SiGe BiCMOS optical receiver achieves data rate of 200 Gbps

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Researchers from IDLab, an imec research group at Ghent University, have presented an optical receiver capable of achieving a gross data rate of 200 Gbps.

Their approach, which was described at the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) which is taking place in Glasgow, combines a SiGe BiCMOS traveling-wave electronics integrated circuit and a Silicon Photonics Germanium photodetector, which offers not only speed but also scalability, two prerequisites in addressing exploding data-rate needs.

Whether artificial intelligence or cloud computing and 5G, data-intensive applications are finding their way into different industries and many aspects of our daily lives.

In order to keep up with rapidly growing data-processing demands, data centres will need optical communication networks that perform at higher and higher speeds.

“Currently, the most performant optical datacom transceivers operate at speeds up to 800 Gbps, using for example 8 x 100 Gbps channels, but the field is envisioning doubling the channel capacity to 200 Gbps to reduce the transceiver complexity, cost and power consumption while improving manufacturing yield,” said Peter Ossieur, programme manager for high-speed transceivers at imec’s IDLab and professor at Ghent University.

Ossieur is leading a team of researchers working towards high-speed integrated circuits for photonics applications. His team has now achieved a gross data rate of 200 Gbps by co-integrating a traveling-wave SiGe BiCMOS transimpedance amplifier with a silicon photonics Ge photodetector.

Aside from the speed, the use of mainstream SiGe BiCMOS makes the technology more scalable and therefore affordable.

“An alternative to reach such speeds are InP electronics, which is a more expensive and less scalable technology,” said Ossieur. “SiGe BiCMOS allows us to integrate more functionalities and the chips can also be manufactured at higher volumes.”

If optical transceivers are to keep up with exploding data rates, all building blocks need to handle higher speeds. The team have been able to demonstrate their result in a setup with a silicon photonics Ge photodetector from imec’s integrated silicon photonics platform (iSiPP), targeted to the telecom, datacom and medical diagnostics industries.

Joris Van Campenhout, fellow and programme director optical I/O at imec, said the new optical receiver represents one of the many steps imec is taking to ready its silicon photonics platforms for demanding 200Gbps-and-beyond applications:

“These latest results represent one more data point showcasing the capability of imec’s silicon photonics platform (iSiPP) to operate at lane rates of 200Gbps, a key requirement for upcoming pluggable and co-packaged optics.”

The work has received support through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 projects POETICS (No 871769) and NEBULA (No 871658).