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Photon-trapping microstructures enable high-speed high-efficiency silicon photodiodes


High-speed, high-efficiency photodetectors play an important role in optical communication links that are increasingly being used in data centres to handle higher volumes of data traffic and higher bandwidths, as big data and cloud computing continue to grow exponentially. Monolithic integration of optical components with signal-processing electronics on a single silicon chip is of paramount importance in the drive to reduce cost and improve performance. We report the first demonstration of micro- and nanoscale holes enabling light trapping in a silicon photodiode, which exhibits an ultrafast impulse response (full-width at half-maximum) of 30 ps and a high efficiency of more than 50%, for use in data-centre optical communications. The photodiode uses micro- and nanostructured holes to enhance, by an order of magnitude, the absorption efficiency of a thin intrinsic layer of less than 2 µm thickness and is designed for a data rate of 20 gigabits per second or higher at a wavelength of 850 nm. Further optimization can improve the efficiency to more than 70%.

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Figure 1: Silicon photodiode with integrated micro- and nanoscale holes.
Figure 2: Slow light in the micro- and nanoscale holes when illuminated by a normal incident beam of light.
Figure 3: Slow slight contributing to high efficiency.
Figure 4: Enhanced quantum efficiency enabled by integrated holes.
Figure 5: d.c. and ultrafast characteristics of the photodiodes.


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The authors thank S.P. Wang and S.Y. Wang Partnership for financial support, and also acknowledge partial support from the Army Research Office (ARO- W911NF-14-4-0341) and the National Science Foundation (NSF CMMI-1235592).

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E.P.D., T.Y., A.F.E. and S.G. simulated the photodiode structures. M.S.I., H.H.M., Y.G., H.C. and S.-Y.W. designed the photodiodes. Y.G., H.C., K.G.P. and H.H.M. fabricated the devices. H.C., S.G., A.K., A.S.M., Y.W. and X.Z. carried out the d.c. and high-speed characterization of the photodiodes. Y.G., H.C., S.G., A.F.E., T.Y. and A.K. discussed the processing and characterization results and analysed the data. Y.G., H.C., S.-Y.W. and M.S.I. drafted the manuscript. S.-Y.W., T.Y., E.P.D., A.F.E. and M.S.I. revised the manuscript. S.-Y.W. and M.S.I. co-supervised the research.

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Correspondence to M. Saif Islam.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Gao, Y., Cansizoglu, H., Polat, K. et al. Photon-trapping microstructures enable high-speed high-efficiency silicon photodiodes. Nature Photon 11, 301–308 (2017).

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