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UTA professor earns NSF grant to make lasers, amplifiers for silicon photonics technology

June 10, 2016

A University of Texas at Arlington researcher will explore the possibility of using a novel optical resonance effect in nanostructured silicon films to generate light, which could lead to more efficient and compact integrated photonic-electric circuits.

The new technology will greatly enhance transmission speeds by easing the limitations inherent in current electrical technology, make cameras and infrared technology less expensive. The technology also could improve sensing instruments, researchers said.

Robert Magnusson, UTA's Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics and professor of electrical engineering, has received a three-year, $370,000 National Science Foundation grant to create the engineered nanoscale amplifiers and lasers. The optical resonance effect induces interaction of light with an optical structure. Magnusson designs the structure in a way that forces this interaction to occur.

Silicon photonics is compatible with modern electronics technology on which everyday integrated circuit chips for computers and communications are based. It is important to be able to generate light in silicon because the next generation of electrical systems will be integrated with silicon photonics, and light sources are necessary for that technology to work, Magnusson explained.

"Modern electronics and photonics technologies are merging, enabling more efficient, compact chips where the advantages of each technology are in play," Magnusson said. "Thus, signals may be transmitted by light inside and between chips rather than through wires."

He added: "This is the type of high-risk, high-reward project that the NSF likes to support. They want innovative research that has the potential to be truly transformative."

Jonathan Bredow, chair of the UTA Department of Electrical Engineering, said Magnusson's research, as well as that of others across the University, exemplifies the groundbreaking work with global environmental impact under way at UTA under the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

"UTA is fortunate to have world-class researchers like Dr. Magnusson who create new knowledge. The benefits of his findings are potentially huge," Bredow said. "With each innovation, we're moving toward processing light directly on silicon."

Duane Dimos, UTA vice president for research, said, "This transformative silicon photonics technology has the potential to greatly enhance the way we transmit electronic information and is the kind of research that can have a huge economic impact. Dr. Magnusson's latest invention shows the kind of innovation that flows from a premier public research university like UTA, and we all benefit from his advancements in the photonics industry."

Magnusson's findings will allow the development of new types of lasers and amplifiers that can be applied to integrated photonics systems that could better detect incoming signals carried by light, such as those in Internet data transmission, and that could increase transmission and processing rates in optical communications.

He will use a fundamental phenomenon in silicon called the Raman effect, which causes the re-emission of photons from the silicon when light is shined on it. Those photons are emitted at shorter wavelengths and longer wavelengths, the latter of which is more effective.

Magnusson has worked in photonics throughout his career and pioneered a host of device technologies, many of which are patented. The current project will allow him to use his novel photonic resonance effects to bring the excitation and emission wavelengths into resonance simultaneously to realize a new Raman laser technology platform.

He leads UT Arlington's Nanophotonics Device Group, which pursues theoretical and experimental research in periodic nanostructures, nanolithography, nanophotonics, nanoelectronics, nanoplasmonics, and optical bio- and chemical sensors. His research established new transformative biosensor platform technology that is in commercial use by Resonant Sensors Inc., a company he co-founded.

Magnusson has garnered more than $10 million in research funding and endowments for UTA since becoming the Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics in 2008, published nearly 450 journal and conference papers and secured 30 issued patents and pending patents.

He is a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors - one of 13 NAI fellows among the UTA faculty - and a Life Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The IEEE has singled out Magnusson for his contributions to the invention of a new class of nanophotonic devices that employ light at a nanometer scale. His devices are used as biosensors, lasers, tunable filters and optical components.
About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a R-1 Carnegie "highest research activity" institution of more than 53,000 degree-seeking students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times' 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at

University of Texas at Arlington

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