Intel unveils 100-gigabit silicon photonics modules

Created September 12, 2016
Technologies and Products

Intel has unveiled two 100-gigabit optical modules for the data centre made using silicon photonics technology.

The PSM4 and CWDM4/CLR4 100-gigabit modules mark the first commercial application of a hybrid integration technique for silicon photonics, dubbed heterogeneous integration, that Intel has been developing for years.

Using heterogeneous integration, materials such as indium phosphide and gallium arsenide can be bonded to the silicon substrate before the 300mm wafer is processed to produce the optical circuit. Not only can lasers be added to silicon but other active devices such as modulators and photo-detectors as well as passive functions such as isolators and circulators.

Intel is using the technique to integrate the laser as part of the 100-gigabit transceiver designs.

“Once we apply the light-emitting material down to the silicon base wafer, we define the laser in silicon,” says Alexis Bjorlin, vice president and general manager, Intel Connectivity Group. “There is no alignment needed; we align the laser with lithography.”

Intel is already delivering the 100-gigabit PSM4 module. “First volume shipments are happening now,” says Bjorlin. Microsoft is one Internet content provider that is using Intel’s PSM4.

The chip company is also sampling a 100-gigabit CWDM4 module that also meets the more demanding CLR4 Alliance’s optical specification. The 100-gigabit CLR4 module can be used without forward-error correction hardware and is favoured for applications where latency is an issue such as high-performance computing.

The PSM4 is implemented using four independent 25-gigabit channels sent over a single-mode ribbon fibre. Four fibres are used for transmission and four fibres for receive.

The CWDM4 is also a 4×25-gigabit design but uses wavelength-division multiplexing and hence a single-mode fibre pair. The CWDM4 is a more complex design in that an optical multiplexer and demultiplexer are required and the four lasers operate at different wavelengths.

Intel is yet to detail when it will start shipping the CWDM4/CLR4 module.

See also:

Press release: Intel Developer Forum Day 2 keynote highlights

Gazettabyte: Intel’s 100-gigabit silicon photonics move

Roy Rubenstein

This article was written
by Roy Rubenstein

is the editor of and has been researching and writing about the telecom and semiconductor industries for over 20 years.