Engineering 101

Partnership to Advance PIC Technology with Plasmonics

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It has been announced by Synopsys that PLASMOfab, a research project funded by the EU innovation program Horizon 2020, has been successfully completed to enable mass manufacturing of high-performance plasmo-photonic components.

Launched in 2016, the project has brought together leading industrial partners and top-ranked academic and research institutes in the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) and opto-electronics value chain, including PhoeniX Software, now part of Synopsys’ Photonic Solutions.

The three-year research project has significantly advanced the state of the art in PICs and CMOS-compatible plasmonics for optical data communications and biosensing for point-of-care applications. PLASMOfab has developed CMOS-compatible plasmonics to consolidate advanced PICs with electronic ICs in volume manufacturing.

The project focused on CMOS-compatible metals and photonic structures that are harmonically co-integrated with electronics using standardized CMOS processes. As part of project validation, the PIC platform was used along with advanced peripherals to develop predominant functional modules with unprecedented performance.

A key project achievement was the development of a groundbreaking ultra-compact plasmonic transmitter, which has a footprint of 90×5.5µm² to transmit 0.8 TBit/s (800Gbit/s) through four individual 0.2 TBit/s transmitters. The project also demonstrated CMOS-compatible plasmonic waveguides with the lowest possible losses, as described in Nature’s Scientific Reports in September 2018.

“PLASMOfab’s main goal has been to address the ever increasing needs for low energy, small size, high complexity and high performance mass manufactured PICs,” said Nikos Pleros, Assistant Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. “We have achieved this by developing a revolutionary yet CMOS-compatible fabrication platform for seamless co-integration of active plasmonics with photonic and electronic components.”

As a result of the PLASMOfab research, two new companies have been launched to commercialize the new technologies:

  • bialoom will further explore plasmo-photonic biosensors in multichannel and high-sensitivity point-of-care diagnostics by combining plasmonic sensors with integrated Si3N4 photonic functionalities, electrical controls, biofunctionalisation techniques, and microfluidics.
  • Polariton Technologies specializes in new photonic and electronic technologies for the testing, sensing, and telecommunications market. Their energy efficient and low-footprint plasmonic modulator will convert microwave signals to optical signals.

Dr Dimitris Tsiokos, Principal Researcher at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, said: “We expect that further development of CMOS-compatible plasmonic components with CMOS fabrication processes and photonics technologies will demonstrate plasmonics’ clear advantages in PICs. When the best of all three worlds of plasmonics, photonics, and electronics converge in a single integration platform, PICs with unprecedented performance and functionality will be realized, targeting a diverse set of applications and industrial needs while meeting mass production requirements.”

Twan Korthorst, Director of Synopsys’ Photonic Solutions, added: “We are pleased to have been working closely with the partners in this project and especially with AMO and ams to develop R&D PDKs for the new PLASMOfab integration technology. The PDKs are supported by our PIC design platform, which provides the industry’s only full design flow from photonic device level to PIC to system levels.”

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