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Silicon Photonics: Widespread Usage on Active Components Doubtful

September, 2014

While the amount of industry chatter about silicon photonics rose substantially in 2014, partially because of certain market research firms looking to sell more reports, the technological hurdles, especially with insertion loss, make extensive use of active, combined components, such as for modulators and photodetectors, unlikely in the foreseeable future. Although there have definitely been numerous demonstrations of integrating with these CMOS fabrication processes, like with receivers, both the performance and cost are superior with standard methods. Certainly for passive devices, silicon lends itself quite well to integration, including for AWGs. Instead of using micro optics, combining waveguides with attenuators is being accomplished with Si. With 100G receivers, the delay lines are being integrated with the phase combiners...

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Intel Behind $200M Photonics Competition?

October, 2014

The US government did not call it a “silicon photonics contest.” Perhaps the federal funding for this new Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI) would permit Intel and others to gradually shift to more of a generic term for its future development of chips that includes optics, but would not necessarily involve silicon. Actually, in a recent announcement, IBM implied that its new $3 billion, five-year plan for chip development, might not comprise Si photonics. IMI is quite reminiscent of SEMATECH (SEmiconductor MAnufacturing TECHnology), incorporated in 1987, which became a not-for-profit consortium that included the US Department of Defense (DOD) as well as semiconductor suppliers and educational institutions. Its main purpose was to grab back leadership on market share with chips, which was taken away by Japanese companies. There seemed little doubt that early on,...

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OpSIS’ Demise: Politically Incorrect Si Photonic Wafers

October, 2014

This past July, OpSIS announced that the program funding its core operations for silicon photonic Multi-Project Wafers (MPWs) had ended and that it would cease operations. Evidently, the US government around that time was uninterested in supporting the continued existence of the foundry, which had been receiving all of its capital from the private sector. Only about a few months later, the Administration along with the Department of Defense (DOD) apparently changed its mind on the importance of such MPWs, as the White House came out with its $200 million initiative – in effect, making OpSIS a loser before the Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute (IPMI) was even established. A fundamental problem with public-private partnerships is that it not only puts the government in the position of picking the winners of technological solutions, but the actual players involved in...

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Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute: “Panoptic” Danger

October, 2014

One should hardly rule out the risk of the Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute (IPMI) morphing into an all-encompassing and permanent industrial policy for the US. The term “integrated photonics” is so ambiguous and nebulous as to potentially include every facet of new optical technology. Also, it is a sure bet that manufacturing itself will not turn out to be the essential role of IPMI in the long term, rather actual R&D work on newfangled solutions will be its focus – with the potential of hampering future technical development far into the future. There are ample precedents for private-public partnerships straying away from their original missions. SEMATECH’s essential mandate at the beginning was really just to increase knowledge of advanced production processes for semiconductors. Later, the consortium’s goals changed to include branching out into the...

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Data Centers Moving to “Sweat” Shops

December, 2014

What is really happening in the greening of the data center? We are not seeing orders of magnitude reduction of power consumption. We are not seeing the use of cleaner power plants. Evidently, engineers and other individuals working at Data Centers (DCs) will be increasingly making wardrobe changes from light jackets and slacks to shorts and sleeveless shirts. The expectation is that the standard operating mode for many DCs will be as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At least one major components vendor is working on chip sets, which will work more effectively under such conditions and actually, the permitted temperature for a server can normally reach 90°F (although it is usually advocated not to go beyond 77°F). Obviously, in moving in this direction, the cost of cooling a DC can come down substantially. However, what is not as recognizable is the extremely...

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