Europe Launches Lithium Niobate Photonics Initiative

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The ELENA project (“European electro-optic and nonlinear PIC platform based on lithium niobate”), a part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, held its kickoff meeting Feb. 10 and 11. ELENA seeks to develop what it said will be the first European lithium niobate on insulator (LNOI)-based platform for photonic integrated circuits (PICs) using an all-European supply chain.

Compared to existing PIC platforms used in Europe and to other photonic materials such as silicon, silicon nitride, and indium phosphide, LNOI offers enhanced performance and new functionalities as an electro-optic and nonlinear PCI platform for ultrahigh speed telecom networks, optical signal processing, programmable PICs, sensing and spectroscopy, lidar applications, quantum information processing, and quantum computing, a press release announcing the project’s kickoff stated.

The release also cited LNOI’s optical property advantages  — namely its high electro-optic coefficient, high intrinsic second- and third-order nonlinearities, and a large transparency window of 350 to 5500 nm.

The project aims to pave the way for the first open-access PIC foundry for LNOI technology based on a process design kit (PDK) library; the platform will be open to all stakeholders. ELENA also plans to develop a fully European industrial supply chain for LNOI technology, including LNOI wafer manufacturing, a high-yield fabrication process for foundry service, a design software to incorporate the PDK, and packaging of LNOI PICs.

LNOI Chips, such as the one shown, are the focus of a recently-launched European initiative that aims to develop a LNOI supply chain and multiple processes for the material. Courtesy of VPI photonics GmbH

LNOI chips are the focus of a recently launched European initiative that aims to develop a LNOI supply chain and multiple processes for the material. Courtesy of VPIphotonics GmbH. 
ELENA will specifically establish a process to produce 150-mm optical-grade LNOI wafers on an industrial scale, develop a reliable and flexible packaging solution to interface LNOI chips with optical fibers and other PIC platforms, and demonstrate the technology and validate results by developing four PIC prototypes designed for different use cases: telecom, quantum technologies, and microwave photonics.

The project duration is 42 months, Jan. 1, 2022, to June 30, 2025. Coordinated by the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), it comprises three research institutes, four industrial companies, and three SMEs.

The partners are CSEM, Switzerland; SOITEC SA, France; VPIphotonics GmbH, Germany; Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Switzerland; Vanguard Automation GmbH, Germany; THALES SA, France; III-V LAB, France; Rosenberger Hochfrequenztechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Germany; L-up SAS, France; and CEA-LETI, France.

Published: February 2022
lithium niobate
A crystalline ferroelectric material used primarily as a substrate and an active medium for thin-film optical modulators and switches. It possesses very high electro-optic and piezoelectric coefficients. LiNbO3.
1. A localized fracture at the end of a cleaved optical fiber or on a glass surface. 2. An integrated circuit.
Businesssemiconductorslithium niobatephotonic integrated circuitsPICchipon insulatorHorizon 2020EuropeEuropean UnionEuropean CommissionElenalithium niobate on insulatorconsortiumIndustry News

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