Free space optical interconnects for speckled computing
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The aim of this project was to produce an integrate-able free space optical transceiver for Specks. Specks are tiny computing units that together can form a powerful network called a SpeckNet. The SpeckNet platform is developed by the SpeckNet consortium, which consists of five Scottish Universities and combines computer science, electrical engineering and digital signal processing groups. The principal goal of creating an optical transceiver was achieved by integrating in-house fabricated VCSELs (with lasing thresholds below 400 uA) and custom designed detectors on the SpeckNet platform. The transceiver has a very low power consumption (approximately 100 uW), which removes the need for synchronous communication through the SpeckNet thus making the network more efficient. I describe both static and dynamic beam control techniques. For static control, I used micro-lenses. I fabricated the lenses by greyscale electron beam lithography and integrated them directly on VCSEL arrays. I achieved a steering angle of 10 degrees with this design. I also looked at integrated gratings etched straight into a VCSEL and observed beam steering with an efficiency of 60% For dynamic control, I implemented a liquid crystal (LC) design. I built a LC cell with 30 individually controlled pixels, but I only achieved a steering angle of 1 degree. Furthermore, I investigated two different techniques for achieving beam steering by interference, using coupled VCSELs (a phased array approach). Firstly, using photonic crystals etched into the surface of the VCSEL, I built coupled laser cavities. Secondly, I designed and built bow-tie type VCSELs that were optically coupled but electrically isolated. These designs work by differential current injection causing an interference effect in the VCSELs far field. This technique is the first stepping stone towards realising a phased optical array. Finally, I considered signal detection. Using the same VCSEL material, I built a resonant-cavity detector. This detector had a better background rejection ratio than commercially available silicon devices.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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