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IBM confirms AIM Photonics role

20 Apr 2017

Intellectual property licensing agreement expected to aid development of silicon photonics technology.

The American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) consortium has confirmed that IBM has joined the consortium, and agreed a patent and intellectual property licensing agreement.

“AIM Photonics views this as another significant step in the advancement of the silicon photonics industry in upstate New York,” the cluster development group announced, highlighting the growing regional emphasis on optics, photonics and imaging technology for job creation and economic growth.

While IBM was mentioned when the $610 million AIM Photonics collaboration was launched by then-vice-president Joe Biden and other political luminaries back in summer 2015, the partners say that the involvement of the chip giant will “provide a path for the development of new technologies and products that will further solidify the consortium’s position in the integrated photonics manufacturing ecosystem.”

The licensing agreement is expected to help AIM Photonics establish standard processes for producing silicon photonics assemblies, for example couplings for communication signals and light sources.

PDK access
Industry and academic members of the group will be able to access the IBM technologies through process design kits (PDKs) and prototype development at the Rochester Test Assembly and Packaging (TAP) facility – hosted by ON Semiconductor’s sensor production fab - and the 300 mm wafer facility at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus.

John Maggiore, chairman of the photonics board of officers for New York State, said of the agreement: “Adding IBM as a member of AIM Photonics not only significantly strengthens this outstanding institute, but highlights the momentum the Finger Lakes region is experiencing in the high tech sector. This announcement further validates the importance of this institute and the goals it has set out to achieve.”

The AIM Photonics CEO Michael Liehr added: “Today’s announcement furthers New York State’s global leadership in developing next-generation integrated silicon photonics technologies. Working side by side with IBM photonic PIC and packaging experts is a significant milestone for AIM Photonics as we continue to advance our capabilities and prepare the TAP facility.”

IBM has made long-standing investments in silicon photonics technology, announcing in 2012 a 90 nm silicon integrated nanophotonics process technology capable of integrating photodetector and modulator, fabricated side-by-side with silicon transistors. IBM said that this was the result of more than a decade of prior research.

Then a couple of years ago the semiconductor giant said that it had established processes for integrating and silicon photonics devices with processors and packaging them together. Critically, the research team reported that it had done that using a passive alignment technique, suggesting that automated production was now feasible.

Irish PIC connection
Aside from the AIM Photonics relationship, IBM is also closely involved in a similar consortium hosted by the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, Ireland.

The Irish Photonic Integration Research Centre, better known as “IPIC”, involves key players from industry and academia working on PIC devices and manufacturing processes to address challenging bottlenecks in their production and more widespread commercialization.

Last month IPIC revealed that it was hosting the new European Commission funded “PIXAPP” effort – said to be the world’s first open-access PIC assembly and packaging pilot line.

The €15.5 million project is aiming to establish ‘best in class’ PIC packaging technologies that are cost-effective and scalable to high volumes.

“We will offer these technologies through a single easy access point, which we call the Pilot Line Gateway, which is located at Tyndall,” it said.

ULO OpticsBRD Optical Co., LtdScitec Instruments LtdNanoscribe GmbHSacher Lasertechnik GmbHPhoton Engineering, LLCSynopsys, Optical Solutions Group
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