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ECE 580 – Term Project Quantum Dot Lasers

Quantum Dot Lasers


Huizi Diwu and Betul Arda

Abstract — In this paper, we reviewed the recent literature on quantum dot lasers. First of all, we
start with physics of quantum dots. These nanostructures provide limitless opportunities to create
new technologies. To understand the applications of quantum dots, we talked about quantum
confinement effect versus dimensionality and different fabrication techniques of quantum dots.
Secondly, we examined the physical properties of quantum dot lasers along with history and
development of quantum dot laser technology and different kinds of quantum dot lasers
comparing with other types of lasers. Thirdly, since engineering is a practical science, we made a
market search on the practical usage of quantum dot lasers. And lastly, we predicted a future for
quantum dot lasers.

I. INTRODUCTION

1.1. Quantum Dots

Quantum dots (QD) are semiconductor nanostructures with vast applications across many
industries. Their small size (~2-10 nanometers or ~10-50 atoms in diameter) gives quantum dots
unique tunability. Like that of traditional semiconductors, the importance of QDs is originated
from the fact that their electrical conductivity can be altered by an external stimulus such as
voltage or photon flux. One of the main differences between quantum dots and traditional
semiconductors is that the peak emission frequencies of quantum dots are very sensitive to both
the dot's size and composition. [1], [2]

Figure 1 – size comparison of a QD [2]

QDs utilize the motion of conduction band electrons, valence band holes or excitons. Excitons are
pairs of conduction band electrons and valence band holes and defined to describe the motion of

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electrons and holes less complicatedly. The confinement of the motion of holes and electrons can
be created by
• electrostatic potentials
o e.g. doping, strain, impurities, external electrodes
• the presence of an interface between different semiconductor materials
o e.g. in the case of self-assembled QDs
• the presence of the semiconductor surface
o e.g. in the case of a semiconductor nanocrystal
• or by a combination of these [2].

1.2. Quantum Confinement Effect

To understand the QD concept, first of all, we should consider the quantum confinement effects
on electrons. Quantum confinement occurs when one or more of the dimensions of a nanocrystal
approach the Exciton Bohr radius. The concepts of energy levels, bandgap, conduction band and
valence band still apply. However, the electron energy levels can no longer be treated as
continuous - they must be treated as discrete. [3], [4]

Figure 2 – Comparisons of quantum wells, wires, rods and dots


a. Geometries of the different structures. b. Plots of Eg (the increase in the bandgap over the bulk value)
against d (the thickness or diameter) for rectangular quantum wells, cylindrical quantum wires and
spherical QDs obtained from particle-in-a-box approximations. The grey area between the dot and wire
curves is the intermediate zone corresponding to quantum rods. The vertical dotted line and points
qualitatively represent the expected variation in the bandgap for InAs quantum rods of varying
length/diameter ratio, as studied by Kan et al.1. c. A plot of Eg against length/diameter ratio for the InAs
quantum rods synthesized by Kan et al., showing the dependence of the bandgap on the shape of the
quantum rods. The dotted line represents the variation expected from a particle-in-a-box approximation
[5].

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Quantum well, or quantum wire confinements give the electron at least one degree of freedom.
Although this kind of confinement leads to quantization of the electron spectrum which changes
the density of states, and results in one or two-dimensional energy subbands, it still gives the
electron at least one direction to propagate. On the other hand, today’s technology allows us to
create QD structures, in which all existing degrees of freedom of electron propagation are
quantized. We can think this confinement as a box of volume d1d2d3. The energy is therefore
quantized to

E = Eq1 + Eq2 + Eq3 where Eqn = h2(q1π/dn)2 / 2mc

q1, q2 and q3 are the quantum numbers associated with an energy subband [6].

Since the allowed energy levels are discrete and separated, we can represent the density of states
as delta functions. (Figure 3) The energy levels of a QD can be adjusted with a proper design
according to the needs of the application. For instance, the addition or subtraction of just a few
atoms to the QD has the effect of altering the boundaries of the bandgap. Changing the geometry
of the surface of the QD also changes the bandgap energy, owing again to the small size of the
dot, and the effects of quantum confinement.

