Integrated Optics


photonic device based on integrated optics

Photonic device based on integrated optics


Integrated optics is a technological field devoted to the production of photonic systems based on planar lightwave circuits that incorporate various elements on a single physical substrate by using manufacturing techniques similar to those in microelectronics.

The concept of integrated optics can be traced to at least 1969, when the first seminal papers appeared. However, the appearance of efficient industrialized manufacturing technology had to wait until the last decade of the XX century. Despite manufacturing similarities with microelectronics, the benefits expected from these optical devices have come later than might have been expected. The significant demand for photonic devices in the telecommunications market around 2000 had a strong impact on the development of solutions for bottlenecks in this technology and enabled the appearance and expansion of photonic foundries, offering basic IP libraries and manufacturing services to third parties at very competitive prices.

The resulting optical circuits were very compact and integrated a large number of optical functions which, if implemented using discrete optics, would have resulted in much larger components. The use of batch manufacturing processes such as those used in microelectronics also implied much lower manufacturing costs. This factor became especially important with increasing production volumes, as greater reductions in scale appeared soon thereafter. If the selected manufacturing technology can incorporate the electronics on a single substrate, this functionality can be added to the elements of the optical circuit in a very simple and low-cost manner.

There are different technologies for integrated optics. Among the most popular are silicon photonics, silicon oxide, nitride and oxinitride waveguides, devices based on III-V semiconductors and lithium niobate technologies. Each technology has its characteristic advantages and disadvantages. The table below contains a summary of the main features of these selected photonic platforms. In particular, it contains the relative cost per unit area, the ability to produce light sources using the same technology, the ability to produce active phase elements (modulators, switches, etc.) and their compatibility with the inclusion of electronics in the same substrate.

Technology Cost Light sources Phase active Active effects Wavelengths Compatible electronics
Lithium niobate High NO YES Electro-optic Visible-Infrared NO
Silicon oxide, nitride and oxinitride Low NO YES? Thermo-optic (weak, slow) Visible- Infrared YES
III-V Semiconductors High YES YES Electro-optic Thermo-optic Visible- Infrared NO
Silicon Low Experimental YES Charge injection Thermo-optic Infrared YES

Main characteristics of a selection of integrated optics technologies


DermaLumics has advanced experience in the development of silicon photonics, the platform chosen as the most convenient for development and which allows DermaLumics to offer its singular advantages: cost effectiveness, multiple functionalities that can be integrated on a single device and generalized industrial availability of manufacturing processes. Moreover, silicon is a high refractive index material, allowing for very compact devices.