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large growth in Photonic Integrated Circuits for optical signal processing, optical communication, biophotonics, and sensing

Photonics is emerging as a multidisciplinary new frontier of science and technology and is capturing the imagination of scientists and engineers worldwide because of its potential applications to many areas of present and future information and image processing technologies. Photonics is the analog of electronics in that it describes the technology in which photons instead of electrons are used to acquire, store, transmit, and process information.


The use of photonics for transmitting signals over optical low-loss fiber transmission lines provides option to replace traditional coaxial cables used by telecommunication systems.


Photonics is a breakthrough technology as it uses photons (smallest unit of light) as the data carrier instead of electrons (smallest unit of electricity) used in electronic ICs. As light travels at very high speeds, photonics is widely used to transfer huge amounts of data at a very high speed. Thus photonics-based products are primarily deployed in the field of optical fiber & optical free-space communications.


Photons are capable of traveling at the speed of light and moving through various materials without any loss. Integrated photonics may feature a very high-frequency range to allow high data throughput in an energy-efficient manner. Just as an Integrated circuit (IC) is a microelectronic device that houses multiple electric circuits on a chip, a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) or Integrated Photonic circuits (IPC) are devices that integrate multiple photonic functions on a chip.


A typical IPC may consist of single-photon sources, nonlinear photon processing circuits, and photon detectors all integrated onto a solid-state chip. Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) have attracted considerable attention owing to their small footprint, scalability, reduced power consumption, and enhanced processing stability.


Photonic integrated circuits are a combination of photonic sensors and other electronic components. They use photons (light) to perform various optical functions. In a photonic integrated circuit, signals are processed using a combination of visible and infrared radiation. Photonic sensors are used in PICs to convert the light into an electric signal. The high speed and high bandwidth provided by photonic integrated circuits have been the major drivers for the global photonic integrated circuit market over recent years. Along with their high speed and bandwidth, photonic integrated circuits also consume less energy than conventional integrated circuits, making them doubly attractive to end users. This is likely to remain the major driver for the global photonic integrated circuit market.


Photonic Integrated Circuits (PIC) are slowly growing beyond the field of telecommunication and data communication that has pushed most technological developments over the past decades. Photonic integrated circuits have become widely popular in various applications, including nanoelectronics, LIDAR, calorimetry, and various silicon-based technologies. The growing use of photonic integrated circuits in quantum computing is likely to be a major driver for the global photonic integrated circuit market. Quantum computing has become a must-have in various crucial applications in recent years due to its higher processing speed and ability to multi-function easily. Developments in quantum computing have also come on at a rapid rate in recent years due to the significant investment made by major tech players in quantum computing. This has increased the demand from the photonic integrated circuit market in recent years and is likely to be a major driver for the global photonic integrated circuit market.


Another emerging application for Photonic IC is Microwave photonics (MWP),  an emerging interdisciplinary area that investigates the interaction between microwave and optical waves for the generation, processing, control, distribution and measurement of microwave, millimeter-wave and THz-frequency signals.


However, the huge power consumption and complexity of the design may confine the expansion of the photonic integrated circuits market. This restraint creates a vital space for the development of new technologies, thus intensifying the competition in the PIC market.

Monolithic integration vs. Micro-optic assemblies

The technologies described before are used to fabricate complete optical devices using only a single material substrate: this is known as monolithic integration. This goes one step further than the current assembly of micro-optical components in miniature photonic systems. By integrating all devices into a single chip, complex assembly, alignment and stabilization processes are avoided, and packaging and testing are greatly simplified. Moreover, it is the only way to scale up complexity when moving over 20-30 components into a single package.


The election of the integration material will then determine the capabilities and limitations for the technology platform, making some of them more appropriate for certain applications than others. Currently, monolithic integration for SOI and InP relies on mature and well-established fabrication processes, rendering high yield manufacturing platforms for even the most demanding markets.

