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European Manufacturing Platform For Photonic Integrated Circuits

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Envisioning open access business models

EU-funded researchers have developed a novel open-access business model providing an inexpensive route to new products based on emerging optoelectrical circuits.

Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies

Integrated circuits (ICs), sometimes called chips or microchips, are ubiquitous. These small electrical circuits can house thousands to millions of electrical components (e.g. resistors, capacitors and transistors) on a single semiconductor wafer or chip. Designers and engineers are now producing ICs that incorporate optical components. These photonics integrated circuits (PICs) could be useful in optical communications, optical sensors and more. Growing demand for higher bandwidths’ could be met by these PICs. However, production technology and equipment is prohibitively expensive for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to fully exploit their potential. Scientists initiated the EU-funded project 'European manufacturing platform for photonic integrated circuits' (EUROPIC) to establish a completely new business model fostering the creativity of research institutes, SMEs and industry. Their goal was to reduce the cost of commercialisation by a factor of 10 or more. Through extensive research and development into manufacturing methods and high-throughput processes, they developed an open-access generic process chain. This enabled the cost-effective production of indium phosphide (InP)-based PICs from a small set of basic building blocks. The demonstration of its viability was based on generic foundries at two industrial fabrication facilities. Partners used the platform to create novel products for numerous growing markets. Products included fibre-optic sensors, optical switches for computing and fibre optic networks for telecommunications, medical applications and signal processing. EUROPIC scientists established the first generic production platform for InP-based PICs and developed a very strong user base largely from SMEs for developing application-specific PICs (ASPICs). The project has thus ushered in a new age for PICs and a commanding role for European SMEs.

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