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German research group PolyChrome Berlin wins €9.2M in BMBF funding

09 Aug 2021

Investment over three years will enable development of novel hybrid photonic integration platform.

The research alliance PolyChrome Berlin, bringing together partners from science and industry in the Berlin-Brandenburg region, has qualified for funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Starting in spring 2022, the partners involved will receive €9.2 million over the following three years as part of the RUBIN - Regional Entrepreneurial Alliances for Innovation funding program.

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) is significantly involved in the research project with its Photonic Components department. The institute itself will receive €4 million for its contributions. PolyChrome Berlin is one of eleven projects funded in the call for proposals, and competed against a total of 53 applicants.

Based on this funding, PolyChrome Berlin will develop a hybrid photonic integration platform. The platform will be able to guide and deflect light as well as generate and detect it. With the platform, the research team expects to access a wide wavelength range from 400nm to 1650nm.

The team also plans to work on what it calls “an interplay of polymer- and silicon nitride-based optical waveguides.” This novel approach, combined with the platform’s hybrid integration capabilities, will enable PolyChrome Berlin “to unlock new applications in sensing and analytics that can be implemented cost-effectively.”

‘Hybrid components’

“In the predecessor project PolyPhotonics Berlin, we developed miniaturized hybrid optical components for applications in telecommunications,” said Crispin Zawadzki, deputy group leader Hybrid PICs at Fraunhofer HHI and chairman of the association PolyPhotonics Berlin eV.

“Based on this success, we are now expanding our research into the visible light range to create new applications in the fields of analytics and sensing. We are very pleased to continue our work with the partners we already know from PolyPhotonics Berlin e.V. and at the same time add new members to the team.”

Arne Schleunitz, coordinator of the PolyChrome project and technical managing director of Berlin-based Micro Resist Technology GmbH, added, “When we talk about the platform, you have to imagine chips of the size of a one-cent coin.

“The tiny platform will be equipped with optical waveguides made of polymer or SiN material and other functional elements, such as optical fibers. In addition, biological scavenger molecules (aptamers) can be added to the chip's surface for applications in medicine.”

The capability of the PolyChrome platform will be shown with six demonstrators from three areas. The first area is the use of fiber-based sensor technology in the application field of fiber optic networks. Here, optical fibers can be used as sensors to monitor the environment, for example road traffic.

The second area involves visible light sources, so-called multi-lambda sources. These target products in the consumer sector such as RGB sources, or can be used as light sources in medicine or research.

The third area is the use of SiN sensors. SiN sensors allow fast, cost-effective and specific measurement of a wide range of chemical and biological substances. With this method, it is possible to test waters for pollutants within minutes or examine the body for vitamin insufficiencies.

The Hybrid PICs research group of the Photonic Components department at Fraunhofer HHI brings together various components and thus provides the basis for the hybrid integration platform. The researchers will contribute their many years of experience in the manufacturing of photonic components and technology platforms.

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