Challenging Physical Limits of Silicon Lenses: Professor Guo-En Chang from the Department of Chemical Engineering at National Chung Cheng University Receives
Prof. Guo-En Chang from the Advanced Institute of Manufacturing with High-tech Innovations and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at National Chung Cheng University (CCU), has been engaged in research on silicon photonics technologies for many years. He plans to overcome the physics limitations of silicon lenses and develop a silicon chip with an embedded laser, so that a semiconductor chip can transmit signal without using electrical signals. This project received a grant of up to NT$47.5 million under the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Columbus Program. Prof. Chang will launch a five-year study with the hope of achieving a breakthrough for the semiconductor industry in Taiwan.
“Due to constraints in physics, installation of a laser source on a silicon chip is almost impossible!” said Prof. Chang. All traditional semiconductor chips use the electronic method to transmit signals. With Moore’s law reaching its limits in the field of semiconductors, the transmission of signals using a light source instead of electronic signals is believed to improve chip performance. However, the implementation of this method is difficult in practice.
The research project proposed by Prof. Chang calls for limit ations in physics to be overcome through the development of a laser source that can be embedded in a silicon chip. According to Prof. Chang, if the project is a success, the signal transmission method used in semiconductor chips will shift from electronic signals to optic signals, allowing for the development of semiconductor chips with high performance, low energy consumption, and low heat generation. The luminescent source technology developed by the CCU team can then be applied to chips widely used 3C products.
Prof. Chang, who has been teaching in CCU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering for 10 years, suggests that academic research involves competition with research teams from many other countries. Due to considerable differences in research expenditures, resources, and researchers compared to overseas, Prof. Chang used a method different from those of his overseas competitors and focused on a unique research topic, thereby maintaining his competitiveness through the lever effect. Although there is the need to be the first to demonstrate technological results under time pressure, Prof. Chang’s team has nevertheless achieved success in developing pioneer technologies and solidifying their position within the niche field of silicon photonics.
For Prof. Chang, the uncovering of unexpected results was the most interesting aspect in researches. For example, in his recent study on growing materials on a SOI base plate, he had planned to produce a light detector with an integrated waveguide; however, a vertical resonant cavity was instead discovered during material tests. Leveraging these unexpected findings, Professor Chang developed a series of novel high-performance light-emitting components and photosensors. This was then published in the paper “Germanium-based electro-excitation light-emitting components with vertical resonant cavities” , and was even highlighted on the front cover of the international journal “ACS Photonics” in August 2019.
In addition to receiving the Outstanding Industry-Academia Collaboration Award and Outstanding Research Award from CCU, Prof. Chang was recognized by the MOST as an Outstanding Young Scholar for Optoelectronic Engineering Research Projects and received the National Innovation Award of Taiwan, as well as the Excellent Mechanical Engineer Reward from the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society, the Outstanding Young Scholar Award, and the Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Professor Award.
With regards to the grant provided under the Columbus Program, Prof. Chang expressed his gratitude to the Ministry of Science and Technology and evaluation committee for the recognition and support of young scholars. He also thanked CCU students for their hard work and attainment of world-leading results and expressed gratitude to CCU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Advanced Institute of Manufacturing with High-tech Innovations for their constant support in terms of research resources and assistance. Prof., Chang believed that, with the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology, he now has an opportunity to address the difficulties related to silicon photonic technologies and explore a unique research topic in the field of silicon photonics which, in turn, can lead to the implementation of related technologies in semiconductor chips, further demonstrating the important value of his projects.