Silicon Photonics Could Be A Big Deal

The silicon photonics device market, including HPC, future-generation optical data centers, telecom and others applications (sensors, medical and consumer) will grow from around$25 million in 2013 to more than $700 million in 2024, at a 38% CAGR. In 2018, says Yole Développement.Optical data centres from big Internet companies like Google and Facebook will trigger this market growth.

Non-datacom/telecom will only have a small portion of market value since these applications are still far from market maturity.

“However, we’re at a turning point where the market is increasing again and Intel, which is very active in in this field, could contribute to a quick ramp- up of Si photonics”, Says Yole’s Claire Trodec.

Silicon photonics mixes optics, CMOS, MEMS and 3D stacking technologies. Over the past several years, it’s become clear that some technical choices will be better than others for successful commercial development:

The Light source is a big integration challenge. As a silicon laser is probably years away from realization, the different approaches are likely to be either attached laser (i.e. Luxtera) or (InP) wafer-to-wafer/die-to-wafer bonding, followed by post-processing (i.e. Intel or Leti).

Yole has also seen a shift from monolithic integration for electronic/photonic-to-hybrid integration, since critical dimensions are very different. Today, the favored approach seems to be two-chip hybrid integration (the Cu-pillar from STMicroelectronics, for example), since semiconductors’ and photonics’ critical dimensions are likely to be at least one order of magnitude different.

The fiber choice: multi-mode versus single mode is also on the table.

“Silicon photonics is a business opportunity for different player types: OSATs, MEMS firms, semiconductors companies, etc., because it involves different challenges for packaging, optical alignment and electronics integration. The need for very diverse technologies creates a need for different packaging/micro-machining/manufacturing approaches”, says Troadec.

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