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Hitachi snaps up Valencia spin-out VLC for integrated photonics expertise

17 Nov 2020

VLC Photonics offers fabless development services for PICs across numerous sectors, including telecom, lidar, and sensing.

Photonic integrated circuit (PIC) design house VLC Photonics has been acquired by the Japanese technology giant Hitachi.

The Spanish company, created in 2011 via a spin-out from the Universitat Politécnica de Valencia, has evolved to offer its services across a number of different applications - ranging from more conventional uses in telecom and datacom modules, to newer deployments in biophotonics, lidar, sensing, and more.

VLC has expertise across both compound semiconductor and silicon photonics materials, and is also involved in a number of European projects developing new pilot lines and PIC-based applications - including for quantum technology.

Integration drive
Hitachi, which is a key provider of photonic components used in communications, says that the deal has been motivated by customers’ growing need for greater integration, fueled by the boom in data requirements stimulated by trends including a widespread shift to homeworking, and broad adoption of video streaming services.

“Photonic integration provides the means to address all these requirements in a more holistic way than the traditional approach of assembling optical systems from discrete parts,” announced the Tokyo-headquartered firm.

“As the foremost independent provider of PIC design, test and engineering services, VLC is in an excellent position to help Hitachi High-Tech serve the new requirements of its existing customers as well as providing a base for the development of new service provisions.

“Besides the optical communications market, PICs are also becoming a critical platform technology within many industrial sectors such as automotive sensing, environmental testing, health sciences, and quantum technology.”

Hitachi adds that future plans include providing engineering services that leverage the strengths of both it and VLC to help solve customers’ issues.

Quantum involvement
Among the various European projects that VLC is involved in are the “PIX4LIFE” and “InPulse” efforts to develop PIC pilot lines, as well as the “TERAPOD” project focused on terahertz components for ultra-high-broadband wireless communications, and “MOICANA” for quantum dot lasers.

Quantum technology has also become a key area, with VLC involved in both the “S2QUIP” and “CiViQ” (Continuous Variable Quantum Communications) projects funded by Europe’s decade-long flagship technology initiative.

Back in August, VLC said that for the CiViQ project it would be helping to shrink a bulky quantum optical system into a PIC design layout, specifically in a standard 4 × 6 mm2 footprint sufficiently flexible to satisfy the different requirements from various partners working on quantum key distribution (QKD) concepts.

“Taking advantage of the ‘generic purpose’ process available for prototyping and concept validation, the chips can then be fabricated through a JePPIX Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) of the InP foundry of Fraunhofer HHI, another partner of CiViQ,” VLC added.

Ultimately the goal of CiViQ is to bring cost-effective quantum security into optical communications networks. The €10 million effort also involves Huawei’s Dusseldorf, Germany, subsidiary, alongside communications giants Orange, Telekom Deutschland, and Telefonica, among several others.

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