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PhotonDelta sets up Silicon Valley base

09 Jul 2024

Netherlands-based technology accelerator aiming to unify US and European PIC expertise.

PhotonDelta, the integrated photonics technology accelerator in The Netherlands, is setting up a new office in Silicon Valley, in a bid to unify advances being made on both sides of the Atlantic.

The billion-euro organization, which has already helped secure funding for several local startup companies, says it wants to speed up the creation and adoption of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) made using different material systems.

Announcing the development to coincide with this week’s Semicon West trade show in San Francisco, PhotonDelta said:

“The move is part of the organization’s goal to grow the photonic chip industry by promoting collaboration between European and North American organizations, both leaders in this emerging key enabling technology.”

The new office will be headed up by Jorn Smeets, who was previously PhotonDelta’s marketing chief. On July 10 at Semicon West he is due to deliver a talk entitled “Trends In Integrated Photonics And Their Impact On The Microelectronics Industry”, and to take part in the panel session “Photonics at Edge”.

Startup funding
PIC-based devices have already found extensive use in optical communications, and the technology is expected to play a key role in other areas like automotive lidar, biophotonics, and quantum technologies.

“Besides the usage of PIC technology in datacenters for enhanced performance and reduced energy consumption, integrated photonics also holds enormous opportunities for quantum computing and sensing solutions for new applications in healthcare, agriculture, and automotive,” PhotonDelta noted.

To drive this innovation, PhotonDelta secured $1.2 billion - largely via the Dutch government - to establish research and development programs, lead international roadmapping activities, and invest in pioneering startups that apply PIC technology.

“Over the last five years, PhotonDelta has raised over $500 million for companies such as Smart Photonics, EFFECT Photonics, PHIX Photonics Assembly, Astrapé Networks, MantiSpectra, Surfix Diagnostics, Delta Life Science, Scantinel Photonics, Amazec, and many more,” stated the organization.

Another recent beneficiary is the Enschede-located laser developer Brilliance, which is developing PIC-based sources aimed at applications in augmented reality (AR) displays.

Material combinations
PhotonDelta says that a unified photonic chip industry will be essential to fulfill the potential of PIC technology, adding that Europe and North America have key strengths in complementary approaches to fabricating integrated photonic chips.

“The Netherlands is home to the largest concentration of photonic chip technology organizations in the world,” it claims. “It is also one of the global leaders for the development of indium phosphide (InP) and silicon nitride (SiN) based photonic chips.

“The US is paving the way in silicon photonics as it benefits from its extensive infrastructure and greater scale of production due to the compatibility with traditional semiconductor manufacturing.”

However, silicon photonics relies on InP to function, because active components - especially lasers - are routinely manufactured using the compound semiconductor material system.

“SiN, in turn, is particularly useful for sensing applications and quantum computers, as it benefits from extreme low-loss characteristics,” PhotonDelta added. “In short, depending on the application, a combination of different platforms is needed to unlock the optimal functionalities and characteristics.”

Complete value chain
The organization’s new Silicon Valley base is intended to expand on the existing group of more than 70 different partners that has established a complete value chain - including design services, multiple foundries for PIC fabrication, packaging, assembly and testing, and an increasing number of fabless companies developing products that use PIC technology.

Smeets, in his new role as managing director of PhotonDelta’s North America operation, said: “We want to tap into the North American market and partner with industry leaders to help accelerate this key enabling technology.

“As we stimulate the internationalization of our value chain, we need to leverage on each other’s strengths and bring our know-how, operations and funding to North America.”

CeNing Optics Co LtdTRIOPTICS GmbHOptikos Corporation ECOPTIKLASEROPTIK GmbHHyperion OpticsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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