Technology

PCSELs are the future of laser production

PCSELs are a new class of semiconductor laser. They utilise a 2D grating structure which scatters light linearly and orthogonally. This makes PCSELs the only laser where feedback is in-plane and light emission is out of plane, emanating from the laser’s top surface.

Out of plane, orthogonal, surface emission offers a huge cost advantage for lasers, as it makes them easy to package and incorporate into PCBs and electronic assemblies. Out of plane emission is enabled and stabilised by our 2D grating structure (photonic crystal), creating feedback and single mode emission. The PCSEL structure provides advantages in data rate, wavelength and power performance when compared to equivalent EELs or VCSELs.

Vector Photonics’ PCSELs deliver low cost, high-volume, robust build, broad wavelength range and high power.

“Our PCSELs produce the speed performance of EELs and VCSELs, whilst their tested and packaged cost is 50% that of EELs and they deliver over 10x the power of VCSELs.”

Neil Martin, CEO, Vector Photonics

PCSELs solve the speed, power and cost conundrum

VCSELs and EELs are today’s most commonly used semiconductor laser technologies. However, they each have drawbacks. GaAs-based VCSELs (Vertical cavity surface emitting lasers) are low cost and robust, but compromise wavelength range and power. InP-based EELs (Edge Emitting Lasers), which include Distributed Feedback (DFB) lasers, have the speed and power, but are expensive to produce and fragile, making handling difficult.

PCSELS have it all!

PCSELs overcome the inherent compromises and barriers associated with VCSELs and EELs, simultaneously delivering wavelength range and power at reduced cost, in a robust, easy to use format. In addition to this, PCSELs can be made at any wavelength to address a wide breadth of applications, aggregating production quantities across each device type, with the corresponding reduction in costs this additional volume brings.

EELs compromise
cost and ease of assembly

EEL Lasers (Edge Emitting Lasers) have been in production for more than 40 years, where they have proven their reliability and longevity in telecoms and data systems.

FP (Fabry-Perot) and DFB (Distributed Feedback) lasers are both types of legacy, semiconductor EELs. EELs offer high levels of single-mode performance, both from optical spectrum range and power perspectives. However, EELs have two significant disadvantages. The first disadvantage is that they must be precisely aligned and handled to be integrated into systems. This is because single-mode light is emitted from the edge, not the front, meaning the lasers must be precisely aligned within subassemblies to re-direct the light into the correct direction for optical fibres or free space. The second disadvantage is that they require complex manufacturing and testing processes. The semiconductor wafers must be split into bars and finished on each side with reflective coatings. Each laser must be tested at bar level before being ‘singulated’ into individual laser devices for system integration. These multiple processing and testing steps increase cost and reduce yield.

VCSELs compromise
wavelength range and power

VCSELs (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers) were first produced in the early 1990’s. They have limited operational wavelengths due to the manufacturing challenges caused by the various material systems required for multi-wavelength operation. The VCSEL grating structure also has inherent limitations to the single mode, power levels that can be produced. So, although VCSELs can achieve high speeds and can be produced cost-effectively, their limited single mode performance makes them unsuitable for high-speed datacoms and long-distance telecoms. These limitations also restrict their use in sensing applications to relatively short distances.

Laser technology comparison chart

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