HELIOS develops supply chain for integrating photonics with CMOS circuit

CEA-Leti said today that Europe is strongly positioned to design and manufacture volume silicon photonics devices because of the success of the recently completed HELIOS program. The €8.5 million European Commission project developed a complete design and fabrication supply chain for integrating a photonic layer with a CMOS circuit, using microelectronics fabrication processes.

HELIOS, which was coordinated by Leti, also demonstrated a complete design flow, integrating both silicon photonics device design and electronic/photonic system design in an EDA-compatible framework.

“It is strategically important for Europe to maintain photonic chip-design and chip-integrating functions to compete with other countries and to encourage innovation by European microelectronics companies,” said Leti CEO Laurent Malier. “HELIOS’s success in creating the essential building blocks for integrating photonics with CMOS circuits and making the process available to a variety of users underscores the key role that broad European technological cooperation plays in a very competitive global business environment.”

Thomas Skordas, head of the EC’s photonics unit, said HELIOS has shown the large potential silicon photonics has in many different applications, such as data communications.

“The technology roadmap of silicon photonics becomes clearer now. Europe will have to move fast to become competitive in this new field,” Skordas said. “Strategies for the industrialisation of silicon photonics are currently being discussed in the context of Horizon 2020, the EU’s new framework program for research and innovation for 2014-2020."

Silicon photonics is seen as key to developing optical telecommunications or for optical interconnects in microelectronic circuits, because of the cost advantages of integrating photonic and electronic functions on the same chip. CMOS photonics may lead to low-cost solutions for a range of applications such as optical communications, optical interconnections between semiconductor chips and circuit boards, optical signal processing, optical sensing, and biological applications.

Launched by the European Commission in 2008, HELIOS focused on developing essential building blocks like efficient optical sources (silicon-based and heterogeneous integration of III-V on silicon), integrated lasers, high-speed modulators and photo-detectors. The project, which had 20 members, also combined and packaged these building blocks to demonstrate complex functions that address a variety of industrial needs.

These include a 10Gb/s modulator integrated with an electronic BiCMOS driver, a 16×10 Gb/s transceiver for WDM-PON applications, a photonic QAM-10Gb/s wireless transmission system and a mixed analog-and-digital transceiver module for multi-function antennas.

The building blocks also led to results exceeding the original specifications, positioning the partners at the leading edge in their fields:

  • High-performance passive devices were obtained and introduced in the demonstrators (rib/strip waveguides transitions with less than 0.2dB losses, grating couplers with 1.6dB losses, inverted taper couplers with 1dB losses, AWG and micro-ring based de-multiplexers).
  • The wafer-level integration of laser by III-V/Si bonding led to the demonstration of single-mode operation with 3dBm output power, 30dB SMSR, Ith < 35mA in CW.
  • 40G carrier depletion Si modulators were demonstrated in MZI, Ring, slow wave, interdigitated modulators configuration.
  • An integrated tunable laser–Mach-Zehnder modulator working at 10Gb/s.

The work of the HELIOS consortium led to more than 170 publications and communications in peer-review journals and international conferences.



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