Figure 3 – Comparison of the quantization of density of states: (a) bulk, (b) quantum well, (c) quantum
wire, (d) quantum dot. The conduction and valence bands split into overlapping subbands that get
successively narrower as the electron motion is restricted in more dimensions. [6]

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1.3. Fabrication Techniques of Quantum Dots

• Core-Shell Quantum Structures: QDs are small regions of one material buried in another
with a larger band gap.

• Self–Assembled QDs and Stranski-Krastanov growth: Self-assembled QDs nucleate


spontaneously under certain conditions during molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and
metalorganics vapor phase epitaxy (MOVPE), when a material is grown on a substrate to
which it is not lattice matched. The resulting strain produces coherently strained islands
on top of a two-dimensional "wetting-layer". This growth mode is known as Stranski-
Krastanov growth. The islands can be subsequently buried to form the QD. The main
limitations of this method are the cost of fabrication and the lack of control over
positioning of individual dots.

o MBE: A technique that grows atomic-sized layers on a chip rather than creating
layers by diffusion.

o MOVPE: is a chemical vapor deposition method of epitaxial growth of


materials, especially compound semiconductors from the surface reaction of
organic compounds or metalorganics and metal hydrides containing the required
chemical elements. In contrast to molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) the growth of
crystals is by chemical reaction and not physical deposition. This takes place not
in a vacuum, but from the gas phase at moderate pressures (2 to 100 kPa).

• Monolayer fluctuations: QDs can occur spontaneously in QW structures due to


monolayer fluctuations in the well's thickness.

• Individual QDs can be created from two-dimensional electron or hole gases present in
remotely doped quantum wells or semiconductor heterostructures. The sample surface is
coated with a thin layer of resist. A lateral pattern is then defined in the resist by electron
beam lithography. This pattern can then be transferred to the electron or hole gas by
etching, or by depositing metal electrodes (lift-off process) that allow the application of
external voltages between the electron gas and the electrodes. Such QDs are mainly of
interest for experiments and applications involving electron or hole transport, i.e., an
electrical current.[1], [4], [7]

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Figure 4 – Schematic representation of different approaches to fabrication of nanostructures: (a)


microcrystallites in glass, (b) artificial patterning of thin film structures, (c) self-organized growth of
nanostructures. [7]

II. QUANTUM DOT LASERS


2.1. Development of Quantum Dot Lasers

The laser operation is based on producing radiative emission by coupling electrons and holes at
nonequilibrium conditions to an optical field. The advantages of quantum well lasers on
traditional lasers first predicted in 1970s (Dingle and Henry 1976), and first quantum well lasers
which were very inefficient were demonstrated at those dates (van der Ziel et al. 1975). The
advantages recognized were:

• The confinement and nature of the electronic density of states result in more efficient
devices operating at lower threshold currents than lasers with bulk active layers. The laser
threshold current density can be reduced by decreasing the thickness of the active layer.

• Discrete energy levels provide a means of "tuning" the resulting wavelength of the
material. Since the thickness of the quantum well-depends on the desired spacing
between energy levels, tuning can be done by changing the quantum well dimensions or

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thickness. For energy levels of greater than a few tens of meV’s, the critical dimension is
approximately a few hundred angstroms.

The in efficiency of quantum well lasers were eliminated in 1980s by the use of new materials
growth capabilities (molecular beam epitaxy), and optimization of the heterostructure laser design
(Tsang 1982). [8], [9]

Figure 5 – The historical evolution of QD lasers from the beginning. [8]

Since the quantum confinement in a QD is in all three dimensions, tunability of a quantum dot
laser (QDL) is higher than a quantum well laser (QWL). The concept of semiconductor QDs was
proposed for semiconductor laser applications by Arakawa and Sakaki in 1982, predicting
suppression of temperature dependence of the threshold current. Henceforth, reduction in
threshold current density, reduction in total threshold current, enhanced differential gain and high
spectral purity/no-chirping were theoretically discussed in 1980’s (Asada et al. 1986). [8], [9].

At this point, we should examine the basics of laser operation. (Figures 5 and 6) A laser utilizes
stimulated that is triggered by an incident photon of the same energy. This occurs when a medium
has more population of electrons in the excited quantum level than in the ground level. This
artificially situation, called population inversion, is produced by either electrical stimulation
(electroluminescence) or optical stimulation and is different from the spontaneous emission,
whereby the electron returns to the ground state in the natural course (within the lifetime of the
excited states), even in the absence of any photon to stimulate it. These two processes are
represented in Figure 7. [10], [9]

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In Figure 5, stimulated recombination of electron-hole pairs takes place in the GaAs quantum
well region, where the confinement of carriers and the confinement of the optical mode enhance
the interaction between carriers and radiation.

