Caren B. Les, email@example.com
A number of European research and development project consortia have
clustered to facilitate the transfer of silicon photonics technology from the research
stage to industrial development.
The 10 projects – called Boom, Historic, Helios, InTopSens,
PhotonFab, Platon, Sofi, UK Silicon Photonics, Wadimos and Sabio – are funded
by more than $36 million in investments by the European Union and European countries.
The teams consist of about 70 partners in total, about one-third of which are companies;
the remaining partners are research institutes and academic research groups.
“The commitment of industrial players is one of the key
challenges for the cluster,” said Laurent Fulbert, photonics program manager
of the Grenoble, France-based Electronics and Information Technology Laboratory
of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA-Leti). “If Europe is among the
leaders in R&D in the field of silicon photonics with excellent universities
and research institutes, only a few industrial companies are active. Raising awareness
of the potential of silicon photonics among chip foundries, end users, startups
and other companies is one of the primary objectives of the cluster.”
European silicon photonics research and development consortia have formed a cluster organization.
Pictured is an eight-channel arrayed waveguide grating with eight germanium photodiodes
bonded on a CMOS circuit. Courtesy of CEA-Leti.
Overall, the cluster’s projects aim to introduce silicon
photonics in innovative products. The new cluster also intends to organize common
events such as workshops, symposia and training sessions that involve the dissemination
of information on development in the field, Fulbert said. Each project has its own
work plan, but some partners are common to several projects to facilitate “cross
fertilization.” The cluster also will work to publicize the results of the
projects to the broader industry and public, and to train young scientists, engineers
and researchers in the field.
Silicon photonics uses CMOS techniques to integrate optics technology
onto microchips. Because silicon is used as a substrate for most integrated circuits,
it is possible to fabricate devices that integrate optical and electronic components
on a single microchip. This in turn could lower the cost, size and power consumption
compared to existing photonics technologies while improving device performance,
according to CEA-Leti.
The group is pictured during the launch meeting of the European Silicon
Photonics Cluster. Courtesy of CEA-Leti.
There is a consensus among the project members that maintaining
photonic chip design and chip integration functions in Europe will improve the region’s
competitive edge in this field in the global marketplace.
“The creation of the cluster has been launched by the project
Helios, which is coordinated by us,” Fulbert said. “Helios is by far
the biggest project in the cluster, and this is why we act as the contact point
for it.” Both CEA-Leti and Imec Interuniversity Micro-Electronics Center,
an independent organization based in Leuven, Belgium, with a staff of more than
1750 people, play an important role in the cluster because they are members of most
of the projects. Both institutes have microelectronics facilities that are used
extensively for the fabrication of silicon photonics circuits.
Helios (pHotonics ELectronics functional Integration on CMOS)
is a consortium of 19 partners that aims to combine a photonic layer with a CMOS
circuit using microelectronic fabrication processes. Launched in 2008, the four-year
project is intended to drive European research and technology development in the
field and lead the way for industrial development. CEA-Leti, the project leader,
develops the technical building blocks – sources, modulators and detectors
as well as process integrators and the fabrication of demonstrators. Helios has
recently announced an online course on silicon photonics.
The PhotonFab project, of which Imec and CEA-Leti are partners,
is a Support Action in the European Union’s Seventh Research Framework Programme
FP7 that aims to lower the barriers for R&D on silicon photonic integrated circuits
by enhancing the platform ePIXfab. The latter program organizes wafer-scale fabrication
of the circuits for research and prototyping. PhotonFab’s objective is to
lower the cost, effort, learning curve and risk for those involved with prototyping
Coordinated by Imec, the three-year Wadimos (Wavelength Division
Multiplexed Photonic Layer on CMOS) project began in January 2008 and includes partners
from industry as well as research institutes and universities. The goal of the undertaking
is to build a photonic interconnect layer incorporating multichannel microsources,
microdetectors and various-wavelength routing functions directly integrated with
electronic driver circuits, and to demonstrate the technology’s application.
The Historic (Heterogeneous InP on Silicon Technology for Optical
Routing and LogIC) project aims to develop digital photonic integrated circuits
that contain combined active and passive photonic elements for use in areas such
as all-optical packet switching for datacom and telecom applications. Imec is the
prime contractor for the three-year plan, which began in 2008. It includes partners
from industry, research and academia.
A European Commission FP7-ICT project for information and communications
technology, the Boom consortium intends to advance silicon-on-insulator integration
technology to develop compact, cost-effective and energy-efficient silicon photonic
components that enable terabit-per-second (Tb/s)-capacity systems for high-speed
broadband core networks. It specializes in terabit-on-chip technology: micro- and
nanoscale silicon photonic integrated components and subsystems that enable Tb/s-capacity
fully integrated photonic routers. Launched in May 2008, the project is coordinated
by The Institute of Communication and Computer Systems/National Technical University
of Athens in Greece, which participates in Boom with the Photonics Communications
Research Laboratory at the university.
“Plasmonics ‘in-the-box’” is the tag-line
for Platon, a three-year European Commission FP7-ICT project that was launched in
January 2010. The goal of the program is to develop an integrated on-chip Tb/s optical
router for backplane or blade server interconnects, employing plasmonics for switching
functions and silicon photonics for filtering, multiplexing and header detection
processes. Coordinating the consortium is the Center for Research and Technology
Hellas/Informatics and Telematics Institute in Greece. Its technical role includes
modeling and design of nanophotonics (plasmonics and silicon-based).
The team project Sofi (Silicon-Organic hybrid Fabrication platform
for Integrated circuits), coordinated by professor Jürg Leuthold of the Institute
of Photonics and Quantum Electronics at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany,
introduces active optical waveguides and integrated optoelectronic circuits based
on a novel silicon-organic hybrid technology. Based on the CMOS process for fabrication
of the waveguides, the technology enables the convergence of electronics with optics.
A two-year project, Sofi was launched in January 2010.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
and launched in 2008, UK Silicon Photonics is a five-year project that encompasses
the expertise of several UK universities and an industrial firm. It is targeting
interconnect applications as well as generic device functions such as the interfacing
of optical signals within submicron waveguides.
InTopSens (a highly INTegrated OPtical SENSor), a project for
point-of-care label-free identification of pathogenic bacteria strains and their
resistance, was launched in 2008. The three-year project draws from the fields of
photonic structures, electronics, fluidics and biochemistry to develop a cost-effective
sensor technology that can rapidly diagnose sepsis, a life-threatening bacterial
infection of the blood. To meet its objective, the seven-partner consortium is working
to demonstrate a compact polymer- and silicon-based CMOS-compatible photonic sensor.
The InTopSens coordinator is Daniel Hill at KTH – the Royal Institute of Technology
in Stockholm, Sweden.
Another biomedical enterprise is the now completed multidisciplinary
project Sabio (Ultrahigh Sensitivity Slot-Waveguide Biosensor on a Highly Integrated
Chip for Simultaneous Diagnosis of Multiple Diseases), which draws on the fields
of micronanotechnology, photonics, fluidics and biochemistry for the development
of intelligent medical diagnostic equipment. The goal of the project was to develop
a rapid diagnostic tool that can be used outside of the laboratory. Coordinated
by the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain, the program encompassed partners
from industry and academia.