For the first time we investigate the optical degradation of vertical-cavity silicon-integrated lasers VCSILs) designed for operation at 845 nm in photonic integrated circuits (PICs). The study is based on the combined electro-optical characterization of VCSIL, submitted to constant-current stress tests at different current levels. The original results obtained within the manuscript indicate that degradation is related to the diffusion of impurities. Remarkably, depending on the region through which these impurities are migrating, the diffusion process affects device characteristics in different ways. During Phase 1 (Ph1), compensating impurities originating from the metal-semiconductor contact cross the top DBR, thus degrading mirror reflectivity, which is rarely observed in the literature, and leading to an increase in the threshold current of the device. As the impurities start reaching the active region we observe the onset of Phase 2 (Ph2), during which both threshold current and sub-threshold slope worsen, due to the increase of the Shockley-Read-Hall recombination rate. This phase is also characterized by a measurable increase in series resistance, which is ascribed to a change in the resistance of the oxide aperture. The identification of the root cause of physical degradation represents a fundamental step for future lifetime improvement of these novel optical sources, which are set to replace conventional solid-state sources in the 0.85 μm communication window.
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