In Figure 6, we can observe the changes in density of states for different dimensionalities. The
population inversion necessary for lasing occurs more efficiently as the active layer material is
scaled down from bulk (3D) to QDs (0D). However, the advantages in operation depends both on
the absolute size of the nanostructures in the active region, and on the uniformity of size. A broad
distribution of sizes smears the density of states, producing behavior similar to that of bulk
material. [10]

Figure 5 – Schematic of a semiconductor laser

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Figure 6 – Density of electronic states as a function of structure size [9]

QD lasers acquired more importance after significant progress in nanostructure growth in the
1990’s such as the self-assembling growth technique for InAs QDs. The first demonstration of a
quantum dot laser with high threshold density was reported by Ledentsov and colleagues in 1994.
Bimberg et al. (1996) achieved improved operation by increasing the density of the QD
structures, stacking successive, strain-aligned rows of QDs and therefore achieving vertical as
well as lateral coupling of the QDs. In addition to utilizing their quantum size effects in edge-
emitting lasers, self-assembled QDs have also been incorporated within vertical cavity surface-
emitting lasers. [9]

QD lasers are not as temperature dependent as traditional semiconductor lasers. This theory was
utilized by applications and in 2004; temperature-independent QD lasers were invented in Fujitsu
Laboratories. (which is discussed later in the text)

We can summarize the predicted advantages of QD-lasers as [12]:

1. Emits light at wavelengths determined by the energy levels of the dots, rather than the
band gap energy. Thus, they offer the possibility of improved device performance and
increased flexibility to adjust the wavelength [13].

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2. Has the maximum material gain and differential gain, at least 2-3 orders higher than QW
lasers [14].

3. advantages of small volume:

a. low power high frequency operation,


b. large modulation bandwidth,
c. small dynamic chirp,
d. small linewidth enhancement factor,
e. and low threshold current.

4. Shows superior temperature stability of the threshold current. The threshold current is
given by the relation:

I threshold (T) = I threshold (T ref).exp ((T-(T ref))/ (T 0)),

where T is the active region temperature, (T ref) is the reference temperature, and (T 0) is an
empirically-determined "characteristic temperature", which is itself a function of temperature
and device length. In QDLs T0 can be high, because one can effectively decouple electron-
phonon interaction by increasing the intersubband separation. This leads to undiminished
room-temperature performance without external thermal stabilization.

5. QD lasers suppress the diffusion of non-equilibrium carriers, resulting in reduced leakage


from the active region.

2.2. Basic Characteristics of QD Lasers

In a laser, the stimulated emission is amplified by passing the emitted photons to stimulate
emission at other locations. (Figure 7)

The basic components of a laser are [15]:

• An active medium (gain medium which is the QD in our case) where population
inversion is created by a proper pumping mechanism. The spontaneously emitted photons
at some site in the medium stimulate emission at other sites as it travels through it.

• An energy pump source (electric power supply for QDLs)

• Two reflectors (rear mirror and output coupler) to reflect the light in phase (determined
by the length of the cavity) so that the light will be further amplified by the active
medium in each round-trip (multipass amplification). The output is partially transmitted
through a partially transmissive output coupler where the output exits as a laser beam (R
= 80% in the figure)

Figure 7 shows schematic view of the band structure of a typical quantum dot laser. An ideal QD
laser consists of a 3D-array of dots with equal size and shape (middle of the figure), surrounded
by a higher band-gap material which confines the injected carriers. The whole structure is
embedded in an optical waveguide consisting of lower and upper cladding layers (n-doped and p-
doped shields). [9]

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Figure 7— Schematic band structure of a quantum dot laser with self-organized dots under forward bias. A
3D array of dots vertically aligned along the growth direction, which is formed during the growth, of
multiple QD layers is illustrated schematically. Typically the dot area density in the (100)plane is 4×1010
cm−2 and the dot size distribution is around 10%. The distance between the dot layers is 5 nm and the real
dot density in the recombination volume with a thickness of 200 nm is 6×1015 cm−3 for three QD layers. [9]

