The World’s First Integrated Laser on a Lithium Niobate Chip Opens the Door to High-Power Telecommunication Systems

Despite recent breakthroughs in integrated lithium niobate photonic circuits, including frequency combs, frequency converters, and modulators, one major component has remained frustratingly difficult to integrate: lasers.

Lasers are employed to generate an optical carrier used in data transmission in long-haul telecommunication networks, data centre optical interconnects, and microwave photonic systems.

Lasers are typically stand-alone devices that are not connected to modulators, making the entire system more expensive, less reliable, and scalable.

Researchers from Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed the first fully integrated high-power laser on a lithium niobate chip, paving the way for high-powered telecommunication systems, fully integrated spectrometers, optical remote sensing, and efficient frequency conversion for quantum networks, among other applications.

“Integrated lithium niobate photonics is a promising platform for the development of high-performance chip-scale optical systems, but getting a laser onto a lithium niobate chip has proved to be one of the biggest design challenges,” said Marko Loncar, the Tiantsaigramo Lin Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics at SEAS and senior author of the study. “In this research, we used all the nano-fabrication tricks and techniques learned from previous developments in integrated lithium niobate photonics to overcome those challenges and achieve the goal of integrating a high-powered laser on a thin-film lithium niobate platform.”

The research is published in the journal Optica.