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Optical Injection Locked Modulator

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OILMOD (Optical Injection Locked Modulator)

Reporting period: 2014-11-01 to 2015-04-30

Global internet traffic is expected to increase from 1.1 Zettabytes per year in 2016 to almost double that by 2019 (a Zettabyte is a trillion Gigabytes). This has been significantly aided by the introduction of coherent technology in long distance transmission networks which caused a step leap in data transmission rates. It was enabled by advances in digital signal processing, narrow linewidth lasers, coherent receivers and optical modulators. Such modulators are used to control both the level and phase of the optical signal to send data and have been the main topic of this study. Commercial modulators for coherent communications are typically based on a nested Mach-Zehnder modulator.
With partners in Univ. Southampton we have developed and evaluated a new type of optical modulator (patent pending) using optical injection locking (OIL) of diode lasers to send data.
The main objectives of this study were to investigate in more detail the commercial feasibility of the planned product in terms of market opening, technical capability and advantages over the competition.
The work done during the feasibility study comprised market analysis; customer requirement evaluations; evaluation of routes to manufacture (chip and packaging costing); device performance evaluation (loss and energy); competitor evaluations; to develop the business model and investigate miniaturised prototype development.
Main results were that the market existence and growth were confirmed with added focus on specific market areas, identification of a number of routes to product realisation and costing of those routes, comparison and validation of modulator performance against best in class competing products, a new model for development, production costing and revenue calculation and steps towards a modularised prototype.
Expected final results are a decision to proceed with development of the product, subject to feedback from the prototype devices.

Impact on the company, Eblana Photonics
- This fits into Eblana’s telecommunications portfolio by extending the company range into higher end (longer distance and higher speed) products.
- To continue this work there is a requirement to increase the workforce and broaden skill set. The business plan set out for 10 additional staff over 4 years with additional expertise in high speed testing, applications engineering and electronic integration required.
- Advantage was taken of the Action 9 of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme for Innovation in SMEs 2014-2015, aimed at assessing the investment potential of the most promising SMEs emerging from Phase 1 and 2 of the SME Instrument. The time spent with the expert was quite constructive for the Eblana management team from the perspective of the expert’s views on H2020, possible options for future investment, where mentoring might advantageously be used and suggestions on how to structure the team for growth.
- The mentoring innovation workshop provided by Enterprise Ireland/Enterprise Europe Network was used as part of the program and which gave positive feedback to the employees regarding the company’s proactiveness on managing innovation.

Societal Impacts
- The proposed product addresses requirements for metro-region communications (80km-800km range) supporting the proliferation of datacentres that enable cloud computing.
- The proposed product can support very high data rates over long distances at very low energy consumption levels and small size and so is a high potential solution for the current and next generation of miniaturised coherent data transmission modules.
- Additional local employment (10 positions required to be filled)
- Skills and facilities for production and packaging are available in Europe, although specific improvements in capability are likely to be required. These are in the development/production plan.
- Other than the conventional optical fibre telecommunications market, the OIL modulator should have advantages in other markets such as microwave photonics, pulsed lasers and free space optical communications because of its unique capability of carrier control and modulation linearity. As already demonstrated by us with a 51Gbps demonstration at 2µm wavelengths there is a large degree of flexibility regarding wavelength.
- The market impact is expected to be disruptive as a fully linear IQ modulator is not available.