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  • A Map to the Future

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2005
Anne L. Fischer

The photonics industry needs some way to bring everything together, according to Lionel C. Kimerling, director of the Microphotonics Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The Communications Technology Roadmap (CTR) program, commissioned by the Microphotonics Center Industry Consortium, spent four years looking at the state of the photonic component industry, the role of emerging markets, the time line for growth and the key technology platforms most likely to provide the building blocks for the future. The center released a report summarizing the road map at its fourth annual industry consortium meeting.

A Map to the FutureThe program involved researchers from engineering departments and MIT's Sloan School of Management as well as members of the Microphotonics Industry Consortium. With the use of analytical mapping and predictive modeling tools, they found that the component industry had shifted from telecommunications to information processing, including computing and imaging.

The program members determined that the skill set needed to facilitate this shift is not available at any one institution right now, and that, to build it, standards must be established. Kimerling indicated that the Microphotonics Center is perfectly positioned to provide whatever research support companies need as they move toward the integration that is vital to the future of the industry.

The report, titled "Microphotonics: Hardware for the Information Age," is divided into sections on transceivers, silicon optoelectronics, III-V materials and organic materials. A concluding chapter reviews the importance of customization, planar integration, electronic-photonic convergence, and the importance of circuit simulation and wafer-level test platforms. In summary, the report suggests that the following are goals for the next 10 years: to create a standard platform and a common manufacturing infrastructure, to leverage industrywide R&D to reduce development time, and to establish a common architecture platform across market sectors.

The road map recommended the formation of a precompetitive R&D consortium to help guide the photonics industry into the future. In response, the CTR program formed the Leadership Council comprising industry experts and MIT faculty. The Microphotonics Center also will continue to support road map research (six theses have been sponsored by the CTR) and to work with industry sponsors on a microphotonics platform for communications, computing and imaging.

The recent launch of the Center for Integrated Photonics Systems at MIT is evidence of the interest and enthusiasm surrounding photonics on campus. The center held its first annual meeting on May 19-20, which included speakers and attendees from industry, academe and government. The CTR program and the new center will undoubtedly complement each other, as many of the same faculty members are involved in both organizations, Kimerling said.

For more information on the CTR, visit its Web site at Information on the new center can be found at

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