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IBM announced designing and testing of a fully integrated silicon photonics chip for the first time and reports the technology will soon enable 100G transceiver manufacturing. Ovum found IBM's processing and packaging impressive due to their potential to deliver low-cost components.

IBM's 100G design targets low cost

IBM's 100G silicon photonics solution is well suited for data center applications and has been demonstrated to deliver high optical performance, and is near commercialization. Silicon photonics has generated excitement over the past few years, but it is now criticized because it is taking a long time to commercialize and it's not clear how it will deliver low cost. IBM's design attacks these issues head-on.

IBM has developed a monolithic 100G chip based on conventional semiconductor manufacturing practices that includes all the essential optical and electrical functions. Four wavelengths at 25G are combined to deliver 100G on duplex fiber. The chip includes modulators, drivers, photodiodes, transimpedance amplifiers, and waveguides. It supports the CWDM-4 and CLR4 multisource agreements, is currently being qualified, and is estimated to be generally available for the 100G data center demand ramp.

IBM uses conventional pick and place technology to attach lasers and fibers in separate steps. Both are passively aligned, making it a low-cost process. Initially the laser will be connected to the chip by a fiber. IBM is developing a self-aligned chip attachment of the laser using surface tension during the soldering step.

Single-mode fiber coupling is one of the most challenging steps, and active alignment, an expensive process, is typically used. Fiber-to-waveguide alignment is particularly difficult in silicon photonics due to large mode mismatch. IBM applied conventional pick and place technology where the fiber is placed in v-grooves in the chip and an IBM-developed mode-matching technology is applied to support low-loss passive alignment.


Further reading

Silicon Photonics Gets Ready for Prime Time, TE0017-000028 (February 2015)

Introduction to Silicon Photonics 2: Markets and Technology, TE0017-000026 (November 2014)

100G Component Market Outlook, TE0017-000014 (September 2014)

Introduction to Silicon Photonics Markets and Technology, TE003-000587 (October 2013)


Daryl Inniss, Practice Leader, Components

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