A vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) is a semiconductor-based laser diode that emits a highly efficient optical beam vertically from its top surface. Other common semiconductor optical sources include Edge Emitting Lasers (EEL) that emit light from the side and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) that emit light from the top and sides.
Because VCSELs emit light perpendicular to the surface of the laser, tens of thousands of VCSELs can be processed on a single 3” wafer. VCSELs can also be tested at various stages of the manufacturing process while in wafer form, resulting in a more controlled and predictable yield with lower fabrication costs compared to other laser technologies.
In addition, VCSELs can be implemented in a two-dimensional array, enabling a single die to comprise hundreds of individual light sources to increase maximum output power and long-term reliability. This array can be customized to scale power output to optimally match application requirements using only a single optical driver and drive current.
Given their electro-optical characteristics and ability to modulate at frequencies up to and exceeding 25 Gbps, VCSELs are ideal for high-speed communications and precision sensing applications. They also provide reliable operation at distances ranging from very close proximity links (i.e., centimeters) up to 500 m in data center, enterprise, and campus networks.
VCSEL technology has been established and matured within the datacomm industry, serving in data infrastructure links for more than 15 years. From this established foundation, VCSELs are emerging as an enabling technology across a wide range of applications, including touchless sensing, chip-to-chip interconnect, and gesture recognition.