Figure 8— Schematics of a laser cavity [15]

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Figure 9 – Scheme of double heterostructure semiconductor laser [15]

QD lasers are established by spontaneous formation of QDs at growth temperatures between 460
and 550°C. Fabrication method for such QDs is Stranski-Krastanov growth. The low growth
temperature and the low dot density can cause several problems concerning threshold and gain.
The cladding layer and the GaAs QD barrier typically grown at these lower temperatures are a
possible source for current leakage and non-radiative recombination. On the other hand, the QDs
exhibit some intermixing with the surrounding barrier material if temperatures of about 700°C are
used to grow high quality cladding layers. [16]

Figure 10 – Self-organized QDs [16]

The self-organization of nanoscale three-dimensional coherent strained islands following


Stranski-Krastanov growth mechanism is considered as the most promising way of in-situ QDs
fabrication. The ordered arrays so formed may result in distributed feedback and in stabilization
of single-mode lasing. In addition, intrinsically buried QDs spatially localize carriers and prevent

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them from recombining non-radiatively at resonator facets. Overheating of facets at high power
operation may thus be avoided. A real challenge lies in the optimization of growth parameters to
achieve a dense and uniform array of QDs, identical in size and shape. [9], [15], [16]

Figure 11– Schematic representation of different approaches to fabrication of nanostructures: Self-


organized growth of nanostructures [7]

Figure 12– Estimated shape of a self-assembled QD made of InGaAs.[17]

2.3. Required Characteristics for Quantum Dot Laser Applications

Quantum dot lasers utilize an oscillator strength that is condensed into a narrow energy width.
Because of that reason, the absolute energy level of the QDs should be the same. In other words,
the size, shape and alloy composition of QDs should be close to identical. Therefore, the
inhomogeneous broadening of QD luminescence is eliminated, and real concentration of the
electron energy states can be obtained. If a macroscopic physical parameter is desired, such as
light output in laser devices, the density (the number of interacting QDs) should be as high as
possible. [17]

The reduction of nonradiative centers in QDs is important for QDL applications. Nanostructures
made by high-energy beam patterning cannot be used damage is incurred from the beam around
the nanostructures. Since the surface-to-volume ratio of QDs is drastically increased compared to

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QWs, this type of damage around the surface of self-assembled QDs is critical for the
development of the QDL applications.

QDs are put into layered structures to create lasers. At this point, electrical control is very
important because an electric field applied to the structure can change certain physical properties
of QDs in a desirable way and carriers can be injected into the structure to create light emission.
[15], [17]

Figure 13– comparison of efficiency between a QWL and a QDL [15]

In order for QD lasers compete with QW lasers, two major issues have to be addressed:

• A large array of QDs has to be used because their active volume is very small. An array
of QDs with a narrow size distribution has to be produced to reduce in homogeneous
broadening. Furthermore, that array has to be without defects that degrade the optical
emission by providing alternate nonradiative defect channels.

• The phonon bottleneck created by confinement limits the number of states that are
efficiently coupled by phonons due to energy conversation. Therefore, it also limits the
relaxation of excited carriers into lasing states. This bottleneck causes degradation of
stimulated emission (Benisty et al., 1991). However, other mechanisms can be used to
suppress that bottleneck effect. (e.g. Auger interactions) [14], [15], [16]

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2.4. Different Types of Quantum Dot Lasers

2.4.1. High speed quantum dot lasers

There are several epitaxials were proposed to get the predicted advantages of QD lasers, among
them are: overgrowth of QDs with quantum well layers, stacking of quantum dots, close stacking
of quantum dots leading to the vertical coupling of quantum dot layers, p-doping of the GaAs
barrier layers, etc[18].

• Directly modulated quantum dot lasers:

Being the key point of the fiber-based datacom application, directly modulated quantum dot
lasers could convert electrical signals into digital optical signals at the rate of around 10Gb/s. The
modulation speed needs to be further improved, the power consumption should be reduced and
the temperature performance needs to be better.

