The process is intended to look at addressing optical connectivity in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and disaggregated computing (datacentre) markets. According to the market research firm Yole, the silicon photonics transceivers market for datacentres is expected to be worth of $3.5bn by 2025.
The new foundry process will build upon Tower’s PH18 production silicon photonics platform and add Quintessent’s III-V quantum dot-based lasers and optical amplifiers to enable a complete suite of active and passive silicon photonic elements. The new capability will be an industry first in demonstrating integrated optical gain in a standard foundry silicon photonics process. The initial process development kit (PDK) is planned in 2021, with multi-project wafer runs (MPWs) following in 2022.
“Quintessent and Tower are re-defining the frontiers of integrated silicon photonics under this effort,” said Dr. John Bowers, UCSB Professor and Quintessent Co-Founder. “I’m very excited by the prospects for a new class of high-performance lasers and photonic integrated circuits on silicon, leveraging the unique advantages of quantum dot materials.”
The co-integration of lasers and amplifiers with silicon photonics at the circuit element level will improve overall power efficiency, eliminate traditional design constraints such as on-chip loss budgets, simplify packaging, and make possible new product architectures and functionalities.
For example, a silicon photonic transceiver or sensor product with integrated lasers will be capable of complete self-test at the chip or wafer level. These advantages are further enhanced by employing semiconductor quantum-dots as the active optical gain media, which enables devices with greater reliability, lower noise, and the ability to operate efficiently at higher temperatures.
The augmented PH18 process is part of DARPA’s Lasers for Universal Microscale Optical Systems (LUMOS) program, which aims to bring high-performance lasers to advanced photonics platforms, addressing commercial and defense applications.