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PhotoniX Report Summary

Project ID: 666866

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PhotoniX (PHOtonic Transmitters for Optical Networks and Interconnects in energy-efficient datacentres, supercomputers and homes based on VCSELs)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2017-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

To match the demand of the productivity of modern computing systems, which is growing three orders of magnitude per decade, the single interconnect channel bit data rate should double each 2.5 years and the number of channels per link increase 5-fold each 10 years.
At higher frequencies, the electromagnetic losses and cross-talk in the current state of the art copper interconnect technologies are drastically increased making copper solutions prohibitively complex and expensive, and requiring new technologies to come.
Optical links made of multimode fibers (MMF) and on board polymer waveguides powered by Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting lasers (VCSELs) offer fast and cost and energy-efficient solution due to their small size, circular surface emission pattern, low operating current and a narrow spectrum.
Currently, the industrial bit data rates are being upgraded from 10-14 Gb/s up to 25Gb/s over distances of up to 100m. Within PhotoniX, VIS qualifies and commercializes its novel interconnect technology and extends it up to 50-150 Gb/s per channel and up to km-long distances.
This overall goal has been reached by realizing the following objectives:
1. To qualify advanced optical components (VCSELs and ICs) for mass production readiness as single chip or chip arrays at 25-50G per channel
2. To motivate the mainstream market of optical interconnects for future market uptake
3. To be able to gain a global VCSEL chip market share of 5 % in 4 years after the end of the project.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work performed has led to main results as follows:
1. To qualify VCSELs and ICs for mass production, the design, production and pre-qualification of advanced VCSELs capable of up to 50 Gb/s per channel took place. In advanced single mode, VCSELs bit data rates of 25 Gbaud and 50 Gbaud were demonstrated, low RIN and high linearity was achieved. 108Gb/s data transmission was demonstrated over 100m of multimode fiber in PAM-4 modulation format, 54 Gb/s NRZ transmission over 2.2 km MM fiber was achieved. Up to 150 Gb/s transmission per single VCSEL was achieved in DMT and multi-CAP modulation formats over up to 300 meter of multimode fiber. All these results represent world records for VCSEL transmission over multimode fiber and are realized suing the same type of the devices produced by VIS (VCSELs and PIN photodetectors).
Furthermore, optimal epitaxial designs were modelled and altogether 110 epitaxial VCSEL wafers were grown at an industrial foundry necessary for the start of extended qualification program aimed at single mode 50 Gbaud VCSELs. 3 multi-wafer processing runs were executed.
2. To prepare market uptake and to create market awareness, the company exhibited at major international conferences and met multiple customers in the field of optical components and optical fiber communication, including multiple visits to customers and partners in the Silicon Valley, e.g. key Datacom system, supercomputer and consumer electronics companies.
The company presented talks on high speed VCSEL components at relevant conferences, e.g. Photonics West, OFC, and Asia Communications and Photonics Conference. Moreover, several, joint publications with customers and R&D partners have been released.
The customers are thus aware of possible drastic distance increase in the present generation of 100 Gb/s (25 Gb/s × 4) VCSEL based links (IEEE Std 802.3bm-2015) and also the availability of the devices (VCSELs, PINs, ICs, assemblies) suitable for new generations of VCSEL links being under standardization. The single channel bit data rates in the standards:
a. 56 Gb/s NRZ (64GFC Fibre Channel, CEI-56Gvsr, CEI-56G-usr)
b. 25 Gb/s x16 NRZ (IEEE P802.3bs 200 Gb/s and 400 Gb/s Ethernet Task Force)
c. 50 Gb/s PAM4 VCSELs at 25 Gbaud (IEEE P802.3cd 50 Gb/s, 100 Gb/s, and 200 Gb/s Ethernet Task Force)
will be covered by VCSELs with a significant safety margin, consequently, allowing standard multimode fiber-based architecture in datacenters, supercomputers and server farms to last and increase the share in the near future by extending the transmission distance. With 100 Gb/s PAM4 demonstration over MMF, VIS offered a solution for short reach technology for future standardization work for distances presently targeted only for single mode fiber transmission.
3. Overall, with PhotoniX technology, an ultra-high speed and reliable data communication at > 50 Gb/s transmission rate at low power level is now available. Thus, PhotoniX is completely in line with its ambitions to overcome the bottleneck of data transfer within large computer systems, thus, improving European digital infrastructure. With expected revenues to increase sharply, VIS is going to take approximately 2% of the addressable worldwide market for VCSEL chip used for data transmission. Thus, VIS will unlock the potential of new solutions for applications in high speed data transmission and new application such as 3D recognition or optical sensors, to leverage a global VCSEL chip market share of 4 % in the longer term. Main contracts acquired during the project duration prove a promising growth perspective. The fabless business model allows the company to establish a dominant position in a niche market and not to compete with the large foundries and companies. However, it might be necessary to invest in an own pilot line to take control over the most decisive technology steps.
PhotoniX is involved in relevant standardization activities defining new passes for the industry.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

With its world records for VCSEL transmission, VIS pushes the technology borders forward. This will significantly contribute to industrial use of high-speed optical components and interconnect links which is relevant in a vast range of applications e.g. data centers, high performance computing and consumer electronics. This will help the mega trend of digitization to unfold its full potential in all fields of the European society.
At the same time, increasing computerization and digitization produce a growing energy consumption. With its VCSEL approach, PhotoniX will establish an energy efficient data transmission technology that could generate energy savings of approx. 60% as compared to the state-of-the-art both by reducing the power consumption and by increasing the seamless link length without extra power and space needed for wavelength conversion. The energy-efficient and highly-reliable VCSELs and VCSEL-based assemblies are now available. The technology advantage is also proven and secured by the two new patents filed.
Moreover, to prepare the ramp up the technology, VIS developed VCSEL technology chains with partners/subcontractors. The EU economy already won through international investment of VIS a partner, who took a European factory out of the bankruptcy, hired back and significantly extended the personnel letting the factory operate at full speed now. It is expected, that further production capacities will be set up to strengthen European opto- and microelectronics industries and to keep the strategic knowledge and experts in Europe
VIS also has ensured targeted dissemination activities in order to maximize the impact of the project results. Almost 8,000 people were reached by these measures, among them ~6,000 Industry stakeholders, the general public (~500) and the scientific community (~500) being the most relevant target groups. Several presentations about the technology and project results are available on the company website.

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