The major difference between the two is that a photonic integrated circuit provides functions for information signals imposed on optical wavelengths typically in the visible spectrum or near infrared 850 nm-1650 nm.

Application-Specific Photonic Integrated Circuit (ASPIC)

On a PIC, optical functional building blocks are connected together with waveguides.  An Application-Specific Photonic Integrated Circuit (ASPIC) is an optical chip designed for a very particular purpose, that allows to generate, manipulate and detect light signals by means of other light and/or electronic signals. An ASPIC may integrate several active optical devices, like lasers or photo-detectors, and passive structures like splitters, couplers, interferometers, filters, or polarization handling elements.


For example the integration of optical components and functions into a large scale PIC shows significant benefits when it is integrated into an optical communication system. It enables significant power, space and cost savings, new functionality and so new significant increasing transmission capacity of communication systems.


The unique ability to replace the traditional assembly of several discrete optical or micro-optical components by a single miniaturized chip, places ASPICs as the major driver for future optical systems and photonic enabled products. Such integration brings the following benefits:
• cost reduction, especially for large volumes (thousands to millions), due to lower packaging and testing costs,
• aggregation of functionalities, lowering design complexity and increasing scalability and yield, and
• decrease in size, volume and weight, with higher robustness and  simpler assemblies.


PICs still are several orders of magnitude more expensive than their microelectronic counterparts, which has restricted their application to a few niche markets. In microelectronics, there is a clear exponential development in the number of transistors per chip, which has been doubling every two years on average during the last four decades. This phenomenon is known as Moore’s law.  Similar development is occurring in micro photonics, albeit in an early stage.


Research is being done to overcome all these challenges enabling the integration of photonic components such as lasers, optical amplifiers modulators,MUX/DEMUX components and photodiodes on-chip would enable them to be used in optical signal processing, optical communication, biophotonics, and sensing applications.


Most PICs today are developed as an application-specific circuit (ASPIC), which is one of the reasons that the adoption of these optical chips is quite limited today, even when the technology has proven to be very useful for diverse applications, such as sensing, spectroscopy, and microwave processing, and the benefits of on-chip integration are similar as those of integrated electronics, in terms of cost, form factor, complexity, energy consumption and increased functionality.


Main Integration Technologies

Different technologies can be chosen to design and manufacture ASPICs, depending on the suitability of the base material to the application at hand.

The most relevant technologies are:
• Silicon photonics: Silicon on Insulator(220 nm and 3 μm SOI), and Si based Silica on Silicon (SiO2, also known as PLC) and Silicon Nitride ( SiN and TriPleX)
• III-V photonics: Indium Phosphide (InP), Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) and derivatives
• Lithium Niobate (LiNbO3) and other more exotic materials


Using InP in PICs offers significant performance advantages over other substitutes such as silicon. Moreover, they find extensive applications in data transmission and telecommunications, since InP is the most important material for the generation of laser signals, and the conversion of those signals back to the electronic form. The growth of 3D-sensing applications across the industrial sector has further strengthened the demand for InP-based PICs in the photonic integrated circuits market.


Programmable photonic circuits

The growing maturity of integrated photonic technology makes it possible to build increasingly large and complex photonic circuits on the surface of a chip. Today, most of these circuits are designed for a specific application, but the increase in complexity has introduced a generation of photonic circuits that can be programmed using software for a wide variety of functions through a mesh of on-chip waveguides, tunable beam couplers and optical phase shifters.


