GoPhotonics interviewed Vivek Rajgarhia, the President & General Manager of POET Technologies. Prior to Joining POET in late 2019, Vivek Rajgarhia was Senior Vice President & General Manager of the Lightwave Business Unit of MACOM. Vivek has held several senior management positions during his 30 years in the optical communications industry.
Q. Can you give us a brief history of POET Technologies?
Vivek Rajgarhia: The Company was originally formed via a reverse merger with a mining company in Canada and became OPEL International in 2006, changing its name to POET Technologies (POET) in 2013.
The most recent version of the company began in 2015, with the recruitment of Suresh Venkatesan who was CTO of Global Foundries. He joined POET as CEO to validate a GaAs-based VCSEL technology that had been developed in a lab at UCONN. In 2017, POET opted to halt that project in favor of its current primary invention, known as the POET Optical Interposer.
Based on the POET Optical Interposer, the Company’s objective is to become the global leader in chip-scale integrated photonics solutions across a wide range of vertical market applications.
Q. Can you tell us about POET Optical Interposer Technology?
Vivek Rajgarhia: The POET Optical Interposer utilizes a novel waveguide technology that allows the integration of electronic and photonic devices into a single multi-chip module. By applying advanced wafer-level semiconductor manufacturing techniques and novel packaging methods, POET’s Optical Interposer eliminates costly components, assembly, alignment, and testing methods employed in conventional photonics solutions. In addition to lowering costs compared to conventional devices, POET’s Optical Interposer provides a flexible and scalable platform for a variety of photonics applications ranging from data centers to consumer products.
Q. Why was this technology required? What did customers do before this technology was created?
Vivek Rajgarhia: About 60-70% of the optical transceivers produced today for data centers and data communications applications (which is the largest and most price/performance-sensitive segment of photonics) are produced using archaic methods of assembling and testing individual components into sub-assemblies and then sub-assemblies into a final assembly one at a time, which require very high levels of capital and labor expense. This method of assembly and testing offers no economies of scale.
POET has brought semiconductor technology to the production of photonics devices, which require the integration of electronics, photonics, and optical components, allowing such devices to be produced and tested entirely at a wafer scale. This brings economies of scale to the production of these devices which are made in the hundreds and thousands at a time on silicon wafers.
Integration and the application of semiconductor technology to photonics have been the ambition of several companies over the past several years and the effort has broadly been called “silicon photonics”. POET’s optical interposer technology is a type of silicon photonics technology. The difference between POET’s version and others is the extent or degree of integration that we have achieved. We have been able to fully integrate devices of different types into the same platform achieving levels of automation, cost reduction, size reduction, flexibility, and performance that are currently unmatched in the industry.
Q. What are some applications of the POET Optical Interposer Technology?
Vivek Rajgarhia: The first applications are in a series of Optical Engines for data communications, covering 100G, 200G, and 400G speeds in several types, i.e., CWDM4, LR4, etc. that are used for specific communications applications.
POET is also developing Optical Engines for such applications as co-packaged optics in data centers, optical computing for artificial intelligence engines, and a variety of sensing applications including those for medical, wearables, and automotive LIDAR.
Q. How has this technology changed the Photonics Industry?
Vivek Rajgarhia: It hasn’t done so yet, but we expect the POET Optical Interposer to change the way that photonics device companies approach the integration of components. We expect the POET Optical Interposer to become the de facto standard for device integration.
Q. What products does POET Technologies Develop using the Optical Interposer Technology?
Vivek Rajgarhia: We currently produce Optical Engines for Optical Transceivers used in data centers.
Q. What stage of product development is POET at?
Vivek Rajgarhia: We are just now sampling customers with 100G CWDM4 Optical Engines, 400G Receive Only Optical Engines, and Remote Light Sources for optical data transmission. These will be standard products. We also do custom designs for specific customer applications.
Q. Who are your customers? Where are they located?
Vivek Rajgarhia: We only have a few major customers at the moment and expect to gain many more in the next several months. Although we are currently pre-revenue, we expect to ramp rapidly once our devices are qualified and customers can see the benefits of replacing larger, more costly components with our Optical Engines. Our location in China (a development operation in Shenzhen and a JV with Sanan in Xiamen) places us in close proximity with the majority of transceiver module manufacturers in the world.
Q. What is your product and company roadmap for the next few years?
Vivek Rajgarhia: Through our joint venture with Sanan IC in China, Super Photonics Xiamen, we expect to begin producing our standard products in high volume beginning late in 2021 and early 2022. We have a product roadmap in the data communication segment that includes 100/200 and 400G products. We are communicating with potential strategic partners in all parts of the world to develop photonics solutions in other vertical markets, especially in sensing applications, such as medical devices, wearables, and autonomous vehicles.
About Vivek Rajgarhia
Vivek Rajgarhia is the President & General Manager of POET Technologies. He joined MACOM through the acquisition of Optomai Inc., where he was the Co-Founder and CEO, to start MACOM’s first optical business. He was instrumental in identifying and leading several strategic acquisitions to build an extensive portfolio of optical and photonic businesses, which formed MACOM’s Lightwave Business Unit. Vivek has held several senior management positions during his 30 years in the optical communications industry. He was Director of Sales & Marketing (Asia) for Lucent Technologies (now Nokia) optical components, where he started Lucent’s Asia business; Vice President of Product Marketing and Business Development for OpNext (formerly Hitachi’s Fiber Optics Division) where he was part of the team to spin-off the optical business from Hitachi; Director of Product Management & Marketing for JDS Uniphase (now Lumentum), and VP of Global Sales for GigOptix. Vivek has been a successful entrepreneur, founding two optical companies, and has held international assignments in Hong Kong, Germany, and India. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical) degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.