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Project Methodology: A foundry approach

Historical Perspective: The EpixNET Integration Platforms

In September 2004 the European Network of Excellence on Photonic Integrated Components and Circuits, ePIXnet (www.epixnet.org) started with a healthy mix of academic and industrial partners on an ambitious mission: to move from a model of independent research to a model of integrated research with shared use of expensive technological infrastructure. In the background were the steadily increasing costs of cleanroom facilities that restricted Photonic Integration research to the ever smaller group of institutes that could afford a cleanroom. The idea was to enlarge the group of users by stimulating cleanroom owners to organise access to their facilities for a broader circle of non-cleanroom owning partners. After experimenting for two years with facility access ePIXnet founded integration technology platforms. Two major integration technologies were identified: InP-based integration technology, which supports the highest degree of functionality, including compact lasers and amplifiers, and Silicon Photonics technology, which offers most of the functionality offered by InP except for the compact lasers and amplifiers, but at a potentially better performance and lower cost because of its compatibility with mature CMOS technology. Later a third platform with dielectric waveguide technology was added, which offers low-loss and high-quality passive optical functions and some thermo-optic active functions, through the whole wavelength range from visible to infrared. In addition to these three integration platforms, ePIXnet established four supporting platforms: for nanolithography, for packaging, for high-speed characterization, and for massive cluster computing. From the beginning it was intended that the ePIXnet platform activities should survive after the expiration of EU network funding by the end of 2008; which has indeed happened.

In summary three major generic integration technologies have been made accessible at a research level to a broad circle of users, by setting up so-called integration technology platforms:

JePPIX (www.jeppix.eu , coordinator@jeppix.eu): The InP-based technology platform is supported by a consortium containing Europe’s key players in the field of InP-technology: chip manufacturers, Photonic CAD companies, equipment manufacturers and research institutes. It is coordinated by the TU Eindhoven and offers small-scale access to its generic integration process, for research purposes and proof-of-concept.

ePIXfab (www.epixfab.eu , pieter.dumon@imec.be): The Silicon Photonics platform is presently supported by Europe’s major CMOS research institutes IMEC and LETI and coordinated by the University of Gent. It offers low-cost shared access to processes for high quality silicon photonic ICs to an increasing number of customers, also from outside.

Triplex (http://www.lionixbv.nl/download/pdf/flyertriplex.pdf , info@lionibv.nl): The third platform, supported by the Dutch company Lionix and the University of Twente, provides access to its flexible Triplex dielectric (glass) waveguide technology (SiO2 and Si3N4).

EuroPIC Methodology

EuroPIC builds on the groundwork of the JePPIX platform which started by offering small scale access to the COBRA generic integration process of the TU Eindhoven. This process is very useful for proof-of-concept experiments, but does not support reproducible fabrication of larger numbers of PICs with sufficient performance for practical applications. EuroPIC will develop this concept much further by integrating a larger number of basic Building Blocks with higher performance in an industrial process, thus supporting greater functionality, better performance and larger circuit complexity, both for small and large volume production, and pave the way for a generic photonic foundry service. EuroPIC enables Europe to lead in this development.

To reach the project goals is the EuroPIC consortium will:

• Decompose the functionality of complex photonic micro-systems into a small set of basic functions.

• Develop a Building Block for each of the basic functions and to develop production processes capable of integrating the basic Building Blocks in any arbitrary combination and number.

• Develop a dedicated design kit that contains an accurate model of the performance of the basic Building Blocks and that can simulate the response and the performance of complex circuits built from these building blocks.

• Develop dedicated measurement tools and vehicles for testing the quality and performance of the basic Building Blocks, in such a way that testing the performance of complex circuits is reduced to proper testing of the basic Building Blocks.

• Test the foundry concept with examples of high complexity ASPICs.

• Develop a small set of generic packages that can be used for a broad class of PICs, by introducing standardization in the positions of optical and electrical connections, in chip dimensions and positioning of heat generating elements.