Look & Outlook at Silicon Photonics

(From our « Scientific & Technical Highlights », ed. 2020)

By Christophe Kopp (CEA-Leti) Director of the Photonics on Si Nanoelec Program

Silicon photonics is a key technology to support the growth of the Internet network, by ensuring increasingly dense and rapid digital data transfers over optical fiber. The Internet now connects billions of users, but also tens
of billions of connected and interactive systems and objects in real time. Today, the optical transceivers sector in the datacoms field represents the largest share of the market for this technology. Supply chains have been set
up from suppliers of substrates, design companies, silicon foundries, equipment, to operators.
Beyond datacoms, new applications are emerging to exploit silicon photonics technology.
This is particularly true in the field of optical sensors for automotive and transportation, industrial and medical applications, urban planning and environment and, of course, for general public activities. While the advantages of optical sensors are well known (selectivity, speed, precision etc.), silicon photonics enables them to be radically miniaturized to
allow widespread deployment. Indeed, silicon photonics makes it possible to integrate thousands of optical functions on the same chip, thus reducing the cost of the final system (simplified assembly, reduced electrical consumption, and decreased size/weight of products).

In this new context, light can be used for three very different functions, such as scanning a scene by an embedded Lidar, converting a detection signal with a miniature optical gyroscope, or analyzing data with a neuromorphic processor. Thus, following requests by our industrial partners, we are supporting the emergence of these applications by developing our silicon photonics technology. Our technology today benefits from major technological assets such as ultra low-loss silicon guides, superimposed level of silicon nitride guides and laser integration. In addition, it also offers a whole library of mature components and a design environment capable of managing these new complex circuits.

Dowload the full document « Scientific & Technical Highlights @ Nanoelec », ed. 2020)