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Published on October 9, 2019

Photonics Integrated Circuits: a hot topic at ECOC 2019!

The 45th edition of ECOC in Dublin confirmed the boom of photonics integrated circuits (PIC) throughout the telecom industry. Half of the exhibitors were presenting PIC-related technologies and activities. Designers, manufacturers, institutes, standards bodies and test assembly & packaging vendors highlighted their presence on this fast-growing market. There were also PIC workshops for experts and sessions on PIC market evolution and opportunities. For instance, Lisa Huff, Principal Analyst, Optical Components at Ovum, gave an overview of data center networks, discussing how optical integration and silicon photonics will transform the telecom landscape.

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This forecast is shared by many analysts. As silicon photonics technology is strongly impacting the market, LightCounting research predicts an accelerated sales growth of products based on silicon photonics in 2020-2024, due to the use of DR4, FR4, DR1 and FR1 transceivers. In just 5 years, they estimate that the market will double from $6.9B to $12B in 2023, mainly due to the large increase in indium phosphide (InP) and silicon photonics technologies. Data from Stratistics MRC also indicate a year-on-year growth of 31%.

PIC testing – key insights

Our expert François Couny, Product Line Manager, was onsite at EXFO’s booth showcasing a comprehensive line of passive and active optical component testing solutions designed for PIC characterization. We asked him a couple of questions and grabbed some key insights.

ECOC 2019

Why this surge in interest about testing optical components?

Testing technologies for optical components evolved slowly over the past few decades, but the arrival of photonic integrated circuits and the advent of the 5G network pose a new challenge to component vendors. They are now faced with a pressing issue of testing components quickly and more reliably than ever before. The new generation of optical components exhibit characteristics that make previous state-of-the-art performance redundant. The challenge for PIC developers today is no longer about designing or manufacturing these components, but in testing them.

I’ve been coming to ECOC every year since 2012 and I’m seeing a growing interest at the conferences and on the exhibit floor in PIC testing across the telecom industry.

Why test photonic integrated circuits?

PICs are to the photonics world what the processor was for electronics: a revolution. This long-awaited technology is out of the labs and being leveraged in many sectors from sensing to automated cars, via medical applications and next-gen telecom networks.

The power of a PIC is that it enables you to pack a mix of optical and electronic functionalities on a chip. This reduces size, power consumption and cost, while boosting reproducibility and yield. At the heart of the R&D and manufacturing of those chips is the process of optical characterization. To address the sheer volume of PIC components that require testing, a whole new approach is needed to achieve fast and reliable characterization throughout component development. The test data has to be fed through design and fabrication to improve yield and also through assembly and packaging to reduce cost of integration.

PIC development done right – how can you achieve this?

We have a bunch of active and passive testing solutions designed to help component vendors from development to mass production.

  • For passive component testing, the CTP10 provides fast, accurate and reliable results, under any test conditions. The CTP10 was demoed at ECOC and it can characterize the spectral properties of up to 50 optical ports in one single scan with a resolution of 1 pm and more than 70 dB of dynamic range, even at 100 nm/s. Its electronics and internal processor make data transfer a breeze. The CTP10 can be remotely controlled using SCPI commands, facilitating integration as part of an automated PIC testing setup.
  • The CT440 is a compact version of CTP10, specifically developed for labs and universities, and particularly suited for PIC testing where a mix of optical and electronic spectral characterization is required. The CT440 can combine 4 lasers to test over the full telecom wavelength range (1240-1680 nm) and has a wavelength accuracy of ±5 pm.
  • For the characterization of active (i.e., light-emitting) components on a PIC chip, we have a dedicated optical spectrum analyzer—the OSA20. It has a scanning speed of 2000 nm/s and an optical resolution of 20 pm, which means that it can deliver best-inclass results really very fast.

Interested in learning more on how to test photonic integrated circuits?

Watch François Couny’s expert webinar “PIC your test” for a deep dive into the world of photonics.

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