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20 February 2013

Leti to coordinate 4-year EC project PLAT4M

Micro/nanotechnology R&D center CEA-Leti of Grenoble, France says that it will coordinate a four-year project aimed at building a European-based supply chain in silicon photonics and speeding industrialization of the technology.

The PLAT4M (Photonic Libraries And Technology for Manufacturing) project will focus on bringing the existing silicon photonics research platform to a level that enables seamless transition to industry, suitable for different application fields and levels of production volume.

Funded by a European Commission (EC) grant of €10.2m, PLAT4M includes 15 leading European R&D institutes and CMOS companies, key industrial and research organizations in design and packaging, as well as end-users in different application fields, to build the complete supply chain.

“Silicon, with its mature integration platform, has brought electronic circuits to mass-market applications – our vision is that silicon photonics will follow this evolution,” says PLAT4M coordinator Laurent Fulbert, Integrated Photonics program manager at CEA-Leti. “Upgrading existing platforms to become compatible with industrialization is now essential, and this requires streamlining and stabilizing the design and process flows by taking into account design robustness, process variability and integration constraints,” he adds. “The PLAT4M partners bring a critical combination of expertise to the challenge of building a complete supply chain for commercializing silicon photonics in Europe.”

A surge in output of silicon photonics research in recent years has significantly boosted the potential for commercial exploitation of the technology, says Leti. However, most of this R&D has been devoted to developing elementary building blocks, rather than fabricating complete photonic integrated circuits (PICs), which are needed to support large potential markets.

The PLAT4M consortium aims to make technologies and tools mature by building a coherent design flow, demonstrating manufacturability of elementary devices and process integration, and developing a packaging toolkit. The project will validate the complete supply chain through application-driven test vehicles representing various fields, such as telecom and datacom, gas sensing and light detection and ranging (LiDAR), and vibrometry. It will also focus on preparing the next-generation platform by setting up a roadmap for performance evolution and assessing scalability to high-volume production.

The supply chain will be based on the technology platforms of Leti, nanoelectronics research center imec of Leuven, Belgium and semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics (of France and Italy), supported by a unified design environment.

The benefits of PLAT4M for the European photonic industry should include:

  • preparing the supply chain for silicon photonics technology, from chip-level technology to packaged circuits; 
  • making integration technologies accessible to a broad circle of users in a fabless model;
  • contributing to the development of a design environment that facilitates photonics/electronics convergence; 
  • moving the emphasis from the component to the architecture, and thus concentrating effort on new products or new functionalities rather than the technology level;
  • aggregating competencies in photonics/electronics design and fabrication; and
  • retaining the key added value in components in Europe through optoelectronic integration, with little added value in offshore assembly

PLAT4M consortium members consists of technology providers, research institutes, end-users and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) with track records in advanced photonics technologies. At the design and process level, CEA and imec have been the most prominent European players in silicon photonics for a decade. Together with University of Paris-Sud, III-V Lab and TNO, they have demonstrated numerous scientific and technical breakthroughs.

For building a complete design flow, electronic design automation (EDA) tool suppliers US-based Mentor Graphics, Netherlands-based PhoeniX BV and Silicon Integration Initiative Inc (Si2) will work together to develop a common reference platform.

STMicroelectronics has been engaged for the past year in developing silicon photonics at the industrial level. Ireland’s Tyndall-UCC (University College Cork) and Germany’s Aifotec GmbH have expertise in optoelectronic packaging and will work together on implementation packaging technologies developed within PLAT4M in a manufacturing environment.

End-users like Polytec, Thales Research & Technology and Netherlands-based NXP will drive the demonstrators development and assess the use of silicon photonics in their applications fields.

Tags: Leti silicon photonics


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