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A focus on photonic integrated circuits Photo courtesy of Tu Eindhoven

Photonics continues to be a key driver for growth, with photonics-based products permeating all aspects of our daily lives from everyday connectivity to household sensors.  As the number of photonic devices explodes, the industry is transitioning from discrete components to integrated components known as photonic Integrated circuits (PIC).  

Designing PICs leverages existing semiconductor processing infrastructure, providing gains in reliability, scalability, performance and power.  However, for many companies, large and small, design and fabrication of PICs is not a straightforward path because of initial cost consideration and wide range of material systems to choose from such as InP, Silicon, or TriPleX.

An integrated 4 x 4 photonic switch

A PIC workshop took place at OFC 2014 last month in San Francisco, California (US), which provided practical information regarding the design considerations, material choices, and manufacturing processes needed to create PICs.  Special attention was given to Multi Project Wafers (MPW) in combination with Process Design Kits; since these have proven to significantly lower the cost and barrier to entry for PICs. The workshop was organized by 7Pennies and Si2, supported by OSA, and endorsed by the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC).

The workshop was well attended with registration exceeding 200 individuals representing more than 50 institutions from large manufacturers to startups.  The workshop was organized for maximum networking and a lot of time was made available for the attendees to interact with the speakers.  The premise that there is a general need for suppliers providing PIC services was well enforced by the number of attendees staying late into the evening in San Francisco.

The workshop brought together many MPW brokering organizations along with EDA tools, photonic design tools, and design services.  It provided the audience with a good overall picture of the state-of-art in PICs as well as how one can take advantage of the existing supply chain to reduce development cost and time. 

Dr. Meint Smit of TU Eindhoven, a well-known pioneer in PICs, provided the keynote address.  His presentation pointed out that the photonics market is expected to be at 615B Euros in 2020, roughly doubling from 350B Euros in 2011 and that photonics in now permeating all industries and applications.

The workshop then moved to presentation by suppliers.  Fabrication service providers, ePIXfab, OpSIS, JePPIX and LioniX presented first set of talks, representing institutions such as Imec, IME, IHP, LETI, VTT, Fraunhofer, Oclaro, Smart Photonics and others.  Presentations from software tools providers, PhoeniX, Mentor, and Si2 followed.  The session was concluded with presentation from design service providers, VLC Photonics, and Bright Photonics

Past and present users of MPW services provided presentations on their experiences. The users who shared their experiences, Huawei, Technobis Fiber Technologies, Morton Photonics, and TeraXion, represented communication, sensor and defense industries. One of the conclusions was that existing infrastructure provides key products and services but there is more room for additional services such as packaging.  The presentation material can be found at Si2.

Written by, Alka Swanson, Principal Consultant at 7 Pennies.

Labels: photonic integrated circuit,PIC,OFC

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