NEBULA is a new ambitious EU-HORIZON2020 R&D project that was launched on 1st of January 2020, with the goal to provide the foundations for a common future-proof transceiver technology platform with ultra-high bandwidth capabilities offered by a CMOS compatible toolkit and tailored towards meeting performance, cost and energy metrics in both inter-DCI coherent and intra-DCI ASIC co-packaged optics. NEBULA is funded under the ICT-05-2019: Application driven Photonic components call and is coordinated by Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Switzerland, March 2020

Data Center (DC) industry is dominated by a new reality of growing inter-DC utilization factors with still rapidly jumping intra-DC interconnect specification metrics stemming from the emerging paradigm of hyperscale Data Centers infrastructures that expand along a distributed DC model. Sorting out the puzzle of interand intra-DCI transceiver technologies and needs via a single transceiver platform, solutions have to reside on a staggering synergy of bandwidth, cost, energy, digital processing and co-package credentials.

This is where NEBULA steps in to invest in the established bandwidth and energy saving credentials of plasmonic modulator solutions together with the functional digital processing portfolio of neuromorphic optical reservoir computing engines aiming to establish a low-cost and large volume manufacturing Plasmonic Photonic Integrated Chip (PPIC) platform in order to rapidly release products and solutions for the DCI market. NEBULA’s disruptive technology envisions to provide higher than 93% power savings in coherent transmission and up to 37% energy savings compared to the estimated power requirements of respective Siphotonic-based co-packaged solutions.

Following a concrete design approach, NEBULA targets the following individual objectives that will be tailored in two System-in-Package prototype assemblies:


i) 112Gbaud plasmonic modulators on SiN with plasmonic thermal stabilizer systems.

ii) a new class of neuro-augmented, all-optical receivers by exploiting Reservoir Computing (RC), relieving coherent optics from cost- and energy-hungry electronic DSP.

iii) ultra-fast electronics at 112Gbaud fabricated on low-cost 55nm BiCMOS platform.

iv) Uni-Travelling Carrier Photodiodes (UTC-PDs) supporting operation beyond 100GHz bandwidth and x80 sensitivity improvement by the co-integration of semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs).

System-in-Package prototype assemblies:

– a C-band, 16QAM transceiver operating at 112Gbaud while offering an aggregate capacity of 3.2Tbps for inter-DCI applications

– a sub-V O-band, PAM4 driverless transmitter copackaged with a data generating ASIC for next Generation 50Tb/s switches, offering a 1.6Tbps aggregate capacity targeting intra-DCI applications

The project is scheduled to run for three years bringing together 12 partners from 7 countries, strategically compiled from strong industrial and academic organizations in PIC and Photonic Systems value chain. NEBULA team includes: four distinguished universities, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – AUTH (GR), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich – ETHZ (CH), Politecnico di Milano – POLIMI (I), and Ghent University – UGent (BE), four top-ranked academic and research institutes, French National Center for Scientific Research – CNRS (FR), Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre – IMEC (BE), III-V Lab (FR), and Institute of Communication and Computer Systems – ICCS (GR), the European research branch of one of the world’s largest computing technology developer and supplier, IBM Research GmbH – IBM (CH), a B2B company manufacturing PICs offering a groundbreaking allnitride core technology, Ligentec – LGC (CH), one of the world’s largest capital equipment supplier and vendor in the area of DataCom components and systems, Mellanox Technologies Ltd – MLNX (IL), and a global manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, ADVA Optical Networking SE – ADVA (DE).


NEBULA: Neuro-augmented 112Gbaud CMOS plasmonic transceiver platform for Intra- and Inter-DCI applications (Grant Agreement:871658)

Programme: Horizon 2020 – ICT-05-2019: Application driven Photonic components

Duration: 01/01/2020 – 31/12/2022

Total budget: € 5,999,191.25

Coordinator: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, GR

Prof. Konstantinos Vyrsokinos


LIGENTEC is your manufacturing partner for low loss Photonic Integrated Circuits for customers in high-tech areas such as integrated quantum optics, LiDAR, sensors and microwave photonics. LIGENTEC commercializes all-nitride-core technology awarded with the PIC award at PIC International 2018. The technology uses thick film optical grade LPCVD deposited silicon nitride and optimized cladding to provide guaranteed performance in propagation loss. With the all-nitride (AN) technology LIGENTEC enables the customers to develop their products in the industrial revolution 4.0. The customers benefit from a clear path to volume production while obtaining the small quantities of wafers with the performance, short turn around of 2 month and high yield required at the early stage of proof of concept.

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