The next generations of large-scale data-centers and supercomputers demand optical interconnects to migrate to 400G and beyond. Microring modulators in silicon-photonics VLSI chips are promising devices to meet this demand due to their energy efficiency and compatibility with dense wavelength division multiplexed chip-to-chip optical I/O. Higher order pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) schemes can be exploited to mitigate their fundamental energy-bandwidth tradeoff at the system level for high data rates. In this paper, we propose an optical digital-to-analog converter based on a segmented microring resonator, capable of operating at 20 GS/s with improved linearity over conventional optical multi-level generators that can be used in a variety of applications such as optical arbitrary waveform generators and PAM transmitters. Using this technique, we demonstrate a PAM-4 transmitter that directly converts the digital data into optical levels in a commercially available 45-nm SOI CMOS process. We achieved 40-Gb/s PAM-4 transmission at 42-fJ/b modulator and driver energies, and 685-fJ/b total transmitter energy efficiency with an area bandwidth density of 0.67 Tb/s/mm 2 . The transmitter incorporates a thermal tuning feedback loop to address the thermal and process variations of microrings’ resonance wavelength. This scheme is suitable for system-on-chip applications with a large number of I/O links, such as switches and general-purpose and specialized processors in large-scale computing and storage systems.
Sajjad Moazeni, Sen Lin, Mark Wade, Luca Alloatti, Rajeev J. Ram, Milos Popovic, Vladimir Stojanovic