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8.5 million euro boost for hybrid photonics

"Helios" project led by CEA-Leti will focus on III-V/silicon integration for future photonics applications; related silicon photonics foundry steps up service offering.

No fewer than 19 partners are working on a new, €8.5 million ($12.2 million) European project that aims to combine compound semiconductors with silicon in a fresh attempt to merge photonics and CMOS technology.

Led by French technology giant CEA-Leti, the Helios project officially kicked-off in May 2008. It also features compound semiconductor expertise provided by the Alcatel-Thales III-V laboratory, fellow French outfit 3S Photonics (formerly Alcatel Optronics and then Avanex), and the Belgian microelectronics research firm IMEC.

Partners bringing silicon photonics knowledge include the UK s University of Surrey, the University of Trento in Italy, and DAS Photonics, a Spanish company that spun out of the Nanophotonics Technology Center in Valencia.

Running over four years, the primary aim for Helios is to "make CMOS photonics accessible to a broad circle of users in a foundry-like, fabless way".

III-V materials have clearly been identified as crucial to what could be perceived as "silicon photonics", however. For example, one key goal of the project is to develop high-performance WDM sources via heterogeneous integration of compound and silicon semiconductors.

And, while silicon lasers are listed as one of the more challenging concepts under investigation, III-Vs will clearly have a role to play in the development of a complete production chain for complex functional devices.

"Integration of electronics and photonics in a single chip will be addressed not only at the process level, but also through the development of an adequate design environment," clunked CEA-Leti in its release, citing 10x10 Gb/s transceivers and 40 Gb/s modulators as two of the industrial components to be developed through public funding.

And once they are established under the EU s 7th Framework Programme, these design and fabrication chains will transfer to European manufacturers, says the official project description.

Meanwhile, IMEC and CEA-Leti are stepping up their existing "silicon photonics" prototyping service, which has been operational since 2006.

Also known as PhotonFAB, the multi-project wafer manufacturing service is again being supported through the 7th Framework Programme. IMEC and CEA-Leti have now agreed to extend the service to include a more extensive technology portfolio, new design libraries and client training.

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