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Researchers at the Technion have developed tiny laser devices for small atomic clocks for the industry

These watches have unique features including small volume and weight and low energy consumption - essential features because they are mobile components powered by batteries. The tiny clock has uses similar to those of normal atomic clocks used for example in navigation systems (GPS), synchronization between communication systems and computer systems.

Magnified microscope image of a single VCSEL. (The size is 0.1 mm). Photo: Nitzan Zohar, Technion Barracks
Magnified microscope image of a single VCSEL. (the size is 0.1 mm). Photo: Nitzan Zohar, Technion Spokesperson

One of the key components of the small atomic clocks is a field-emitting laser known as a Vixel (VCSEL). It is a tiny semiconductor laser (about 1,000 voxels fit into a grain of salt) used in a variety of applications including cell phones, vehicle sensors and optical communication networks in data centers. When it comes to atomic clocks, the requirements from Vixel are extremely strict, for example working at temperatures close to 100 degrees and great accuracy in the color of the emitted light. These requirements make the development of such voxels a particularly complex technological challenge. The Vixel developed at the Technion meets all these requirements and even exhibits performance that exceeds that of the best lasers in the world today.

The breakthrough at the Technion was made as part of the Innovation Authority's "Wixel" association - an association in which industrial companies (NVIDIA, SCD, Acubit Holoor and Sion) and researchers from the Technion and the Hebrew University are partners. The association arose from the understanding at the Innovation Authority that Wixels are a critical component for many Israeli industries and from the recognition that the Technion has the expertise and infrastructure for realization and development at an industrial level. The success of the project is also based on the Technion's cooperation with NVIDIA's Israeli branch, formerly Mellanox - a continuous cooperation that is also reflected in activities outside the association.

"The main factor in success is of course the Technion itself," says Prof. Eisenstein, head of the Nanotechnology Institute RBNI) and the interim director of MNFU - the Sarah and Moshe Zisafel Center for Nanoelectronics. According to him, "The main person responsible for the impressive achievement is Prof. Meir Orenstein, head of the nano and microphotonics laboratory at the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Meir has been working on Vixels since the XNUMXs, when he was in the United States, and has significant and lasting contributions to this technology, including the invention that enabled the industrial production of Vixels."

Prof. Orenstein designed the layers that were realized with the help of the partners from NVIDIA, formulated the design of the Wixel structure and supervised the realization of the standards at MNFU. According to Prof. Eisenstein, "the team of engineers and technicians of MNFU, led by Aya Cohen, demonstrated its excellent capabilities and proved that it is possible to develop In the Technion laboratories complex and complicated standards are made for the critical needs of the Israeli industry."

The representatives of the Technion at Maged are three researchers from the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering: Prof. Meir Orenstein, Research Prof. Moti Segev and Prof. Gadi Eisenstein. The Technion researchers demonstrated, as mentioned, the development of Vixels that are intended for tiny atomic clocks. The devices have been proven to be better than commercial voxels used by the sealed watch company Accubit, which also participates in the association, in every parameter important to the operation of the tiny watch.

The association also develops Vixels for other uses. The NVIDIA company leads the working group focused on the development of Vixel with a much higher data transmission capacity than what exists today, and this for the needs of future optical communication networks. The Technion contributes to this effort mainly in the characterization of the fast voxels.

Another direction of development in Magad is multiple voxels acting as a unified source emitting high power with high brightness. This direction is concentrated by the MM company and has two channels. The first is a dense array of voxels that emit light in a coherent (coherent) manner, which was invented by Prof. Orenstein, and is designed and implemented in close cooperation with the MM company. The second is coordinated by Research Prof. Moti Segev. Professor Segev invented the topological laser and is now developing, together with the MM company, an array of topological voxels that constitute a powerful light source that is immune to external interference.

The current achievement of the Magad led by the Technion demonstrated as mentioned vixels for tiny atomic clocks, and according to Prof. Eisenstein, "this success proves the Technion's ability to develop any type of vixel, and not only those defined in the Magad, as well as other opto-electronic components that are important to the Israeli industry. "

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