The optical equivalent of the well-established electronic integrated circuit (IC) is the photonic integrated circuit (PIC), which comprises a multitude of photonic components integrated into a single chip. While an electronic IC consists of transistors, resistors, and capacitors that work with electrons, PICs work with light and can embody modulators, lasers, detectors and more. Integrating various functionalities brings advantages such as extremely small footprints, high manufacturing scalability, low cost, high performance, power-efficiency, and low heat generation. Whereas PICs based on silicon waveguides have been around for more than 20 years, new material platforms were introduced in the past decade.
These new material platforms enable a new era of applications and markets and overcome the limitations of silicon in terms of propagation loss, modulation speed and wavelength coverage.
APPLICATIONS FOR PICS
PICs will play a key role in tomorrow‘s infrastructure in communication, sensing and transportation. For the quickly growing areas neuromorphic computing, augmented reality, and quantum technologies PICs are a true enabling technology.
In communication for example, the need for more bandwidth and lower power consumptions in datacom and telecom brings the existing silicon photonics to its limits. Higher modulation speeds and low loss propagation and interconnects are needed. Channel spacing will need to change from widely spaced to narrow spaced with many laser lines next to each other. Additionally, coherent transceivers will become widely spread to meet the bandwith requirements. Companies in Switzerland are developing high-speed modulators that can be integrated into a low-loss PIC platform that also enables narrow linewidth lasers for coherent telecom.