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European project looks to 'reinvent' lithium niobate for photonics

15 Feb 2022

ELENA effort working towards enhanced performance for PICs, lidar, and quantum applications.

Ten research partners across Europe have just begun a new €5 million project that is aiming to “reinvent” lithium niobate optics for a new generation of photonics applications.

Led by Amir Ghadimi at the Centre Suisse d'Electronique at de Microtechnique (CSEM), and featuring the likes of Soitec, VPIphotonics, and III-V Lab, among others, the "ELENA" effort runs until June 2025 and held a kick-off meeting February 10-11.

According to the consortium partners, the main aim is to develop the first European lithium niobate on insulator (LNOI) photonic integrated circuit (PIC) platform, with the technology set to become accessible via an open foundry service.

Open foundry and supply chain
Already used widely in optical communications, largely in modulators and switches, lithium niobate is also regarded as highly promising for PICs - thanks to its high electro-optic coefficient, high intrinsic second-order nonlinearity, and a broad transparency window stretching across the visible and infrared spectrum.

The focus of ELENA will be to develop five advanced photonic building blocks that exploit those properties to enable novel functionalities in PICs, for example wavelength conversion and parametric gain, and to deliver faster and more efficient modulators.

These building blocks will become a part of comprehensive process design kit (PDK) library that will be accessible to entities outside of the consortium.

“The platform will be open to all interested stakeholders from the photonics industry and [for] research and development at an affordable price,” states the consortium.

“ELENA’s technologies will be applicable to a broad range of applications from telecom to lidar, quantum technologies, and space.”

Ultimately, the ambition is to establish a fully European supply chain to support the lithium niobate platform. That effort includes establishing a process to fabricate 150 mm-diameter optical grade LNOI wafers on an industrial scale.

Other key goals are to develop a reliable and flexible packaging solution to interface lithium niobate chips with optical fibers and other PIC platforms, and to demonstrate the technology and validate the results by developing four PIC prototypes designed by three “end-user” partners covering the fields of telecommunications, quantum technologies, and microwave photonics.

• Funded under the Horizon 2020 research pillar supporting “leadership in enabling and industrial technologies”, further details about the ELENA (European electro-optic and nonlinear PIC platform based on lithium niobate) project can be found here.

Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationOptikos Corporation Photon Lines LtdABTechIridian Spectral TechnologiesLaCroix Precision OpticsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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