Tower Semiconductor, a foundry of high-value analog semiconductor solutions, and Quintessent, a provider of laser integration with silicon photonic integrated circuits, announced their collaboration to create the world’s first Silicon Photonics (SiPho) process with integrated quantum dot lasers, addressing optical connectivity in Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning and disaggregated computing (datacenter) markets. According to the market research firm Yole, the silicon photonics transceivers market for datacenters is expected to grow rapidly at a CAGR of 40% to reach $3.5B in 2025.
The new foundry process will build upon Tower’s industry-leading 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 resulting 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.
Dr John Bowers, UCSB Professor and Quintessent Co-Founder said that Quintessent and Tower are redefining the frontiers of integrated silicon photonics under this effort. He further added that he is 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.
Dr David Howard, Tower Semiconductor Executive Director and Fellow stated that bringing the III-V laser diode within their silicon photonics platform will enable single-chip photonic integrated circuit (PIC) design. This means that both III-V quantum dot amplifiers and lasers, and Tower’s silicon photonics passive and active elements, will be delivered by a foundry through a single MPW chip run.
Dr Alan Liu, co-founder and CEO of Quintessent commented that they are pleased to combine their quantum dot gain functionality with Tower’s proven silicon photonics process to enable a disruptive new capability. This platform has great potential to solve the connectivity bottleneck limiting AI training systems and disaggregated computing, among other applications.
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.
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