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Fully integratable lasers and optical amplifiers in silicon

Final Report Summary - FILOS (Fully integratable lasers and optical amplifiers in silicon)

Executive Summary:
This PoC project Fully Integratable Lasers and Optical Amplifiers in Silicon (FILOS) has established the near term market potential of the unique silicon light emission and mid-infrared silicon detector technologies being developed within SILAMPS and developed a strategy for commercial exploitation of the technology. It has identified the detectors as a particular near market opportunity that, apart from being a highly significant commercial opportunity in itself, could also generate further funding for commercialising the silicon light emission technology.

Project Context and Objectives:
Photonics is a Key Enabling Technology for Europe and has been identified as having “a substantial leverage effect on the European economy and workforce” (Executive Summary, Towards 2020 – Photonics Driving Economic Growth in Europe, Multiannual Strategic Roadmap 2014 - 2020). More generally, silicon and its associated technologies underpin microelectronics, information technology and the digital world as we currently know it. Silicon photonics, and major breakthroughs in it such as light emitters and mid-infrared detection, would widen its application areas into a range of high value, important societal, environmental, security and health applications. Green photonics (comprising photonic solutions that generate or conserve energy, cut greenhouse emissions, reduce pollution, yield environmentally sustainable outputs or improve public health) is expected to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate value of near to 20% (ibid). A particular growth area is the use of mid-infrared sensors in smart buildings and cities enabling the much more efficient use of resources. Here the cost-performance benefits of a silicon mid-infrared solution could be very significant. Silicon mid-infrared photodetectors made to CMOS standards, as well as being significantly cheaper to manufacture and more reliable than current detection devices, would enable the elimination of processes using highly toxic materials such as mercury-cadmium-telluride (MCT), lead sulphide, lead selenide and arsenic containing alloys.

The underpinning technology is being developed in the ERC Advanced Investigator Grant SILAMPS (Silicon Integrated Lasers and Optical Amplifiers). SILAMPS addresses the manufacture of silicon based lasers and optical amplifiers in the near-infrared that are fully compatible with current manufacturing processes for seamless integration in to silicon photonics platforms. As part of this a breakthrough has also provided a route to a new family of silicon photodetectors and sensors operating in the mid- to far-infrared.

This PoC project Fully Integratable Lasers and Optical Amplifiers in Silicon (FILOS) has established the near term market potential of the unique silicon light emission and mid-infrared silicon detector technologies being developed within SILAMPS and developed a strategy for commercial exploitation of the technology. It has identified the detectors as a particular near market opportunity that, apart from being a highly significant commercial opportunity in itself, could also generate further funding for commercialising the silicon light emission technology.

Project Results:
The project progressed essentially in line with the plan of activities with achievement of a comprehensive analysis of the potential market for our technology: identification of the key target customers and market size and growth. A freedom-to-operate review was carried out and indicated no areas of concern. Renewals of the core patents filed were carried out so the basic technology is well protected and ready for commercial exploitation. The final outputs were a comprehensive commercialisation and strategy analysis leading to a business plan using Si-Light Technologies Ltd as the commercialisation vehicle.
A request for extension of the project by six months to eighteen months in total was granted to enable us to explore in greater detail, the near term market potential of a late breakthrough in our detector technology in addition to the more mature core SILAMPS light emission technology. The work was carried out in accordance with the revised Annex 1 Description of Work (DoW) (date of revision 08 August 2013).

Foreground IP arising under SILAMPS during FILOS has been protected and the University Technology Transfer Office (TTO) is prepared to fund future patent costs and to file further inventions if necessary. The filings are such that the emission and detector technologies can be commercialised separately or together but both will be commercialised via Si-Light Technologies Ltd.

Potential Impact:
Silicon photonics, and major breakthroughs in it such as light emitters and mid-infrared detection, would widen its application areas into a range of high value, important societal, environmental, security and health applications. Green photonics (comprising photonic solutions that generate or conserve energy, cut greenhouse emissions, reduce pollution, yield environmentally sustainable outputs or improve public health) is expected to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate value of near to 20%. A particular growth area is the use of mid-infrared sensors in smart buildings and cities enabling the much more efficient use of resources. Here the cost-performance benefits of a silicon mid-infrared solution could be very significant. Silicon mid-infrared photodetectors made to CMOS standards, as well as being significantly cheaper to manufacture and more reliable than current detection devices, would enable the elimination of processes using highly toxic materials such as MCT, lead sulphide, lead selenide and arsenic containing alloys.

List of Websites:

www.si-light.com / k.homewood@surrey.ac.uk