Plasmonically-enhanced III–V nanowire lasers on silicon for integrated communications – PLASMIC, is an H2020 ERC Starting Grant project under Grant Agreement Number 678567.

The principal investigator is Dr. Kirsten Emilie Moselund, and the host institution is IBM Research GmbH, which is an industrial research laboratory located in Rüschlikon, Switzerland.

PLASMIC started in April 2016, and will run through March 2021.



PLASMIC addresses the development of novel tunable plasmonic materials to be near-IR compatible with VLSI processing. It explores the application of these materials to develop nanoscale plasmonically-enhanced emitters based on III–V NWs integrated on Si specifically for the purpose of integrated photonic communication and future integration with CMOS electronics.

In the PLASMIC project, we are exploiting the newly developed Template Assisted Selective Epitaxy (TASE) technology to integrate III–V NWs monolithically on a conventional Si SOI substrate to serve as the gain medium. This approach allows intimate integration with Si-based passive optical components.

We will explore the ultimate scalability of integrated light sources by developing device concepts based on metallic laser cavities to scale the dimensions of III–V NW emitters to the sub-wavelength regime. The following breakthroughs are required to achieve the project objective:

  • New low-loss, VLSI-compatible, tunable plasmonic materials for the near-IR wavelength region;
  • New active photonic-plasmonic device concepts to allow sub-wavelength confinement. These may be integrated on silicon and utilize silicon passive structures for feedback;
  • The ability to integrate III–V nanostructures locally and aligned to silicon features;
  • Nanoscale fabrication technology commensurate with VLSI processes to achieve alignment, parallelization and control of layer thicknesses and roughness on the sub-nanometer scale.
Organizational chart for PLASMIC

Characterization platform

One of the first milestones of the project was to establish an optoelectronic characterization platform designed for a broad spectral range. This allows the electro-optic characterization of materials and devices from room temperature down to 4 K. Electro-optical characterizations of devices operating at the deep-subwavelength scale require a combination of high-resolution optics (NA = 0.7) with carefully designed electrical probes.

A customized He-flow cryostat allows precise control of the sample temperature and provides sub-nanometer positioning of the nanostructures over a travel range of 16 mm. Fully automated control of the polarization and the position of light paths is enabled by a 4F-lens geometry that provides comprehensive measurements of the spatial and modal emission characteristics of the devices. A supercontinuum laser with a spectral range of 600 nm–1.7 µm and short pulse emission down to 10 ps enables studies of the gain properties and fundamental dynamics of a broad range of potential metal-semiconductor systems.

The spectral and temporal device emission is analyzed using a liquid nitrogen-cooled InGaAs line-array detector and single photon detectors with a temporal resolution of 200 ps, respectively. The opto-electronic setup is capable of studying fundamental electrical, optical and temporal properties of the metal-semiconductor hybrid systems and allows us to operate light-emitting devices at the deep-subwavelength scale.

To extend the micro-photoluminescence setup, we have integrated time-resolved measurement capabilities to perform lifetime measurements of carrier lifetimes in our III–V devices. Two single photon detectors, Si and cooled InGaAs, allow us to cover an optical range from 400 nm to 1.6 µm. Additionally, the spectrometer in combination with the single photon detectors allows not only for temporal as well as spatial resolution.


Characterization platform

Optical setup

Our optical setup allows us to perform thorough measurements on our III–V devices ranging from micro-photoluminescence and electroluminescence spectroscopy as well as carrier lifetime measurements with spatial resolution. All measurements can be performed at temperatures between 4 K and room temperature.

Materials integration

Our work on the PLASMIC project exploits Template Assisted Selective Epitaxy (TASE) for the monolithic integration of III–V material on a silicon platform. This technology was invented at IBM [Ref] and exploited for various electronic applications [Refs]. The core of the technique is to use an oxide cavity to guide the growth and starting growth from a Si surface small enough to allow only one nucleation point.

TASE provides a number of important advantages over many other growth methodologies in that we can grow on any crystalline orientation, even amorphous Si [Ref]. The challenges consist of scaling this integration technique from electronic (sub-100 nm) dimensions up to the millimeter scale for developing photonic components.

We aim to integrate active III–V photonic material in close connection with Si and passives. For this purpose, we are using hybrid plasmonic modes to concentrate the optical mode to achieve sub-wavelength confinement. Therefore, we follow two main integration approaches developed in our group: virtual substrate (VS) and direct cavity (DC) growth. Using the DC approach, we recently demonstrated RT GaAs laser monolithically integrated on Si. Both approaches allow us to downscale device dimensions and, in combination with plasmonics, help us explore the ultimate downscaling limit of monolithically integrated light sources.

