Theses Doctoral

Hardware-Software Integrated Silicon Photonic Systems

Calhoun, David Mark

Fabrication of integrated photonic devices and circuits in a CMOS-compatible process or foundry is the essence of the silicon photonic platform. Optical devices in this platform are enabled by the high index contrast between silicon and silicon on insulator. These devices offer potential benefits when integrated with existing and emerging high performance microelectronics. Integration of silicon photonics with small footprints and power-efficient and high-bandwidth operation has long been cited as a solution to existing issues in high performance interconnects for telecommunications and data communication. Stemming from this historic application in communications, new applications in sensing arrays, biochemistry, and even entertainment continue to grow. However, for many technologies to successfully adopt silicon photonics and reap the perceived benefits, the silicon photonic platform must extend toward development of a full ecosystem. Such extension includes implementation of low cost and robust electronic-photonic packaging techniques for all applications. In an ecosystem implemented with services ranging from device fabrication all the way to packaged products, ease-of-use and ease-of-deployment in systems that require many hardware and software components becomes possible.
With the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT), nearly all technologies—sensors, compute, communication devices, etc.—persist in systems with some level of localized or distributed software interaction. These interactions often require a level of networked communications. For silicon photonics to penetrate technologies comprising IoT, it is advantageous to implement such devices in a hardware-software integrated way. Meaning, all functionalities and interactions related to the silicon photonic devices are well defined in terms of the physicality of the hardware. This hardware is then abstracted into various levels of software as needed in the system. The power of hardware-software integration allows many of the piece-wise demonstrated functionalities of silicon photonics to easily translate to commercial implementation.
This work begins by briefly highlighting the challenges and solutions for transforming existing silicon photonic platforms to a full-fledged silicon photonic ecosystem. The highlighted solutions in development consist of tools for fabrication, testing, subsystem packaging, and system validation. Building off the knowledge of a silicon photonic ecosystem in development, this work continues by demonstrating various levels of hardware-software integration. These are primarily focused on silicon photonic interconnects.
The first hardware-software integration-focused portion of this work explores silicon microring-based devices as a key building block for greater silicon photonic subsystems. The microring’s sensitivity to thermal fluctuations is identified not as a flaw, but as a tool for functionalization. A logical control system is implemented to mitigate thermal effects that would normally render a microring resonator inoperable. The mechanism to control the microring is extended and abstracted with software programmability to offer wavelength routing as a network primitive. This functionality, available through hardware-software integration, offers the possibility for ubiquitous deployment of such microring devices in future photonic interconnection networks.
The second hardware-software integration-focused portion of this work explores dynamic silicon photonic switching devices and circuits. Specifically, interactions with and implications of high-speed data propagation and link layer control are demonstrated. The characteristics of photonic link setup include transients due to physical layer optical effects, latencies involved with initializing burst mode links, and optical link quality. The impacts on the functionalities and performance offered by photonic devices are explored. An optical network interface platform is devised using FPGAs to encapsulate hardware and software for controlling these characteristics using custom hardware description language, firmware, and software. A basic version of a silicon photonic network controller using FPGAs is used as a tool to demonstrate a highly scalable switch architecture using microring resonators. This architecture would not be possible without some semblance of this controller, combined with advanced electronic-photonic packaging. A more advanced deployment of the network interface platform is used to demonstrate a method for accelerating photonic links using out-of-band arbitration. A first demonstration of this platform is performed on a silicon photonic microring router network. A second demonstration is used to further explore the feasibility of full hardware-software integrated photonic device actuation, link layer control, and out-of-band arbitration. The demonstration is performed on a complete silicon photonic network with both spatial switching and wavelength routing functionalities.
The aforementioned hardware-software integration mechanisms are rigorously tested for data communications applications. Capabilities are shown for very reliable, low latency, and dynamic high-speed data delivery using silicon photonic devices. Applying these mechanisms to complete electronic-photonic packaged subsystems provides a strong path to commercial manifestations of functional silicon photonic devices.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Electrical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Bergman, Keren
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 6, 2017