Because they are generic and programmable, programmable PICs can change the way PICs are used in the development of new applications and products. This can be compared with programmable electronics: the widespread availability of programmable electronics (FPGAs, microprocessors, digital signal processors, …) makes it possible to implement new functions in a matter of days, without the need to fabricate custom silicon. prototyping and even product development, and only if it is needed for reasons of cost or performance, a dedicated
chip is designed and fabricated. Programmable PICs can do the same for photonics, opening up the manipulation of coherent light to a diverse range of applications. And only if a market value has been confirmed, a dedicated ASPIC needs to be made


Synopsys and Photonics Industry Leaders Partner to Advance PIC Technology with Plasmonics in 2019

Synopsys, Inc.(Nasdaq: SNPS) t announced in May 2019  that PLASMOfab, a research project funded by the EU innovation program Horizon 2020, has been successfully completed to enable mass manufacturing of high-performance plasmo-photonic components. The three-year research project has significantly advanced the state of the art in PICs and CMOS-compatible plasmonics for optical data communications and biosensing for point-of-care applications. PLASMOfab has developed CMOS-compatible plasmonics to consolidate advanced PICs with electronic ICs in volume manufacturing. The project focused on CMOS-compatible metals and photonic structures that are harmonically co-integrated with electronics using standardized CMOS processes. As part of project validation, the PIC platform was used along with advanced peripherals to develop predominant functional modules with unprecedented performance.


A key project achievement was the development of a groundbreaking ultra-compact plasmonic transmitter, which has a footprint of 90 x 5.5 µm² to transmit 0.8 TBit/s (800Gbit/s) through 4 individual 0.2 TBit/s transmitters. The project also demonstrated CMOS-compatible plasmonic waveguides with the lowest possible losses, as described in Nature’s Scientific Reports in September 2018.


“PLASMOfab’s main goal has been to address the ever increasing needs for low energy, small size, high complexity and high performance mass manufactured PICs,” said Nikos Pleros, assistant professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. “We have achieved this by developing a revolutionary yet CMOS-compatible fabrication platform for seamless co-integration of active plasmonics with photonic and electronic components.”


As a result of the PLASMOfab research, two new companies have been launched to commercialize the new technologies: Bialoom Ltd will further explore plasmo-photonic biosensors in multichannel and high-sensitivity point-of-care diagnostics by combining plasmonic sensors with integrated Si3N4 photonic functionalities, electrical controls, biofunctionalization techniques, and microfluidics. Polariton Technologies Ltd. specializes in new photonic and electronic technologies for the testing, sensing, and telecommunications market. Their energy efficient and low-footprint plasmonic modulator will convert microwave signals to optical signals.


“We expect that further development of CMOS-compatible plasmonic components with CMOS fabrication processes and photonics technologies will demonstrate plasmonics’ clear advantages in PICs,” said Dr. Dimitris Tsiokos, principal researcher at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. “When the best of all three worlds of plasmonics, photonics, and electronics converge in a single integration platform, PICs with unprecedented performance and functionality will be realized, targeting a diverse set of applications and industrial needs while meeting mass production requirements.”


“We are pleased to have been working closely with the partners in this project and especially with AMO and ams to develop R&D PDKs for the new PLASMOfab integration technology,” said Twan Korthorst, director of Synopsys’ Photonic Solutions. “The PDKs are supported by our PIC design platform, which provides the industry’s only full design flow from photonic device level to PIC to system levels.”


Infinera PICs

Infinera company has pioneered the monolithic integration of hundreds of photonic functions, including lasers, modulators, waveguides and other optical components, into large-scale PICs, as well as the use of semiconductor manufacturing processes for PICs. PICs provide  significant flexibility and efficiency benefits when integrated into DWDM systems.


Meanwhile, electronic function integration has been progressing as CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology continues to improve. As feature sizes have shrunk and design tools improved over the years, the maximum complexity possible in an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) has grown from thousands of gates to several hundreds of millions. This level of integration delivers higher processing power in terms of GBaud (symbol rate) and bits per symbol, thereby allowing higher order modulation formats and coherent detection, ultimately resulting in better capacity reach performance.


Infinera combines large-scale PICs with coherent ASICs, two important technologies for 500 Gb/s and terabit super-channel transmission. In the first coherent era, Infinera’s transmitter modulators were driven directly, and the optical impairments resulting from transmission were compensated for in the receiver by Infinera’s FlexCoherent Processor. When this technology was introduced into the market, it enabled the move from 10 Gb/s to 100 Gb/s per channel, a tenfold increase in fiber capacity, and at the same time increased the typical optical reach from about 2,500 kilometers to about 4,500 kilometers.


