Talking photonic integration

Silicon photonics offers a way to expand capacity in optical links while reducing cost and power consumption. Find out more from a range of industry experts.
Despoina Petousi
Picture of silicon photonics experts

The evolution from internet 1.0 to internet 3.0 has been accompanied by rapid growth of cloud-based services, machine learning algorithms and interactive applications, resulting in continuously rising bandwidth demands. To meet the next level of requirements, data centers need to dramatically scale up and adopt new technologies to overcome the limitations of traditional copper-cable-based interconnects. Photonic integration is considered a key technology for further scaling of optical data center networks, since it provides low-cost, power-efficient, compact photonic circuits with extremely large capacities. Five experts in the field share their experience with us and talk about the past, the present and the future of photonic integration.

Lars Zimmermann

Lars Zimmermann leads the silicon photonics team at IHP, the Leibniz-Institute für innovative Mikroelektronik in Frankfurt and is a professor at TU Berlin in the field of silicon photonics. His major scientific interest involves high-performance photonic-electronic integration for optical communications and for nonlinear optical signal processing. With a background of more than 15 years of experience in the field of silicon photonics, Lars Zimmermann talks to us about the importance of photonic integration and highlights the advantage of using a CMOS silicon platform. By allowing the seamless integration of optical components with CMOS electronics, silicon photonics technology holds the key to fulfilling the urgent need for extremely large bandwidth at low power, footprint and cost.

Brad Booth

Brad Booth is a long-time leader in Ethernet technology development and standardization. Currently heading up the 25/50G Ethernet Technology Consortium and the Consortium for On-Board Optics, he is a principal engineer at Microsoft, where he leads the development of hyperscale interconnect strategy for Microsoft’s cloud data centers. Brad Booth is therefore the ideal person to provide an overview of photonic integration and explain how optics can meet the need for larger capacities. Speaking from an industry point of view, Brad highlights why photonic-electronic integration is now the only way to overcome ever-increasing bandwidth limits.

Bert Offrein

Bert Offrein is a manager of the photonics group as well as the neuromorphic devices and system group at IBM. His group establishes novel devices and subsystems for high performance and power efficient neuromorphic computing. In this interview, Bert Offrein gives us a different aspect of photonic integration, getting away from the classical optical interconnects approach. Specifically, he talks about a novel field of applications including neuromorphic computing and artificial intelligence, and reveals how photonic integration has opened up a totally new world of fascinating applications, unthinkable even just a few years ago.

Anthony Yu 

Anthony Yu is the VP of the computing and wired infrastructure business unit at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, one of the world's leading silicon foundries. With the implementation of silicon photonics into their process, GLOBALFOUNDRIES delivers differentiated feature-rich solutions, including photonic circuits co-integrated with CMOS electronics. This way, their clients are able to develop innovative products for the high-growth market segment. Anthony Yu shares his long-time expertise in the field and explains how silicon photonics greatly benefits from large-scale silicon foundries utilizing well-established CMOS processes.

Martin Schell

Martin Schell is one of the Executive Directors of the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz  Institute (HHI) and professor for "Optic and Optoelectronic Integration" at the Technische Universität Berlin. He is also chairman of the OpTecBB (Competence Network for Optical Technologies Berlin Brandenburg), board member of EPIC (European Photonic Industry Consortium) and spokesman of Cluster Optics and Photonics Berlin Brandenburg. HHI has prevailed in the development of InP photonic integrated circuits. Martin and his teams have contributed to several successful transitions of innovative research into commercial products and applications. Martin discusses about the competencies of HHI by using InP wafers for fabricating photonic circuits and he compares the different material platforms, emphasizing that the competition in the field is still ongoing.

Despoina Petousi

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