12 January 2010


EU CMOS photonics project achieves phase-one goals

Grenoble-based CEA-Leti (the French government’s Laboratory for Electronics & Information Technology), which coordinates the pan-European consortium HELIOS (pHotonics ELectronics functional Integration on CMOS), says that the 19 partners have met or exceeded their phase-one goals for the large-scale CMOS photonics project.

Launched by the European Commission in May 2008 within the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) theme of its 7 th Framework Program (FP7), the €8.5m, four-year project is designed to drive European R&D in CMOS photonics and to pave the way for industrial development. Specifically, it aims to develop microelectronics fabrication processes for integrating compound semiconductor-based photonics with CMOS silicon circuits and to make the technology available to a wide variety of users.

Partners include CNRS, Alcatel Thales III-V lab, Thales, University of Paris-Sud, 3S Photonics and Photline Technologies in France, IMEC in Belgium, Phoenix BV in The Netherlands, IHP and the University of Berlin in Germany, Austriamicrosystems AG and the University of Vienna in Austria, IMM and the University of Trento in Italy, the University of Valencia, the University of Barcelona and DAS Photonics in Spain, and the University of Surrey in UK. The overall project cost is €12m.

“Europe has a well-established photonics components industry and it is strategically important for us to maintain photonic chip design and chip-integrating functions that provide new opportunities for our microelectronics companies and enable us to compete with other countries,” says Leti’s CEO Laurent Malier. “HELIOS combines the advanced, upstream research on CMOS photonics from leading research laboratories and universities with the commercialization expertise of some of Europe’s leading technology companies that will make this technology commercially viable,” he adds.

First-phase achievements have concentrated on light photodetection and light coupling/routing. Completed milestones include:

  • the characterization of vertical and lateral PIN Ge and III-V MSM photodetectors (showing low dark current, high optical responsivity and high optical bandwidth compatible with 40Gb/s operation);
  • demonstration of germanium photodiode bandwidth of 90GHz;
  • demonstration of inverted taper coupling structure with 1dB coupling loss;
  • design and fabrication of a transition between rib/strip waveguides with less than 0.2dB measured losses;
  • demonstration of a high-efficiency grating coupler showing a coupling efficiency of –1.6dB and a 3dB bandwidth of 80nm;
  • more than 30 publications in international conferences or journals; and
  • organization of a winter school and two international events.

The project’s success in developing microelectronics fabrication processes for integrating photonics with CMOS circuits would cement Europe’s role as a global leader in emerging CMOS photonics technology, says Malier. It should also have a major impact on industry, e.g. by leading to low-cost solutions for applications including optical communications, optical interconnections between chips and circuit boards, optical signal processing, optical sensing, and biological applications. By co-integrating optics and electronics on the same chip, high-functionality, high-performance and highly integrated devices can be fabricated, while using a proven microelectronics fabrication process. In addition, advances in CMOS photonics should move the emphasis from device component to architecture. Industrial and R&D efforts can then be focused on new products or new functionalities rather than on the technology level.

HELIOS includes the development of essential building blocks such as efficient sources (silicon-based and heterogeneous integration of III-V on silicon), fast modulators and, more long term, the combination and packaging of these building blocks for the demonstration of complex functions to address various industrial needs. These include a 40Gb/s modulator on an electronic IC, a 16x10Gb/s transceiver for WDM-PON applications, a photonic QAM-10Gb/s wireless transmission system, and a mixed-analog and digital transceiver module for multifunction antennas.

Other priorities of the project are:

  • the development of high-performance generic building blocks that can be used for a broad range of applications, ranging from WDM sources by heterogeneous III-V/silicon integration, fast modulators and detectors, passive circuits and packaging;
  • building and optimizing the entire supply chain to fabricate complex functional devices (photonics/electronics convergence will be addressed at the process level and also at the design level as HELIOS helps to develop an adequate design environment);
  • investigating promising approaches that offer advantages in terms of integration on CMOS for next-generation CMOS photonics devices; and
  • roadmapping, dissemination and training to strengthen European activities in this field and to increase awareness of new users about the potential of CMOS photonics.

As the coordinator of HELIOS, which includes nearly 60 researchers from member organizations, Leti is responsible for the project's technical, administrative and financial management and for day-to-day technical monitoring, direction and progress. Leti is also a key contributor to the development of building blocks and integration processes that are part of HELIOS.

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