Figure 14 – (online colour at: www.pss-a.com) BER measurement of QD laser module at 8 Gb/s and 10
Gb/s (a) and at 10 Gb/s for different temperatures (b), inset shows the corresponding eye patterns.[18]

• Mode-Locked quantum dot lasers

With the applications of Mode-Locked quantum dot lasers, several advantages could be received:
short optical pulses, narrow spectral width with a small footprint device. Besides, Mode-Locked
quantum dot lasers are able to provide a much broader gain spectrum (>50nm), longer cavities
(approximately 1cm) [19, 20], sub-ps width and a very low α factor [21] which leads to low chirp.

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Figure 15 – (online colour at: www.pss-a.com) Autocorrelation trace of a passively mode-locked quantum
dot laser at 1.3 µm and 80 GHz repetition rate. The side peaks correspond to the cross-correlation of two
successive pulses, while the middle peak presents the autocorrelation of a pulse (a). Field scan of
autocorrelation traces with colorcoded FWHM pulse widths of a 80 GHz passively mode-locked QD laser.
Three regimes of operation can be distinguished (b). [18]

• InP based quantum dot lasers

Compared with QW lasers, the emission wavelength of the InP based quantum dot lasers is much
lower (0.2nm/K compared to 0.55nm/K). This property could allow this kind of quantum dot
lasers operate within a much wider temperature range. Although there still exist some limitations
in speed due to the inhomogeneous linewidth broadening, the data transmission could still be
possibly over 10Gb/s for InP based quantum dot lasers [22].

Figure 16 – Small signal modulation response for a QDash DFB laser at four different pulsed (10 µs pulses
at a duty cycle of 2%) bias levels.[23]

2.5.2. High power quantum dot lasers

With several promising properties of the quantum dot materials, it is widely realized that quantum
dot lasers are able to get a good power performance. The advantages of quantum dot materials to
be suitable applied to high power application fields are: zero linewidth enhancement factor, the

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free geometric parameters of the quantum dots, e. g. quantum dots size, dots density and size
distribution could allow to get the gain without considering the material composition [22]. Extra
expensive cooling by Peltier elements is then not needed.

• QD lasers for coolerless pump sources.

The devices with these properties are recently developed based on the GaInAs/Ga(Al)As QD
layers emitting at 920nm. In this research, the size of the quantum dot is reduced by modifying
the growth parameter and In composition with a constant emission wavelength of the transition.
A power splitting of 65ev could be received at room temperature wavelength of 920nm [24] with
the size reduced quantum dot structures.

Figure 17 – (online color at: www.pss-b.com) PL spectra of dot layers with different dot sizes resulting in
different transition energy splittings between fundamental and first excited state transitions (a = 47 meV, b
= 56 meV, c = 65 meV) [22].

Figure 18 – (online color at: www.pss-b.com) Total output power and wall-plug efficiency of a quantum
dot high power laser with 1 mm cavity length and 100 µm broad contact stripes. The facets are cleaved
without coatings. Maximum cw output power of 3.02 W and a maximum wall-plug efficiency of 55% at 1.5
W are obtained [22].

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• Single mode tapered lasers

New device geometry is used to get a similar performance as multi-mode emitting devices. Such
kind of lasers enables the amplification of the single mode during the propagation. Compared
with quantum well lasers, the wavelength shift is smaller due to the better temperature
performance (temperature sensitivity).

Figure 19 – Emission spectra for 3 different temperatures of a single mode emitting QD tapered laser are
shown [24]

III. MARKET DEMAND AND NEW TECHNOLOGY


3.1. Market demand

Because of the approved advantages of Quantum Dots Lasers, such as low threshold current,
enhanced differential gain, lower chirp/high spectral purity, independent of the threshold current
on temperature and a decreased a factor, QDs Lasers were intensively researched all through the
previous decade. They are suitable to be used in optical applications, microwave or millimeter
wave transmission with optical fibers and other telecom and datacom networks. However, QD
lasers were commonly regarded as only a theoretical topic which is almost impossible to be
brought to the market. The early models were based on the assumptions:

• Only one confined electron level and hole level


• Infinite barriers
• Equilibrium carrier distribution
• Lattice matched heterostructures

The emerge of self-assembling growth technology which forms today the very basis of
optoelectronic devices such as edge emitting lasers, which has great potential for the future
applications, pushes quantum dot lasers to the boundary between theoretical field and commercial

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applications. Those updated QD based lasers employ fundamentally different models compared to
the original models:

• Lots of electron levels and hole levels


• Finite barriers
• Non-equilibrium carrier distribution
• Strained heterostructures [18]

The predictions of decreased α factor and wavelength chirp have already been proved on real
devices. In the lightwave applications, lasing in the 1.3um spectral range, using GaAs substrate,
both surface and edge emitters have been commercially produced at 6 inch diameter [25].

