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European Doctorate in Indium Phosphide PIC Fabrication Technology

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EDIFY (European Doctorate in Indium Phosphide PIC Fabrication Technology)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-09-30

Photonic integration enables multiple optical functions to be delivered on a single chip, a photonic integrated circuit. Photonic integration also has a dramatic impact on footprint, enabling the miniaturization of optical devices, Power consumption and equipment failures are also reduced as these coupling optics are eliminated as a source of failure. Photonic integration is then emerging as a new standard for providing cost effective, high-performance, miniaturised optical systems for a wide range of applications.
However, the complete unfold of this potential is still dependent on overcoming certain challenges. Current Indium Phosphide-based integrated chips laser sources have phosphorus based active material limiting their operation temperature, thus greatly reducing its potential for low-power operation. Moreover, the overall waveguide losses can be highly reduced by applying the doping only when they are strictly required. A third barrier is the lack of predictive analytical models and design methodologies via the Process Design Kit product development software platform. In order to overcome these barriers there is a strong need for researchers with multidisciplinary knowledge of photonics fundamentals, circuit design, dedicated design software and nano-fabrication modalities. The EDIFY project fills these gaps by combining into one training programme a selection of the above-mentioned photonic academic modalities with its direct translation into improvements across the integrated photonic market value chain.

The 4 recruited fellows focused their R&D effort around four tasks: 1) Integration of aluminium containing quantum wells, 2) development of low loss waveguides, 3) development of compact models for the next generation photonic design kits and 4) design mof photonic integrated circuits which employ the achievements from the previous tasks. The project outputs provided a set of new materials, techniques, simulations and compact models for the InP platform developed in the industrial beneficiary which allow for significant improvements in the performance, power consumption and predictive methodologies of current integrated photonic technologies.

Moreover, at the end of the training the fellows are equipped with a unique set of capabilities that will extend their career possibilities: a set of scientific, hands-on and transferable skills courses, as well as a PhD degree and different trainings that cover from management to research capabilities, reinforcing their perspective across the whole value chain, from research and design to manufacturing, thereby forming a strong interdisciplinary network between technical sciences and industry to overcome specific barriers in the integrated photonics sector.
Despite the COVID pandemia, that affected severely both fabrication activities in the cleanroom, testing and secondments in partner organizations, the tasks defined in the project were completed in a timely manner: specifically:
- Two builidng blocks were reformulated in the compact model for the industrial Indium-phosphide standard platform: waveguides and semiconductor optical amplifiers. At the same time, other components such as multimode interference couplers, reflectors, isolation sections, distributed Bragg reflectors, radio frequency phase modulators, electro-absorption modulators and PIN diodes were also analyzed.
- Moreover, a new process has been identified to produce low loss waveguides. And thanks to the experimental results, new simulation techniques have been optimized and new optimal extremely low loss waveguides have been produced.
- In another task a new layerstack with AlInGaAs to be introduced in the platform, verified by means of a tunable laser has been developed.
- Finally, a set of integrated photonic designs using the previous advances were prepared by thinking on space applications, a domain where small size, low power consumption and low weight are highly needed.
Both waveguides, optical amplifiers, Al quantum well laser, multimode interferometer and splitter are implemented in the SMART Photonics photonic design kit. Non confidential results obtained from this research served as the basis of the fellows PhD thesis.

Outcomes of EDIFY have been disseminated through: a project website and a LinkedIn site, two Info days explaining EDIFY activities, 12 radio and news press releases, 4 scientific papers, 3 patents, 5 presentations at international conferences. The fellows visited several times trade and industry associations like JePPix and EPIC while working in SMART Photonics. They also attended industry meetings in Netherlands. Poster, roll-up, brochure, podcast and videos were elaborated. Events like Spanish Info Day, Open Doors, FECYT presentation about MSCA, Women and Girls in Science Day, European Researchers Night.

As an extra, an integrated photonics laboratory (QOPHI Lab) was installed to serve as a for the fellos to characterize the chips they designed and fabricated. This lab has received the name of Quantum, cOmmunication and PHotonic Integration Lab. Three servers that accomodate different simulation and design software licenses havev also been installed.
From the outcomes of EDIFY, new advances over the existing state of the art have been obtained in the InP integrated photonics fabrication process. This will produce significant advances in the photonic ecosystem. Between them the most important are a) a breakthrough improvement in performance, power consumption and predictive methodologies for photonic Integrated Circuits with direct impact on: data communication, fibre-to-the-home, fibre sensors, gas sensing, medical diagnostics, metrology and consumer products and b) a cohort of ESRs trained on cutting-edge photonic integration and nanofabrication technology, that will directly fuel emerging PIC-based innovation and so ensure the generic foundry scale-up and exploitation by the photonic industry.

Concerning R&D activities that ended in the project outcomes, new building blocks were introduced in the indium-phosphide platform: waveguides and semiconductor optical amplifiers. A new Al layerstack that serves as a new block for high temperature and high power laser has been developed. Epitaxial techniques for low loss waveguides and new designs that employ these advances for quantum and space applications were ellaborated.
In terms of training and despite COVID pandemia, the fellows were exposed to international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral training. This training encompassed scientific (4 courses), cross disciplinary and career development courses (5 courses) specifically designed for the Project. They were seconded between research groups as well as between universities and companies, increasing significantly their market value and career prospects in academia and/or industry.
Considering the doctoral program, the fellows were adequately following the DOCTIC PhD program in the University of Vigo and will defend their thesis between February-April 2023.

Finally, the EDIFY project followed what has been planned in terms of strengthening Europe’s innovation capacity, contributing to boost the global competitiveness of the European photonic foundry ecosystem and related sectors, to create new economic opportunities and jobs. EDIFY is expected to have considerable direct economic impact in several market segments, ranging from telecommunications to novel mixed-reality applications.
Newsletter EDIFY