The unrivalled integration potential of CMOS has made it the dominant technology for digital integrated circuits. With the advent of visible light emission from silicon through hot carrier electroluminescence, several applications arose, all of which rely upon the advantages of mature CMOS technologies for a competitive edge in a very active and attractive market. In this paper we present a low-cost night vision viewer which employs only standard CMOS technologies. A commercial CMOS imager is utilized for near infrared image capturing with a 128x96 pixel all-CMOS microdisplay implemented to convey the image to the user. The display is implemented in a standard 0.35 μm CMOS process, with no process alterations or post processing. The display features a 25 μm pixel pitch and a 3.2 mm x 2.4 mm active area, which through magnification presents the virtual image to the user equivalent of a 19-inch display viewed from a distance of 3 meters. This work represents the first application of a CMOS microdisplay in a low-cost consumer product.
Microdisplay technology, the miniaturization and integration of small displays for various applications, is predominantly
based on OLED and LCoS technologies. Silicon light emission from hot carrier electroluminescence has been shown to
emit light visibly perceptible without the aid of any additional intensification, although the electrical to optical
conversion efficiency is not as high as the technologies mentioned above. For some applications, this drawback may be
traded off against the major cost advantage and superior integration opportunities offered by CMOS microdisplays using
integrated silicon light sources. This work introduces an improved version of our previously published microdisplay by
making use of new efficiency enhanced CMOS light emitting structures and an increased display resolution.
Silicon hot carrier luminescence is often created when reverse biased pn-junctions enter the breakdown regime where
impact ionization results in carrier transport across the junction. Avalanche breakdown is typically unwanted in modern
CMOS processes. Design rules and process design are generally tailored to prevent breakdown, while the voltages
associated with breakdown are too high to directly interact with the rest of the CMOS standard library. This work shows
that it is possible to lower the operating voltage of CMOS light sources without compromising the optical output power.
This results in more efficient light sources with improved interaction with other standard library components.
This work proves that it is possible to create a reasonably high resolution microdisplay while integrating the active
matrix controller and drivers on the same integrated circuit die without additional modifications, in a standard CMOS
An integrated silicon light source still remains the Holy Grail for integrated optical communication systems. Hot carrier
luminescent light sources provide a way to create light in a standard CMOS process, potentially enabling cost effective
optical communication between CMOS integrated circuits. In this paper we present a 1 Mb/s integrated silicon optical
link for information transfer, targeting a real-world integrated solution by connecting two PCs via a USB port while
transferring data optically between the devices. This realization represents the first optical communication product
prototype utilizing a CMOS light emitter. The silicon light sources which are implemented in a standard 0.35 μm CMOS
technology are electrically modulated and detected using a commercial silicon avalanche photodiode. Data rates
exceeding 10 Mb/s using silicon light sources have previously been demonstrated using raw bit streams. In this work
data is sent in two half duplex streams accompanied with the separate transmission of a clock. Such an optical
communication system could find application in high noise environments where data fidelity, range and cost are a
Microdisplay technologies for near-to-eye applications mostly use a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processing chip as backplane for pixel addressing, with extensive post-processing on top of the CMOS chip to deposit organic LED or liquid crystal layers. Here, we examine the possibility of integrating emissive microdisplays within the CMOS chip, with absolutely no post processing needed. This will dramatically reduce the manufacturing cost of microdisplays and may lead to new microdisplay applications. Visible electroluminescence is achieved by biasing pn junctions into avalanche breakdown mode. The most appropriate CMOS pn junction is selected and innovative techniques are applied to increase the light extraction efficiency from the CMOS chip using the metal layers of the CMOS process. An 8×64 dot matrix microdisplay was designed and manufactured in a 0.35-μm CMOS technology. The experimental results show that a luminance level of 20 cd/m2 can be reached, which is an adequate luminance value in order to comfortably read data being displayed in relatively dark environments. The electrical power dissipation per pixel being activated is 0.9 mW/pixel. It is also shown that the pixels can be switched at a rate faster than 350 MHz.