Nevertheless, as can be expected, due to the challenges listed below, the way of fulfill the QD
based lasers into commercial markets is not smooth.

• First, the lack of uniformity.


• Second, Quantum Dots density is insufficient.
• Third, the lack of good coupling between QD and QD.

Recently, a Tunnel Coupling Layer for Efficient Quantum Dot Lasers technology has been
published as a Commercial Opportunity Announcement. In order to enhance transportation of
electron-hole pairs among quantum dots, get more efficient quantum dot lasers and break the
limitation of the older QD technologies, a solution of coupling the sheet of uniform and dense
layer of quantum dots, via a thin barrier, to a quantum well (QW) layer. This technology has
been proved in the visible red wavelength. InAlGaP was used as the coupling barrier layers and
InGaP was used in quantum well layers [26].

[18] has stated that GaAs-based QD lasers will be a good choice for light wave communication
networks in terms of performance and expense.

Although difficulties were met on the way of realizing QD lasers, with those attractive properties,
Quantum Dot laser is still predicted to maintain a hot research field in a few years. Some
researchers are seeking some other ways to push their research toward.

3.2. Technology Trends

Although Professor Yasuhiko Arakawa of the University of Tokyo predicted that quantum dot
lasers do not rely on temperature, the theory is only valid for very low temperatures as room
temperature for a long time. Since quantum dot lasers are used in high speed applications such as
optical transmitters in metro excess optical systems and optical-LANs, a high speed quantum dot
lasers which can also operate under high temperatures without cooler are needed to be realized
[27].

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Figure 20 – Structure of the new quantum dot laser [27]

Figure 21 – Temperature dependence of light-current characteristics[10]

Figure 22 – Modulation waveform at 10 Gbps at 20°C and 70°C with no current adjustments [27]

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Figure 23 – Average optical output fluctuations with no current adjustments [27]

Using the 3-dimensional quantum dots in the emitting area, the new developed technology
successfully received high speed performance at the temperature exceeds room temperature
(10Gb/s at as high as 85[27]). The exciting property of temperature independence is achieved by
implementing multi-layering quantum dots into 10 layers, p-doping, increasing the layer density
(quantum dots density) and using a new structure could get optimized modulation at high speed
with low parasitic capacitance. With the results got from the new developed quantum dot lasers,
the applications of optical transmitters will be further simplified. The realization of such quantum
dot lasers in the future optical metro-access systems and high-speed optical LANs is exciting.

Until recent years, most of the QD laser studies were based on InAs/ GaAs system which operates
in the 1.3um window, Since the most commonly interesting telecom window is between 1.4um to
1.6um[28] which is the region InAs/ InP based on QD lasers operat in, the direction of QD lasers
research is beginning to change. However, the production of InAs/InP based QD laser is even
more difficult compared to that of InAs/ GaAs based laser in terms of the growth of isotropic
dots. Some progress has been demonstrated, but there still exist several challenges to be solved
before the new QD laser could be realized into the market.

The first problem is we need to get high gain without degrading the threshold current density. It is
required that the density of quantum dots is large enough and we must also be careful of the
stacking of QD layers. Similar as mentioned before, good coupling between the QD electronic
states and three-dimension electronic states is needed to achieve efficient electron transport.

The second challenge rises from the requirement of high T0 to get better temperature
performance (temperature insensitivity) especially in uncooled operations. Methods to deal with
this problem have been developed: epitaxial layers optimization, P-doping and tunnel injection.

The third problem needs to be solved is that in optical-fiber transmission, the lasers must have the
ability to operate at high bit rate without or with very low chirp [28].

Since they have really narrow mode-beating linewidth, the QD based lasers are quite suitable to
be used in clock-recovery applications. Because of this, the development of low-jitter pulses in
mode-locked lasers is a work should to be done. Fulfillment of this development will lead to
wider applications of the QD based lasers to high-repetition rate sources, microwave applications
and all-optical clock recovery.

