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The making of integrated optics

A US initiative is bringing together leading companies with top academics and universities to create a manufacturing infrastructure for the widespread adoption of integrated photonics.

The US sees integrated photonics as a strategic technology and has set up the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics - AIM Photonics - to advance the technology and make it available to a wider community of companies. AIM Photonics, with $610 million of public and private funding, is a five-year initiative ending in 2020. AIM’s long-term goal is to be self-sustaining.


Doug Coolbaugh

“Right now the infrastructure is focussed on electronics and CMOS but photonics is going to be the future,” says Doug Coolbaugh, chief operations officer at AIM Photonics. “There is no other way to do it [very high bandwidth] except using light for ultra fast communications.”

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Silicon Photonics: Fueling the Next Information Revolution

New book to be published in December 2016

Silicon Photonics: Fueling the Next Information Revolution is the title of the book Daryl Inniss and I have just completed.

We started writing the book at the end of 2014. We felt the timing was right for a silicon photonics synthesis book that assesses the significant changes taking place in the datacom, telecom, and semiconductor industries, and explains the market opportunities that will result and the role silicon photonics will play.

Silicon photonics is coming to market at a time of momentous change. Internet content providers are driving new requirements as they scale their data centres. The chip industry is grappling with the end of Moore’s law. And the telecom community faces its own challenges as the bandwidth-carrying capacity of fiber starts to be approached.

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600-gigabit channels on a fibre by 2017

NeoPhotonics has announced an integrated coherent receiver that will enable 600-gigabit optical transmission using a single wavelength. A transmission capacity of 48 terabits over the fibre’s C-band is then possible using 80 such channels.

NeoPhotonics’ micro integrated coherent receiver operates at 64 gigabaud per second (Gbps), twice the symbol rate of deployed 100-gigabit optical transport systems and was detailed at the recent ECOC show.

Current 100Gbps coherent systems use polarisation-multiplexing, quadrature phase-shift keying (PM-QPSK) modulation operate at 32 gigabaud per second. “That is how you get four bits [per symbol],” says Ferris Lipscomb, vice president of marketing at NeoPhotonics.

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Ranovus shows 200 gigabit direct detection at ECOC

Ranovus has announced it first direct-detection optical products for applications including data centre interconnect.

Saeid AramidehThe start-up has announced two products to coincide with this week’s ECOC show being held in Dusseldorf, Germany.

One product is a 200 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) dense wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) CFP2 pluggable optical module that spans distances up to 130km. Ranovus will also sell the 200Gbps transmitter and receiver optical engines that can be integrated by vendors onto a host line card. 

The dense WDM direct-detection solution from Ranovus is being positioned as a cheaper, lower-power alternative to coherent optics used for high-capacity metro and long-haul optical transport. Using such technology, service providers can link their data centre buildings distributed across a metro area. 

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Former Compass Networks staff look to silicon photonics 

The Compass Networks team that designed a novel chip with optical input-output is exploring new opportunities now that the IP core router venture has closed it doors. 

The team plans to develop chips using silicon photonics for input-output and is involved in a European Commission (EC) Horizon 2020 project dubbed L3Matrix that will make such a chip for the data centre. 


Kobi HasharoniCompass Network was the first company to sell a commercial product - an IP core router - that used an ASIC co-packaged with optics. The IP router was sold to several leading service providers including NTT Communications and Comcast but the venture ultimately failed.

Compass Networks has now become a software company, while its chip R&D team decided to spin off to keep the co-packaged IC and photonics technology alive. 

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Heterogeneous integration comes of age

Silicon photonics luminaries series

Interview 7: Professor John Bowers


August has been a notable month for John Bowers.

Juniper Networks announced its intention to acquire Aurrion, the US silicon photonics start-up that Bowers co-founded with Alexander Fang. And Intel, a company Bowers worked with on a hybrid integration laser-bonding technique, unveiled its first 100-gigabit silicon photonics transceivers.


Professor John BowersBower, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), first started working in photonics in 1981 while at AT&T Bell Labs.

When he became interested in silicon photonics, it still lacked a good modulator and laser. "If you don't have a laser and a modulator, or a directly modulated laser, it is not a very interesting chip,” says Bowers. "So I started thinking how to do that."

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Intel's 100-gigabit silicon photonics move

Intel has unveiled two 100-gigabit optical modules for the data centre made using silicon photonics technology.


Alexis Bjorlin

The PSM4 and CWDM4/CLR4 100-gigabit modules mark the first commercial application of a hybrid integration technique for silicon photonics, dubbed heterogeneous integration, that Intel has been developing for years.

Intel's 100-gigabit module announcement follows the news that Juniper Networks has entered into an agreement to acquire start-up, Aurrion, for $165 million. Aurrion is another silicon photonics player developing this hybrid integration technology for its products. 

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