Infinera’s latest FlexCoherent design introduces transmitter based processing and enhances receiver-based capability in which the transmitter modulators are now driven by the combination of an advanced DSP and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which improves spectral shaping. This new design, combining electronic and photonic enhancements, introduces new capabilities, enabling operators to improve their fiber capacity reach performance


Skorpios Technologies Announces Telcordia Qualification of its Heterogeneous Photonic Integrated Circuit Technology Platform in 2021

Skorpios Technologies, Inc., an integrated silicon photonics company, today announced it has completed formal Telcordia qualification on its 100G CWDM4 chipset, as well as its 100G CWDM4 optical transceiver, both of which are shipping in limited quantities. The chipset is based on Skorpios’ Heterogeneous Photonic Integrated Circuit (HPIC) technology platform, which seamlessly integrates III-V material into a standard CMOS process flow.


At the device level, extensive testing demonstrated full compliance to GR-468. Testing beyond Telcordia requirements resulted in demonstrating >10,000 hours high temperature operating life (HTOL) against a requirement of 2,000 hours, and extensive accelerated aging testing demonstrated a 50+ year lifetime for the four-channel devices. At the optical transceiver level, full compliance was demonstrated to GR-468, GR-326 and GR-1217 standards. Testing beyond Telcordia requirements resulted in demonstration of 2,000 hours of unbiased damp heat against a 1,000-hour requirement.


This qualification, especially the extended HPIC HTOL and accelerated aging results, undeniably demonstrates best-in-class reliability for Skorpios’ HPIC technology platform. The qualification of the HPIC Platform enables Skorpios to offer products with the performance of traditional III-V optoelectronic devices, the cost advantages of traditional silicon photonics and the scalability for next generation products that neither traditional III-V nor traditional silicon photonics can achieve.


Europe’s plans for industrial leadership in photonics

Looking to provide Europe with a state-of-the-art infrastructure to support the development and manufacture of photonic integrated circuits (PICs), the EU is investing €15.5million in an international consortium called PIXAPP, which will be led by Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute. Packaging PICs can represent up to 80% of the cost of photonics components, so is a critical area for industry. PIXAPP is the world’s first open access PIC assembly and packaging pilot line, combining an interdisciplinary team from Europe’s leading industrial and research organisations.


“In the past, it has been very expensive to manufacture high volumes of PICs, and more expensive and challenging again to package them,” said Jose Pozo, director of the European Photonics Industry Consortium. “This is creating a bottleneck for production, which is impacting the potential for growth in the photonics industry. I am confident that Tyndall will deliver market success for Europe and drive our competitiveness across the communications, medical, automotive, energy, safety and defence sectors globally.


The prime objective of PICs4All is to increase the impact of photonics and enable access to the advanced photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technologies for academia, research institutes, SMEs and larger companies. This will be achieved by establishing a European network of Application Support Centres (ASCs) in the field of PIC technology. The main task of the ASCs is to lower the barrier to Researchers and SMEs for applying advanced PICs, and thus to increase the awareness of the existence of the worldwide unique facility provided by JePPIX (InP and TriPleX PIC design, manufacturing, testing and packaging).

The main objectives of PICs4All are: active scouting opportunities for the use of PICs; promoting the use of the PIC platforms; strengthening Europe’s industrial lead in the business of integrated photonics; bringing together academia to explore photonics and promote its critical importance. These will be achieved by: reaching out to potential users that are not yet aware of the benefits of PIC’s; organizing PIC design courses, workshops; connecting users to optical chip designers; assisting access to Multi-Project Wafer runs for PIC fabrication; actual supporting in layout design and testing of prototype PICs. All the activities are advocated by publicity e.g. newsletters, application notes and participation in conferences and exhibitions.


