Photonic Integrated Circuits Could Get Mainstream Commercial Success

Photonic integrated circuits could make a bigger commercial impact. They are being designed and fabricated on 200 mm wafers with improved process flow based on our previous work. Regular chips are usually made on 300mm wafers, so 200 mmm (8 inch)wafer chips would usually starting out twice as expenisve. The optical layer consists of a 300-nm-thick SiN layer in a silicon dioxide cladding, located on top of aluminium nitride (AlN) piezoelectric actuators with functionality for selective release and metal routing.

Photonic integrated circuits are making advances with a new generation of programmable Mach–Zehnder meshes (MZMs). These are made by using cascaded Mach–Zehnder interferometers capable of universal linear-optical transformations on N input/output optical modes. MZMs serve critical functions in photonic quantum information processing, quantum-enhanced sensor networks, machine learning and other applications. However, MZM implementations reported to date rely on thermo-optic phase shifters, which limit applications due to slow response times and high power consumption. Researchers introduce a large-scale MZM platform made in a 200 mm complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor foundry, which uses aluminium nitride piezo-optomechanical actuators coupled to silicon nitride waveguides, enabling low-loss propagation with phase modulation at greater than 100 MHz in the visible–near-infrared wavelengths. Moreover, the vanishingly low hold-power consumption of the piezo-actuators enables these photonic integrated circuits to operate at cryogenic temperatures, paving the way for a fully integrated device architecture for a range of quantum applications.

Nature Photonics – High-speed programmable photonic circuits in a cryogenically compatible, visible–near-infrared 200 mm CMOS architecture