Communication traffic grows relentlessly in today's networks, and with ever more machines connected to the network, this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future. It is widely accepted that increasingly faster communications are required at the point of the end users, and consequently optical transmission plays a progressively greater role even in short-and medium-reach networks. Silicon photonic technologies are becoming increasingly attractive for such networks, due to their potential for low cost, energetically efficient, high-speed optical components. A representative example is the silicon-based optical modulator, which has been actively studied. Researchers have demonstrated silicon modulators in different types of structures, such as ring resonators or slow light based devices. These approaches have shown remarkably good performance in terms of modulation efficiency, however their operation could be severely affected by temperature drifts or fabrication errors. Mach-Zehnder modulators (MZM), on the other hand, show good performance and resilience to different environmental conditions. In this paper we present a CMOS-compatible compact silicon MZM. We study the application of the modulator to short-reach interconnects by realizing data modulation using some relevant advanced modulation formats, such as 4-level Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM-4) and Discrete Multi-Tone (DMT) modulation and compare the performance of the different systems in transmission.
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