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Two months ago, a group of researchers who were with Alcatel Thales III–V Laboratory, Route
D’ epartementale published their recent work on InAs/InP quantum dots in a barrier and dots in a
well (DWELL) heterostructures which operates at 1.5um. They demonstrated that, on InP (0 0 1),
for both dots in a barrier and dots in a well structures, short cavity length was achieve under CW
room-temperature operation. In contrary with the 1.3-um InAs/GaAs, the 1.5-um InAs/ InP based
lasers can operated on ground state for much shorter cavity length. In the paper, the group also
reported a high T0 achieved for both P-doping and optimized DWELL structures. For optimized
DWELL structures, T0 is higher than 100K for Broad Area (BA) lasers and 80K for single-
transverse mode lasers within the 25-84 temperature region without increasing the threshold
current. For the first time, this research group presented in realizing the buried ridge stripe (BRS)-
type single-mode distributed feedback (DFB) lasers, a 45 dB high side-mode suppression ration
(SMSR) is achieved. The first buried DFB DWELL which operates at 10Gb/s in the 1.55um
range strongly demonstrated the potential of the use of InAs/InP system in future applications
such as optical sources for telecommunication. Besides, the work they’ve done also includes the
demonstration of an surprisingly narrow linewidth. Compared to the QW lasers or bulk
counterparts, this merit will bring a very good phase noise and time-jitter characteristics under the
condition that the lasers are actively mode-locked [27].

Figure 24 – Schematic representation of QD-based active structures: Dashes inserted


directly in the barrier, or within an intermediate quantum well [27].

As can be seen from above, there are several drawbacks block off the way of InAs/GaAs based
QD lasers to the commercial market. Although the implementation of new substrate material (i. e.
InP ) instead of traditional GaAs has proved to be promising, there still exist some directions need
to be researched. Since the 3-D quantum structure needs to be enhanced by further refining the
manipulation on the nanostructure shape. Second, due to the disfigurement of the current QD
lasers heterostructures, refinement should be implemented on the structures to get efficient carrier
transportation leads to much better dynamic performance. Third, the noise is also an issue which
needs to be solved. Quantum Dot based mode-locked lasers can still be further researched to
broaden their applications in both optical fiber communications and millimeter-wave generations
by their good performance on phase noise and time-jitter characteristics.

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IV. FUTURE
The advantages of quantum dot based lasers compared to other conventional technologies have
been realized for several years. Especially the free geometric parameters of quantum dot layers
give probabilities to tailor the spectral gain profile applied to different types of QD lasers
applications. [23]

Nevertheless, due to the intrinsic limitation of technologies, to realize quantum dot lasers with
predicted properties met several difficulties. The requirement of further widening the parameters
range in order to reducing the inhomogeneous linewidth broadening (we need homogeneous
linewidth) is one of the aspects of developing quantum dot lasers. Using surface preparation
technologies, lots of groups are working on the issue of further controlling the position and dot
size for the self-organized technology. Once the developed methods can be implemented in the
high density systems, the new technology will become the breakthrough in the history of quantum
dot lasers development.

Since the speed of carrier capture extremely increase the transport time and affects the
modulation bandwidth, it is required to decouple the carrier capture from the escape procedure.
Employing tunnel injections to quantum dots is a choice. Allowing the injection of cooled
carriers, this method is able to achieve good performance without loosing the extra carriers which
often happens before due to the thermal relaxation. With the experiment done by comparing the
QW lasers and QD lasers in term of raised gain at the fundamental transition energy with the
constant broad band characteristics of quantum dot lasers, it is concluded the combination use of
quantum dot and quantum well would tailor the material properties in a much wider range than
using quantum dots or quantum wells alone [24], [34].

With the employment of further control of parameters and better coupling technology and the
breakthroughs which are already done, realizing quantum dot lasers as well as other quantum dot
optoelectronic devices in commercial market is not so far away.

V. CONCLUSION
During the previous decade, there was an intensive interest on the development of quantum dot
lasers. The unique properties of quantum dots allow QD lasers obtain several excellent properties
and performances compared to traditional lasers and even QW lasers. Although bottlenecks block
the way of realizing quantum dot lasers to commercial markets, breakthroughs in the aspects of
material and other properties will still keep the research area active in a few years. According to
the market demand and higher requirements of applications, future research directions are figured
out and needed to be realized soon.

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ECE 580 – Term Project Quantum Dot Lasers

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