Need for speed and cloud drive new silicon photonics industry says analyst

Created November 23, 2017
News and Business

By Tony Savvas, Contributing Editor

The need for high-speed data transmission, increased data traffic in cloud computing and the rapid roll-out of the Internet of Things have created a potentially thriving photonic integrated circuit industry, according to research from analyst house Frost & Sullivan.

The analyst says the need for speed and wider cloud use has enabled the convergence of complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS) technology, three-dimensional (3D) integration technology, and fibre-optic communication technology to create photonic integrated circuits.

In the near future, says F&S, by leveraging CMOS technology, silicon photonics (SiP) have the potential to be fabricated and manufactured on a much larger scale. It says some of the “most disruptive innovations” in silicon photonics are high-speed Ethernet switches, interconnects, photo detectors and transceivers. These enable high-bandwidth communications at a lower cost through a low form factor, low power generation and increased performance integration into a single device.

Frost & Sullivan’s new analysis, Innovations in Silicon Photonics, finds that the North American region has seen significant growth in silicon photonic research and development, due to the location of hyper-scale data centre facilities that can benefit from SiP. Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific market has witnessed investments to improve methods for large-scale manufacturing of silicon photonic components and circuits.

“Currently, innovations in silicon photonics are driven by the convergence of optical and electronic capabilities on a single chip. The innovations are highly application-specific, focusing on high-speed optical communications,” said Frost & Sullivan TechVision research analyst Naveen Kannan.

“Further research and investments are looking towards developing next-generation, high-speed quantum computing. Researchers have transformed high-speed computing by achieving quantum entanglement using two quantum bits in a silicon chip. This will enable high-speed database search, molecular simulation and drug designing,” said Kannan.

Wide-scale adoption of photonic integrated circuits is expected in various industries, such as the data centre, cloud computing, biomedical and automotive sectors. Building low-power interconnects that use light to transfer data rapidly is the main application area within data centres. In the biomedical industry, says Frost & Sullivan, silicon photonics will enable the creation of highly sensitive bio-sensors for diagnostic applications.

“Photonic integrated circuits require the designing of photonic components simultaneously with electrical and electronic components. This can be challenging,” said Kannan. “Players can overcome this challenge by offering services in terms of developing innovative photonic integrated circuit design, product prototyping and testing methodology as per customer requirements.”

Image courtesy of IBM.