Local III–V integration for active photonic devices is essential to enable fully integrated photonic circuits with hundreds or thousands of active components. Reducing device size also reduces the capacitance to be switched and is required for large-scale photonic circuits to be competitive with electronics when it comes to performance–power tradeoffs [Ref].

The PLASMIC project is also exploring alternatives to noble metals for the plasmonic metals, inspired by [Ref]. In particular, we are evaluating metal nitrides, which might not provide better plasmonic performance, but their improved stability and thermal behavior might lead to innovative device designs.

TASE III–V integration approach

Integration capabilities and simplified schematics of how TASE III–V integration approach can be applied to plasmonically enhanced integrated active photonic devices integrated on Si and coupled to Si passives.

SEM image of a TASE template

(A) SEM image of a TASE template for the direct growth of a ring cavity. (B) SEM image of a ring grown by the virtual substrate approach.

H. Schmid, M. Borg, K. Moselund, L. Gignac, C.M. Breslin, J. Bruley, C. Cutaia, H. Riel,
Template-assisted selective epitaxy of III–V nanoscale devices for co-planar heterogeneous integration with Si,”
Applied Physics Letters 106, 233101, 2015.

M. Borg, H. Schmid, K.E. Moselund, G. Signorello, L. Gignac, J. Bruley, C. Breslin, P.D. Kanungo, P. Werner, H. Riel,
Vertical III–V Nanowire Device Integration on Si(100),”
Nano Letters 14, 1914-1920, 2014.

D.A.B. Miller,
Device Requirements for Optical Interconnects to Silicon Chips,”
Proceedings of the IEEE 97, 1166-1185, 2009.

P. West, S. Ishii, G. Naik, N. Emani, V. Shalaev, A. Boltasseva, A.,
Searching for better plasmonic materials,”
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Kirsten Moselund

Dr. Kirsten E. Moselund
Principal investigator

Kirsten E. Moselund is manager of the Materials Integration and Nanoscale Devices (MIND) group at IBM Research – Zurich, which focuses on research on future devices and nanoscale characterization, in particular the monolithic integration of III–V materials for electronic and photonic devices. She received her Master’s degree from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in 2003, and her PhD from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, in 2008. She joined IBM Research Zurich in 2008. She has more than ten years of experience working on novel electronic devices and concepts. She also has a background in photonics, having worked with VECSELs and integrated optical modulators. She is also the mother of two young boys.



Svenja  Mauthe

Svenja Mauthe
PhD student

Svenja Mauthe is a pre-doctoral researcher in the Materials Integration and Nanoscale Devices (MIND) group at IBM Research – Zurich. As part of the PLASMIC project, her work focuses on plasmonically enhanced integrated photonic emitter structures. She is working toward her PhD degree in Physics in Prof. Leuthold’s group at the Institute of Electromagnetic Fields (IEF) at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She joined IBM Research – Zurich in 2015 as a Master student and earned her Master of Science degree in June 2016 at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. The focus of her Master’s thesis was on the development of integrated III–V photonic methane gas detectors.  Prior to this, Svenja served a research internship in Prof. Stuart Parkin’s group at IBM Research Almaden, San Jose, California in cooperation with the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU), Mainz, Germany. 



Preksha Tiwari

Preksha Tiwari
PhD student

Preksha Tiwari joined IBM Research – Zurich in 2018 as a pre-doctoral researcher in the Materials Integration and Nanoscale Devices (MIND) group. As part of the PLASMIC project, her work focuses on plasmonically enhanced integrated photonic emitter structures. Preksha recieved her M.Sc. degree in Interdisciplinary Sciences with focus on Physics and Materials Science in 2018 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. The focus of her Master’s thesis was on high resolution metasurface holograms based on partial control of the phase of light at the Laboratory of Thermodynamics in Emerging Technologies at ETH Zurich. For her Master’s semester project, Preksha studied the coupling of multiresonant plasmonic structures with fluorescent emitters at the Laboratory of Optical Materials Engineering at ETH Zurich.



Noelia Vico Trivino

Noelia Vico Triviño
Post-doctoral researcher

Noelia Vico Triviño is a pre-doctoral researcher in the Materials Integration and Nanoscale Devices (MIND) group at IBM Research – Zurich. As part of the PLASMIC project, her work focuses on III-nitride semiconductors, nanostructures, resonant cavities and lasers, and photonic devices design. She joined IBM Research – Zurich in 2018, and holds a PhD in Photonics from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and a Master’s degree in Electronics Engineering as well as a B.S. degree in Physics from the University of Granada, Spain.



Open positions will be posted on the IBM Research Zurich “Careers” page. Please contact us directly if you are interested in doing a Master’s thesis, but be advised that these are unfortunately not funded.


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