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Technical Insight

Magazine Feature
This article was originally featured in the edition:
Issue 2 2023

PIC International 2023: The growth of silicon photonics continues


Co-Conference Chairs Dr Michael Lebby and Dr. David Cheskis reflect on the 2023 event.

We have just completed the 8th annual PIC International Conference, and again, this conference not only surpassed everybody's expectations, but thrilled us with live presentations, audience, panels, exciting Q&A, the best of the best in personal networking, and finally completely full exhibit. The technology updates and progress were again exciting and generated lots of audience questions for the speakers. Speaker presentations were shortened to 15mins to allow the full 2 days of conference programing to contain a broad and wide cross-section of the PIC industry. The whole value chain for the PIC industry was represented that ranged from wafers to epitaxial growth, devices, packaging, modules, testing, and systems, to social media. It is now very clear that PIC International is the conference to attend if your interest is Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) not only in optical networking and internet, but other market verticals such as automotive, sensing, medical, displays, instruments, agriculture etc.

We again filled all of our seats, and believe it or not, we had standing room only throughout the 2 days of talks. There was much cross pollination between parallel sessions from CS International and Power Electronics International with attendees choosing to listen to talks from all 3 conference.

This year, there were over a record 800 delegates attending two days of highly condensed sessions on photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that focused not only on innovative technology, but how PICs could alleviate major headaches, issues and opportunities that optical networks, datacentres, telecommunications systems, automotive applications see today. Many talks focused on how PICs could be implemented into novel and innovative applications to move the industry forward, and keep the industry moving forward such as Automotive LIDAR, sensing, displays, healthcare, etc. As in 2022, one of the biggest drivers for PICs are fiber optic communications for datacentre interconnects. A number of global giants and exciting SMEs (small and medium size enterprises)/start-ups with PIC technology platforms conveyed their opportunities for PIC-based innovative solutions for their businesses. These addressed high speed, low power consumption, innovative packaging (via co-packaged solutions), reliability, and cost effectiveness.

There were also talks that explored PIC based technologies outside of fiber optics and optical networking, and those areas included healthcare, agriculture, bio, sensing, and LIDAR for automotive applications. One of the most promising segments discussed at the conference for the first time is the use of PICs in the agricultural market, and this was forecasted to grow very quickly over the next decade.

The conference discussed in detail incumbent PIC technologies such as InP and Silicon Photonics, as well as exciting new and emerging technology platforms such as electro-optic polymers, thin-film lithium niobate, barium titanate (BTO) and dielectric (SiN based) technologies. Hybrid PICs was used to denote the mixing of various technology platforms to improve the overall performance of PICs. Examples were the use of electro-optic polymers onto silicon photonics, and as well as dielectric materials for integrated Photonic solutions on silicon wafers from foundries.

The incredible growth of silicon photonics as a base platform continues with an increase in popularity and acceptance as a new incumbent technology with talks from market researchers and companies following the business trends. Indium phosphide as one of the incumbents for PICs was demonstrated to show higher density PICs that are expected to impact the 5G markets, datacenters, and telecommunications. Similarly as in 2022, there were exciting updates of PIC in sensing, medical, and LIDAR applications.

The conference also discussed both datacentre and telecommunications opportunities for PICs with forecasts for new architectures, standards, technologies and cost expectations. The latest results in the PIC field were also presented and showed a significant performance upgrade towards transceivers at 800Gbps and 1600Gbps. Some results presented included the use of electro-optic polymers that generated speeds of over 100GHz bandwidth.

There were a number of exciting sessions, where one session discussed improvements in PIC infrastructure for designing and manufacturing robust and reliable PICs using software tools for modelling, simulation, and production. This was supported by many PIC talks that addressed PDKs and other metrics needed to quickly grow PIC markets including the use of hybrid PICs that contemplated new materials such as electro-optic polymers, thin film lithium niobate, barium titanate, metals for plasmonics etc.

This year, new and innovative talks discussed how PICs based technologies can enable new products that are more miniature, low power, and high performance, which is becoming especially important for hand-held battery powered diagnosis and health monitoring products.

The conference speakers showed that the result of designing PICs for the popular verticals of telecommunications and data communications and how these solutions could easily be applied to medical, measurement, automotive, and other industrial applications for PICs.

Live personal networking was truly first class with a well designed exhibit immediately next to the conference rooms that gave the attendees ample opportunities to meet other folks in the PIC infrastructure. The excitement of a live conference was buzzing with meetings, discussions and business on the exhibit floor.

There was 1 live panel session this year that were chaired by Dr. Jose Pozo that addressed silicon photonics foundries for PICs. The panels were filled with technical experts that are internationally known for silicon photonics. The panelists discussed the merits and advantages of using silicon foundries for volume scale of PIC technologies. After a stimulating discussion between the panelists, 3 major themes emerged on the issue of silicon foundries to ensure that themes such as hybrid integration is accessible as the industry moves forward.

The PIC industry still needs to scale in volume, and this will enable silicon and CMOS foundries to promote their best economics
The PIC industry needs to continue its focus on working with foundries with PDKs.
Foundries now see an opportunity with hybrid PIC technologies and are looking forward to incorporating these new technologies into their PDKs to support scale and volume with PICs in general.

All presentations over the past 2 days showed a number of improvements in PIC technology over the past year. PIC markets are growing strongly over the next decade, as well as the scalability of PIC technological platforms. The rise of the hybrid PIC and shared foundries showed that customers are now more open than ever to find the right PIC solution for their particular portfolio.

A focused, thrilling, and well attended, standing room only conference, with a high level of technical content, the 8th PIC International surpassed itself again in 2023. PIC International is the conference to attend for the latest and greatest in photonic integrated circuits and has become a truly global and credible event. We are all looking forward to 2024 as PIC International now has become the event to attend globally.

PIC International 16-17 March 2024 https://picinternational.net/

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