Technology

About Silicon Photonics…

Silicon is transparent to infrared light with wavelengths above 1100nm. Using clever methods light with these wavelengths can be guided through Silicon to and from structures that perform optical functions. Examples of these functions include filters, modulators, multiplexers and detectors. Light can also be efficiently coupled into fiber either vertically using diffractive gratings or horizontally using mode expanders. These building blocks can be combined to create optical chips in Silicon for many applications such as (bio)sensors, analyzers, transceivers for fiber optical networks, computer and video cables and eventually computer chips.

Silicon Photonics transceivers…

Traditionally transceivers are built with optical subassemblies containing multiple components made of materials that are often expensive to purchase and challenging to process. Also these components need to be individually packaged and then repackaged into a hermetically sealed optical assembly.
In Silicon Photonics this optical subassembly is replaced by a single Silicon optical chip. On this chip all components of a traditional subassembly are replaced by structures in silicon. This chip can then be fabricated using CMOS processes just like an electronic chip.

Fabrication of Silicon Photonics chips…

The sub-micron precision of standard microelectronic CMOS processes allow for silicon photonics components to integrate a variety of optical functions in a very small chip that consumes far less power than traditional optical components. Decades of experience making (electronic) chips from silicon as well as a large installed base of (silicon) semiconductor manufacturing capacity can be leveraged to build highly integrated low-cost optical components for a variety of applications. 

Benefits of Silicon Photonics transceivers…

The high density of optical functions in a Silicon Photonics chip allows for huge miniaturization, and makes it possible to develop transceivers that enable higher port density in optical networking equipment and consume less power than traditional transceivers. Reducing power consumption and floor space in the datacenters, these transceivers address two of the most important operational costs of rolling out fiber optical networks. 

After a decade of research, Silicon photonics has now matured into a disruptive technology with the potential to radically change the component supply-side for tele- and datacommunication markets.