H2020-funded INSPIRE project to lead a revolution in photonic integrated circuits with so-called micro-transfer printing technology and establishment of world-first fabrication platform. INSPIRE aims to sustain Europe’s industrial leadership in photonics by consolidating established fabrication approaches, such as those from the pioneering pure-play foundry and TU/e spinoff SMART Photonics and the silicon photonics pioneer imec, with the micro-transfer printing technology of X-Celeprint. This will result in a world-first fabrication platform that combines the strengths of two of the most well-known PIC manufacturing platforms. Methods will chiefly be developed for the coupling of SiN and InP processes, but could also be used for silicon-based photonics.


INSPIRE coordinator prof. Martijn Heck from Eindhoven University of Technology is excited by the possibilities that lie ahead: “By combining SMART and imec technologies, with only minor changes to the fabrication processes, we can leverage the major investments in the development of these platforms from the last decade. We can thus significantly reduce the time needed to transfer our technology out of the lab, and make a faster and telling impact in new application areas.”


Photonic Integrated Circuits Market

The photonic integrated circuits market is expected to cross US$ 3,168.8 Mn by 2028, expanding at a CAGR of 18.2% during the forecast period 2020 to 2028.  Superior benefits offered by photonic integrated circuits in terms of power consumption (energy efficiency), size, speed, and cost are collectively driving the photonic integrated circuits (PIC) market.


The increasing demand for optical communication and sensing applications is driving the growth of photonic ICs around the globe with efficient management of data centers and long-haul networks providing a thriving market for them.  The extensive deployment of fiber-optic telecommunication networks has created new opportunities for the growth of photonics technology. As current technologies are progressing in terms of capacity, speed, and accuracy, photonics technology may offer powerful new solutions. With increasing video traffic, there is high demand for communication systems for the Internet, which can only be met by photonic integrated circuits.  In addition, escalating demand for high-speed communication, especially in the optical communication field has further fueled market momentum.


These factors are expected to contribute towards a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.2% during the forecast period 2020 – 2028. However, slower transition towards digitization and issues related to design and fabrication are some of the major challenges faced by the photonic IC market.


The development of silicon photonics technology has helped in large scale manufacturing of PICs at low cost. Also current leading players have developed monolithically integrated Indium Phosphide (InP) based PICs that can integrate more than 600 components/functions in a single chip.




The global photonic integrated circuit market is segmented on the basis of integration type, component, application, and region.

By integration type, the global photonic integrated circuit market is segmented into hybrid, monolithic, and module.

By component, the global photonic integrated circuit market is segmented into lasers, modulators, photodetectors, attenuators, and optical amplifiers.

By application, the global photonic integrated circuit market is segmented into optical fiber communication, optical fiber sensor, biomedical, quantum computing, and others. The quantum computing segment is likely to retain an important share in the global photonic integrated circuit market over the forecast period. Optical fiber communication is also likely to be an important application segment of the global photonic integrated circuit market over the forecast period.


“Also, the growing adoption of the biophotonic application in medical devices also holds considerable growth opportunities for the photonic ICs market.


Optical sensors application is the other promising application in this market. It is used in fields like defense, aerospace, energy, transportation, medicine, and other emerging fields. Quantum computing is another application of PICs that is forecasted to be commercialized in 2017. This technology is expected to completely revolutionize the computing industry. PICs are also used in the biomedical field. InP-based application-specific photonic ICs are being used for the diagnostic analysis of opaque skin tissue. The technique principally used here is Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) or Raman Scatterometry.


The optical communication segment covering wireless access networks, long haul and transport networks, and data center applications was the largest application segment in the global photonic integrated circuits (PIC) market, accounting for over 40% of the market revenue in 2019. Over the forecast period 2020 – 2028, the segment is anticipated to remain the largest contributor to the global photonic integrated circuits market (PIC), majorly supported by the escalating demand for high speed communication in wireless access networks and data center applications. Other major application fields include sensing and biophotonics.


