The bright future of Si photonics

Beyond all of the hype and tumult, market drivers and technological developments are converging to ensure a bright future for Si photonics. Indeed, though the Si photonics market has just kicked off, volume production is already close.

“In the short term, silicon photonics will be the platform solution for future high-power, high- bandwidth data centers,” explains Dr Eric Mounier, Senior Technology & Market Analyst, MEMS Devices & Technologies, at Yole Développement.

Si Photonics report, 2014 update, from Yole Développement is now available. Under this report, Yole Développement analysts have been interacting with Jean-Louis Malinge, former Kotura CEO, to provide a comprehensive analysis of the Si Photonics current & future business trends and associated challenges.

Yole Développement’s report describes industrial status and supply chain for silicon photonic technologies. This analysis includes an overview of R&D, tools, materials, devices, system players’ activities and a detailed description of silicon photonics applications.

The aim of Silicon Photonics 2014 report is to provide a deep understanding of current key market and technical challenges and detail the major moves, transactions and mindsets of silicon photonics players.

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Silicon photonics is an exciting field that mixes optics, CMOS, MEMS and 3D stacking technologies. Over the past several years, it’s become clear that some technical choices will be better than others for successful commercial development:

      Light source is a big integration challenge. As silicon laser is probably years away from realization, the different approaches are likely to be either attached laser (i.e. Luxtera) or (InP) wafer-to-wafer/die-to-wafer bonding, followed by post-processing (i.e. Intel or Leti).

Yole Développement has also seen a shift from monolithic integration for electronic/photonic-to-hybrid integration, since critical dimensions are very different. Today, the favored approach seems to be two-chip hybrid integration (the Cu-pillar from STMicroelectronics, for example), since semiconductors’ and photonics’ critical dimensions are likely to be at least one order of magnitude different.

The fiber choice: multi-mode versus single mode is also on the table.

“Silicon photonics is a business opportunity for different player types: OSATs, MEMS firms, semiconductors companies, etc., because it involves different challenges for packaging, optical alignment and electronics integration. The need for very diverse technologies creates a need for different packaging/micro-machining/manufacturing approaches,” explains Claire Troadec, Technology & Market Analyst, Semiconductor Manufacturing, Yole Développement.

According to Yole Développement, the silicon photonics device market, including HPC, future-generation optical data centers, telecom and others applications (sensors, medical and consumer) will grow from around US$25M in 2013 to more than US$700M in 2024, at a 38% CAGR. In 2018, emerging optical data centers from big Internet companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) will trigger this market growth.Non-datacom/telecom will only have a small portion of market value since these applications are still far from market maturity.

“However, we’re at a turning point where the market is increasing again and Intel, which is very active in this field, could contribute to a quick ramp-up of Si photonics,” Claire adds.

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