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Large reductions in R&D cycle time and chip manufacturing costs will lead to a large growth of the share of Application Specific PICs (ASPICs) in the photonic components market. So far the use of PICs has been mainly restricted to a few niche areas in high-end telecommunications applications, where their specific functionality cannot be met by competing technologies. With the expected cost reductions through a generic foundry approach they will also become competitive in high volume markets like the telecom access network, where they may be applied in the Central Office for integration of larger numbers of circuits that have to be repeated for each subscriber or group of subscribers. In future 10Gb/s access network they may become competitive also in the subscriber transceiver module.

But when chip costs drop photonic chips will increasingly penetrate also other applications. A good example is the fibre sensor market, which amounted 300M$ in 2007 with double digit annual growth figures. Fibre based sensors play a key role in reducing environmental hazards by monitoring the integrity of large constructions like bridges, dikes, roofs of large buildings, windmill propeller blades, large reservoirs for storage of oil or chemicals, offshore platforms etc. According to an OIDA forecast of April 2007 this market will exceed €1Bn in volume in 2011. A significant part of the sensor costs is in the readout unit, which contains a light source, a detector and some signal processing circuitry. Here Photonic ICs could replace a significant part of existing modules, and also allow sensors to be designed using novel principles. Examples are various types of strain sensors, heat sensors and a variety of chemical sensors.

Medical applications. The wavelength window around 1500nm, which can be addressed with InP-based ASPICs, is particularly relevant for the diagnostic analysis of opaque tissue, because the penetration depths at these wavelengths are a factor of three higher than in the near IR window around 800nm, up to a few millimeters, due to lower scattering losses in the tissue. This is particularly relevant for analysis of suspect skin tissue or intra-arterial diagnostics, using techniques like Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) or Raman Scatterometry. The market for OCT equipment presently exceeds €200M. The market for Raman scatterometry is a factor of ten smaller, but if it were possible to integrate the Raman sensor on an InP-chip at a cost of a few hundred €, it may be applied in a tool that will be in the standard diagnostic toolkit of a significant part of the medical profession.

Another interesting class of devices are pico or femtosecond pulse lasers. Here PICs containing mode locked lasers, optionally combined with pulse shapers, can provide small and cheap devices that can be used in widely differing applications, such as high-speed pulse generators and clock recovery circuits, ultrafast AD-converters using multi-wavelength pulse trains for reducing the sampling rate with photonic serial-parallel conversion, and in multi-photon microscopy.

With the increasing processor speeds the need for photonic interconnect in computer backplanes is rapidly increasing and not only the interconnection, but also the switching should be performed in the optical domain. Fast photonic switches for Terabit server backplanes, HPC and multi-core architecture connections constitute a huge potential market for PICs that will be addressed by a EuroPIC switch ASPIC. The market size for server backplanes is estimated to be ~$150M in 2008 and predicted to be $800M by 2012. On board interconnects are anticipated to have a $4Bn market by 2012.

So far, telecommunications has been the main driver for PIC development. In particular, the access market is interesting for a foundry approach because of the large volume of this market. EuroPIC addresses ASPIC designs for access networks, for application in a WDM Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, and for Radio-over-Fibre (RoF) applications in wireless access. The WDM FTTH application addresses development of a chip that runs the communication with 20-40 subscribers in the Central Office. Several millions of these chips will be required if such a network approach is applied Europe wide. Impressive numbers of chips will also be required for RoF applications for in-building distribution of radio signals for wireless access.

These are just a few examples. Once Application Specific Photonic ICs and their development get really cost-effective they will enter into many advanced products in many applications areas, offering ample opportunities for small and larger companies to improve their competitiveness by applying ASPICs in their products.