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Plasmonic IQ modulators with attojoule per bit electrical energy consumption

Heni, Wolfgang, et al. “Plasmonic IQ modulators with attojoule per bit electrical energy consumption.” Nature communications 10.1 (2019): 1-8.


Coherent optical communications provides the largest data transmission capacity with the highest spectral efficiency and therefore has a remarkable potential to satisfy today’s ever-growing bandwidth demands. It relies on so-called in-phase/quadrature (IQ) electro-optic modulators that encode information on both the amplitude and the phase of light. Ideally, such IQ modulators should offer energy-efficient operation and a most compact footprint, which would allow high-density integration and high spatial parallelism. Here, we present compact IQ modulators with an active section occupying a footprint of 4 × 25 µm × 3 µm, fabricated on the silicon platform and operated with sub-1-V driving electronics.

The devices exhibit low electrical energy consumptions of only 0.07 fJ bit−1 at 50 Gbit s−1, 0.3 fJ bit−1 at 200 Gbit s−1, and 2 fJ bit−1 at 400 Gbit s−1. Such IQ modulators may pave the way for application of IQ modulators in long-haul and short-haul communications alike.