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4 June 2009


Luxtera claims first commercial silicon CMOS photonics fabrication process

Fabless firm Luxtera Inc of Carlsbad, CA, USA is collaborating with Freescale Semiconductor of Austin, TX as its foundry source to achieve production of what is claimed to be the world’s first commercial silicon CMOS photonics semiconductor manufacturing process.

Luxtera was spun out of the California Institute of Technology in 2001 and received funding from venture capitalists including August Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Sevin Rosen Funds and Lux Capital. In August 2007, it launched its first commercial product, the Blazar (the world’s first CMOS photonics product, and the first 40 Gigabit active optical cable). While using Freescale’s prototype production line, for a number of years the firms collaborated on enhancing Freescale’s silicon-on-insulator (SOI) CMOS fabrication technology to add photonic circuit capabilities to an existing 130nm electronics manufacturing process.

The new photonically enabled CMOS fabrication process enables development and manufacturing of low-cost electro-photonic integrated circuits (EPIC), bringing CMOS photonics to mainstream markets ahead of the competition, it is claimed. Silicon CMOS photonics a key enabler of the next generation of data-networking, computer, multicore processor, and consumer electronics products, Luxtera says.

Silicon CMOS photonics technology enables design and manufacturing of optics and electronics on a single CMOS die. The process combines standard transistors for digital and analog electronic circuitry with passive nano-photonic optical structures, as well as monolithic integration of active photonic device elements and enabling direct fiber-to-the-chip attachments. The new fabrication process allows the production of integrated single-chip transceivers for multiple applications. The CMOS photonic transceivers offer better performance, increased reliability, and reduced power consumption of optoelectronic circuits at a fraction of the cost of traditional optical assemblies, it is claimed.

“Collaborating with Luxtera, we have become the first fabrication facility to enable the manufacturing of optics and electronics on a single CMOS chip and to meet the high-volume, low-cost application needs of the communication and consumer markets,” says Vivek Mohindra, Freescale’s senior VP of strategy & business transformation. “We are ahead of the competition by achieving the production status and shipping of commercial silicon CMOS photonics products based on this process,” he claims.

“By achieving volume production status in Freescale’s commercial foundry, we have now demonstrated that CMOS photonics has emerged from research and is now fully ready for mainstream commercial adoption,” says Luxtera’s president & CEO Greg Young. “A key element of our technology is that we enable both optical and electronic circuits on a common mainstream CMOS process, which is the industry’s first,” he reckons. “Our silicon CMOS photonics technology platform provides us with unprecedented levels of cost, performance, power and reliability in optical systems from gigabits to terabits of data.”

Luxtera is applying this process technology to deliver low-cost optoelectronic transceiver products for high-performance computing, data communications, and consumer electronics markets. The adaptation of the technology by Freescale demonstrates the flexibility to customize Luxtera’s manufacturing processes to applications that have large market potential for growth, the firm says. Luxtera is also involved with projects funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) program to develop next-generation optical interconnects to produce chip-to-chip and intra-chip interconnect technology for high-performance computing systems.

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