The idea of integrating a light emitter and detector in the cost effective and mature technology which is CMOS remains
an attractive one. Silicon light emitters, used in avalanche breakdown, are demonstrated to switch at frequencies above
1 GHz whilst still being electrically detected, a three-fold increase on previous reported results. Utilizing novel BEOLstack
reflectors and increased array sizes have resulted in an increased power efficiency allowing multi-Mb/s data rates.
In this paper we present an all-silicon optical communication link with data rates exceeding 10 Mb/s at a bit error rate of
less than 10-12, representing a ten-fold increase over the previous fastest demonstrated silicon data link. Data rates
exceeding 40 Mb/s are also presented and evaluated. The quality of the optical link is established using both eye diagram
measurements as well as a digital communication system setup. The digital communication system setup comprises the
generation of 232-1 random data, 8B/10B encoding and decoding, data recovery and the subsequent bit error counting.
Display technologies always seem to find a wide range of interesting applications. As devices develop towards
miniaturization, niche applications for small displays may emerge. While OLEDs and LCDs dominate the market for
small displays, they have some shortcomings as relatively expensive technologies. Although CMOS is certainly not the
dominating semiconductor for photonics, its widespread use, favourable cost and robustness present an attractive
potential if it could find application in the microdisplay environment. Advances in improving the quantum efficiency of
avalanche electroluminescence and the favourable spectral characteristics of light generated through the said mechanism
may afford CMOS the possibility to be used as a display technology. This work shows that it is possible to integrate a
fully functional display in a completely standard CMOS technology mainly geared towards digital design while using
light sources completely compatible with the process and without any post processing required.
The idea of moving CMOS into the mainstream optical domain remains an attractive one. In this paper we discuss our
recent advances towards a complete silicon optical communication solution. We prove that transmission of baseband
data at multiples of megabits per second rates are possible using improved silicon light sources in a completely native
standard CMOS process with no post processing. The CMOS die is aligned to a fiber end and the light sources are
directly modulated. An optical signal is generated and transmitted to a silicon Avalanche Photodiode (APD) module,
received and recovered. Signal detectability is proven through eye diagram measurements.
The results show an improvement of more than tenfold over our previous results, also demonstrating the fastest optical
communication from standard CMOS light sources. This paper presents an all silicon optical data link capable of 2 Mb/s
at a bit error rate of 10-10, or alternatively 1 Mb/s at a bit error rate of 10-14. As the devices are not operating at their
intrinsic switching speed limit, we believe that even higher transmission rates are possible with complete integration of
all components in CMOS.
The low cost and mass integration potential of CMOS integrated circuits create an attractive opportunity for investigating
CMOS as an optical platform. Although silicon, as an indirect band gap material, is known for inefficient
electroluminescence, silicon-based optical transmission is still a much sought after capability. This paper shows the
potential of an all silicon transmission system for both clock and data transmission.
By utilizing silicon light emitting diodes operating in avalanche, it is shown that a switching speed of above hundred
megahertz is possible. The transmitter consists of an array of light sources, with metal light directors for improved
external quantum efficiency. The array is pulsed across an optical fibre and received by an avalanche photodiode and
amplifier module. Spectral results of the received signal confirm an optical component in excess of 100 MHz, were the
off-chip driver circuitry and the photodiode receiver currently limit the bandwidth of the system.
As the requirements for wideband data transmission are more stringent than for a narrow band clock signal, the
transmission system was tested as a baseband digital communication system, with transmission speeds of up to 176 kbps.
We also present eye diagrams of the received signal to prove the success of the transmission system, where transmission
speed is limited to detectable optical levels versus allowable in-band noise.
A refinement on these principles might lead to CMOS as a contender in high speed clock transmission as well as an
alternative to III-V devices for low cost optical transmission systems.