European project targets a complete supply chain for silicon photonics

Paul Boughton

Includes 15 leading R&D institutes and CMOS companies, research organisations in design and packaging and end users. Nick Flaherty reports.

A four-year project is aiming to build a complete European-based supply chain in silicon photonics to speed up the industrialisation of the technology, particularly in the connectivity of optical systems.

The PLAT4M (Photonic Libraries And Technology for Manufacturing) project will focus on bringing the existing silicon photonics research platform to a level that enables seamless transition to industry, suitable for different application fields and levels of production volume.

The E10.2m project includes 15 leading European R&D institutes and CMOS companies, key industrial and research organisations in design and packaging, as well as end users in different application fields to build the complete supply chain. It is coordinated by French research lab CEA-Leti and will use technology platforms from Leti, imec in Belgium and chip maker STMicroelectronics, supported by a unified design environment.[Page Break]

“Silicon with its mature integration platform has brought electronic circuits to mass-market applications – our vision is that silicon photonics will follow this evolution,” said Laurent Fulbert, Integrated Photonics Program Manager at CEA-Leti, coordinator of PLAT4M. “Upgrading existing platforms to become compatible with industrialisation is now essential and this requires streamlining and stabilizing the design and process flows by taking into account design robustness, process variability and integration constraints. The PLAT4M partners bring a critical combination of expertise to the challenge of building a complete supply chain for commercializing silicon photonics in Europe.”[Page Break]

A surge in output of silicon photonics research in recent years has significantly boosted the potential for commercial exploitation of the technology.

However, most of this R&D has been devoted to developing elementary building blocks, rather than fabricating complete photonic integrated circuits, which are needed to support large potential markets.

The PLAT4M consortium will make technologies and tools mature by building a coherent design flow, demonstrating manufacturability of elementary devices and process integration and developing a packaging toolkit. The project will validate the complete supply chain for a range of applications such as telecom and datacom, gas sensing and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and vibrometry. It also will focus on preparing the next-generation platform by setting up a roadmap for performance evolution and assessing scalability to high-volume production.

For building a complete design flow, Mentor Graphics, PhoeniX BV and Si2 are world leaders in EDA tools and will work together to develop a common reference platform. End-users like Polytec, Thales Research & Technology and NXP will drive the demonstrators development and assess the use of silicon photonics in their applications fields.