The advent of photonic technology has revolutionized the healthcare industry, offering a reliable means to detect, treat, and/or prevent disease at an early stage. Optical signal processing is another potential application field for photonic ICs. The optical signal processing segment is estimated to witness maximum growth among all other application fields during the forecast period 2020 – 2028. The anticipated growth can be attributed to the expected commercialization of quantum computing during the forecast period.



In terms of revenue, North America (comprising U.S., and Rest of North America) represented the largest photonic IC market, accounting for over 30% of the global revenue share in 2019. The U.S. represents the largest and the most lucrative photonic IC market worldwide. The photonic IC market in North America is majorly driven by the increasing penetration of photonic technology in the field of fiber optic communication, especially data center applications and wireless access networks.


At present North America has the largest market for PIC based products, especially in data centers and WAN applications of optical fiber communications. However, APAC is the largest player in the access network application of optical fiber communications right now. North America is the leader in a PIC market with 49% market share however it is estimated that APAC will emerge as the market leader by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 35.9% from 2012 to 2022.


In addition, presence of large number of photonic device manufacturers and continual research in the field of photonics has further cemented its leading position. Although North America is expected to remain the largest photonic IC market over the forecast period 2020 – 2028, Asia Pacific is expected to witness maximum growth, growing at a CAGR of 21.5%. The anticipated growth in the region is expected to be driven by the escalating demand from data center and biophotonics applications during the forecast period 2020 – 2028.


Indium Phosphide (InP) is the most preferred raw material used in photonic integrated circuits. In 2019, Indium Phosphide accounted for around 30% of the global market revenue. It is expected to remain the most preferred raw material used for photonic integration during the forecast period 2020 – 2028.


The dominance of Indium Phosphide can be attributed to its ability to integrate active as well as passive optical functions onto one single material substrate. In addition, other benefits offered in terms of cost, reliability, and energy efficiency make Indium Phosphide a preferred raw material for photonic integration. Other raw materials including silicon and silicon-on-insulator are also widely used in photonic integrated circuits on account of low cost, easy availability, and simple fabrication offered by these materials.


Hybrid integration is the chief integration technique used for photonic integration. In 2019, the hybrid integration technique accounted for about 50% of the global market revenue share. Although it is expected to remain the major photonic integration technique, monolithic integration method is expected to witness maximum adoption, growing at a CAGR of 20.8% during the forecast period 2020 – 2028. The anticipated growth can be credited to its capability to integrate both medium and large sized photonic integrated circuits.


Furthermore, superior benefits offered in terms of reliability, power efficiency, and testing has convinced manufacturers across the globe to increasingly employ monolithic integration technique. Module integration is another technique employed for photonic integration. It accounted for the least revenue share in 2019. Over the forecast period 2020 – 2028, it is expected to exhibit sluggish growth. Inability to merge large number of optical functions and low fiber coupling integration offered as compared to other techniques is seen as the major roadblock in widespread use of module integration technique.


Leading players in the global photonic integrated circuit market include Mellanox Technologies Ltd., Kaiam Corporation, JDS Uniphase Corporation, Intel Corporation, Infinera Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Company, Finisar Corporation, Enablence Technologies Inc., EMCORE Corporation, CyOptics Inc., Ciena Corporation, Broadcom Limited (U.S.), Alcatel-Lucent SA, Aifotec AG, and Agilent Technologies Inc., Viavi Solutions, Inc. (U.S.), and NeoPhotonics Corporation (U.S.). Other key vendors include Oclaro, Inc., Luxtera Inc., Infinera Corp., Finisar Corporation, Ciena Corporation, and Emcore Corporation, among others.


These players have played a great role in changing the market dynamics. For example Infinera has introduced 500 Gb/s PICs used in long haul flex coherent super channels. The main features of this product are simplicity, scalability, efficiency and reliability. On the other hand Neophotonics has developed an Optical Line Terminal Transceiver using Photonic Integrated Circuit Technology which is designed to lower the overall cost of FTTH network installation.




About Rajesh Uppal

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