Researchers from the University of Delaware exposed silicon photonic integrated circuits (PICs) to 11 months of cumulative radiation in low earth orbit. The work, supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and NASA, was performed on PICs from AIM Photonics, one of nine Manufacturing Innovation Institutes overseen by the OSD Manufacturing Technology Program, that was placed on the International Space Station’s MISSE-FF.
PICs are a lightweight, low-power alternative to bulk optical components, which makes them attractive for use in space. Nevertheless, information quantifying the impacts that the space environment has on PICs is limited.
In this study, minor changes in performance were measured post-flight. In particular, modulator bandwidth improved due to a reduction in a free-carrier lifetime, while a refractive index change on the order of 0.001 was also observed.
This study should be of broad interest as it highlights encouraging results for future use in space applications. Future work will place other AIM Photonics PICs on two additional flights on the International Space Station for reliability testing and focus on different components such as wavelength division multiplexers.
The work is conducted under AFOSR: FA9550-18-1-0300 awarded to Dr. Tingyi Gu, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Delaware. Additionally, a continuation of this research is accepted as oral presentations for CLEO 2022.
Click here to read the IEEE paper titled 'Space test of photonic integrated materials and devices'.