Intense Photonics has opened its semiconductor fabrication facility in High Blantyre, Scotland. The specialist facility supports the processing of compound III-V materials for fabricating broadband fiber optic devices, and gives the company complete control over its unique quantum well intermixing (QWI) technology, providing a platform for producing highly integrated photonics ICs.
"Our proprietary QWI photonics fabrication process is at the core of Intense Photonics' service. It's a proven way to integrate optical device functions and create more cost effective broadband networking equipment, and this new plant gives us the freedom to begin commercial operations", says David Lockwood, CEO of Intense Photonics. "Despite starting our business during a very difficult period, we've managed to buy and equip the facility in less than six months, and now have the resources in place to begin working with OEMs to create new generations of optical networking equipment".
The new plant gives Intense Photonics the means to design and prototype optical networking devices, and manufacture them in volume. It can process both gallium arsenide and indium phosphide - semiconductor materials covering all the key optical transmission frequencies in use today and coming into use.
Equipment for designing, prototyping and testing is already in place. The tools for volume manufacturing of commercial products - including plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition, plasma and reactive ion etchers, as well as equipment for the company's unique QWI process - will be installed starting in January 2002.
This will allow Intense Photonics to commission the production line and make its first commercial wafer start during the second quarter of 2002. The company will have the ability to make up to several thousand integrated optical devices/month, each integrating multiple functions. The facility will still have capacity in reserve, and expansion room to install further lines in the future.
The company's product plans are based on offering integrated devices combined with customisation services. Its first product is a multi-device array of one of the most basic building blocks of today's
optical networks - a 980 nm EDFA pump laser - that may be tailored to suit individual applications. Among the parameters that may be user-specified are output power levels, numbers of lasers on the chip up to 10, physical dimensions and fibre coupling interfaces.
This advance is expected to yield significant savings for system builders. Savings will come from an interconnection design which makes it possible to attach fiber optic cable assemblies easily; from reduced packaging - as only one device must now be temperature controlled instead of up to 10; from higher reliability - because of the dramatic reduction in component count; and from size reductions. Such integration provides the kind of progress that is essential if broadband optical communications services are to move out from the telecommunications network backbone, into metropolitan areas, and finally to the desktop and home.
The company's technology is based on a proprietary quantum well intermixing (QWI) fabrication process which has been trialled over many years on a wide variety of device designs including lasers, amplifiers, filters and switches. QWI allows the properties of a semiconductor material to be modified, typically allowing its energy bandgap to be controlled - making it opaque or transparent to light - such that multiple optical communications functions can be monolithically integrated.
To date, a range of QWI techniques have been developed by industry, including impurity induced, impurity free, implantation induced and laser induced. Intense Photonics' process is based on a proprietary impurity free technique, which it believes to be superior as it avoids the optical absorption that results from the introduction of electrically active dopants into a semiconductor waveguide. Intense Photonics' impurity free vacancy disordering technique makes use of dielectric caps on the surface of the semiconductor to create vacancies on the group III lattice site. The vacancies diffuse through the semiconductor and, as a result, individual atoms hop from one lattice site to another, intermixing the quantum wells with the adjacent barrier material.