, respectively. We have achieved room-temperature continuous-wave operation with a threshold current of 7.8 μA and a maximum 3 dB bandwidth of 16.2 GHz. The results of an experimental bit error rate measurement with a 10 Gbit s-1 NRZ signal reveal the minimum operating energy for transferring a single bit of 5.5 fJ. These results show the potential of this laser to be used for very short reach interconnects. We also describe the optimal design of cavity quality (Q) factor in terms of achieving a large output power with a low operating energy using a calculation based on rate equations. When we assume an internal absorption loss of 20 cm-1, the optimized coupling Q-factor is 2000.
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