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Photonics Europe Digital Forum: polymer devices could drive future communications

16 Apr 2020

Attendee-favored plenary is Lightwave Logic CEO Michael Lebby describing how polymer optical devices could power Internet.

The capabilities and market potential of polymer optical devices is the theme of the plenary talk presented by Dr Michael Lebby, keynote speaker at the virtual conference held in place of last week’s Photonics Europe meeting in Strasbourg, France.

Lebby became the CEO of Lightwave Logic in May 2017, having joined the board member in 2015. The company is developing high-performance optical polymers with applications in communications as part of a Polymer PIC (photonic integrated circuit) platform. The primary development is an optical modulator based on a ridge waveguide design.

He tells the conference, “Over the past few decades, electro-optic polymers have been developed into modulator devices that have incredible speed and low power. As the appetite for increased traffic continues unabated, there is a need to look for faster and lower power consuming optoelectronic devices.”

One such device that merits potential that can be integrated on a photonics platform as a PIC is the EO polymer modulator that is attractive not only in terms of raw speed, but also in low power consumption for systems through direct driving without the use of dedicated (and often expensive) driver chips. Polymer modulator data will be presented that aligns with industry-based photonics roadmaps.

Video-driven

Lebby tells the conference, “We certainly see PICs need to drive the radical innovation. A notable example of this is electro-optic polymers. We know the internet is still growing, quickly. And it's being driven by video applications.

“We know that the internet is a key application. Others are emerging. There are strong billion dollar markets in fiber communications, with forecasted growth. Integrated photonics continues to be strong. We also know that the PICs will mature over the decade in fiber communications. The trends to co-packaging, low power, high bandwidth, low cost, and coherent will continue. Hybrid PICs will become commonplace to increase specifications.”

“We see our polymers at Lightwave Logic solving customer headaches. They add the speed dimension. They add the low power dimension. And they're cost effective to implement. So a call to action in terms of the roadmaps, we have roadmaps, now. We should use them as a tool for success in the PIC arena. And we certainly see the next decade will be a photonic PIC one. And we see PICs being a solution for the radical innovation that I've talked about.”

'Warning signs'

Lebby then moves on to what he calls “network warning signs”, exemplified by the latest slowdowns associated with dramatically increased internet usage during the worldwide lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We all know the internet is crazy busy. Video has driven massive growth and continues to increase. And in fact, just with this latest coronavirus, if you try to get on to an internet bridge for a conference call on the hour, you'll find busy signals all the time, because a lot of people are working from home.

“So we have the equivalent of traffic jams within the internet infrastructure. And we know those are increasing. We also know that the technology, at least the photonic technology, has not kept pace with the immense growth of data traffic. And we're probably going to see that a lot more, over the next three orfour months. There are situations now where folks are throttling down, actually reducing the rate of traffic to certain environments.

“One example just this week [April 6th], is the US company Netflix, which is throttling down its service to Europe. And so, that means that it's going to be more difficult to get really good streaming, certainly incertain areas like Europe. Folks are suddenly working from home in 2020. And that's going to make a big impact, here.

"We know there's no Moore's law for optics. And we know there is a Moore's law for semiconductors. And that means from an optical standpoint, we do need radical innovation. How do we deliver radical innovation, at least from the photonic standpoint? You want to be able to enable faster, lower power, lower cost internet. I have emphasized this in four main metrics: faster devices; lower power; lower cost; and robustness.”

“We certainly see that PICs need to drive the radical innovation. Integrated photonics continues to be strong. We know the PICs will mature over the decade in fiber communications. The trends to co-packaging, low power, high bandwidth, low cost, and coherent will continue. Hybrid PICs will become commonplace to increase specifications.

“In summary, we see our polymers at Lightwave Logic solving such customer headaches. They add the speed dimension. They add the low power dimension. And they're cost effective to implement. So a call to action in terms of the roadmaps, we have roadmaps, now. We should use them as a tool for success in the PIC arena. And we certainly see the next decade will be a photonic PIC one. And we see PICs being a solution for the radical innovation that I've talked about.”

Lightwave Logic

In mid March, 2020, Lightwave Logic presented its fourth quarter and full year (2019) corporate update, including the following highlights:

  • Announced internally engineered electro-optic (EO) polymer material that more than doubled the EO response compared to previous materials. Later in the financial year, the company presented “positive material stability and reliability data, showcasing improved thermal stability of the internally developed materials at 85˚C.”
  • Increased the speed of the company's modulators significantly from 40 GHz that could support 50-400 Gbps applications in 2018, to modulators exceeding currently available commercial solutions of 80 GHz analogue bandwidth that could support industry-standard 100-800 Gbps applications.
  • Issued two new patents covering photonic integration of the company's polymer modulator technical platform, designed to integrate into current semiconductor platforms while also being capable of extending to higher speeds at lower costs. LL’s patent portfolio now comprises 51 granted patents.

• The SPIE Photonics Europe Digital Forum took place online 6-10 April, but all presentations remain free-to-view and downloadable until April 25th. After this date, they will be hosted on the SPIE Digital Library and viewable to subscribers. To view presentations and manuscripts, and interact with speakers, visit the virtual event's dedicated web site.

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