LiGenTec SA of Lausanne, Switzerland (which provides manufacturing foundry services in silicon nitride) and fabless design house VLC Photonics of Valencia, Spain – which provides optical integration solutions and services including photonic integrated circuit (PIC) design or in-house chip characterization and test – have collaborated to offer a generic platform for the prototyping and production of photonic integrated circuits.
LiGenTec has matured a proprietary silicon nitride process that is able to achieve ultra-low propagation losses, with several record devices reported in the last few years. “Our process is able to deposit thick-film silicon nitride, from 100nm to 2500nm, overcoming the challenge of crack formation due to stress in the material,” says CEO Michael Zervas. The process can also scale up to production volumes using 8” wafers and stepper lithography.
The propriatory low-loss waveguide technology, together with the low bending losses that thick-film nitride enables, paves the way to new integrated applications, says LiGenTec. Thick silicon nitride chips can thus scale down four-fold in cost compared to thin-film silicon nitride, it is reckoned.
The open-access platform provides a generic fabrication process for designing and manufacturing photonic integrated circuits for many different applications. Targeting mainly the most common communications wavelengths, the platform is also customizable for lower visible wavelengths, suitable for biophotonic and sensing applications. The main markets addressed are optical telecom and datacom, supercontinuum generation, microwave photonics and quantum optics.
Fabrication is organized through dedicated full-wafer runs or shared multi-project wafer (MPW) runs, scheduled periodically three times a year. Users can subscribe to these runs and prepare their designs using the standardized rules and functional building blocks provided by the foundry and the design house, which have also been implemented under a process design kit (PDK) for two different design software tools: OptoDesigner by PhoeniX Software and IPKISS by Luceda Photonics.
VLC Photonics will also be offering full design or design support for inexperienced users, and also chip characterization and test services once fabrication has been performed. “We have realized that most of the times, end users also require some level of design or test assistance, to speed their developments and reduce the risk when targeting complex projects,” notes VLC Photonics’ CEO Iñigo Artundo.