HELIOS meets first-year CMOS integration goals

GRENOBLE, FRANCE--Leti, which coordinates the pan-European consortium HELIOS (www.helios-project.eu), announced that the consortium's 19 partners have met or exceeded their phase-one goals for its large-scale CMOS photonics project.

GRENOBLE, FRANCE--Leti, which coordinates the pan-European consortium HELIOS (www.helios-project.eu), announced that the consortium's 19 partners have met or exceeded their phase-one goals for its large-scale CMOS photonics project. Launched by the European Commission in 2008, the ?8.5 million project will develop microelectronics fabrication processes that integrate photonics with CMOS circuits; the aim is to make the resulting technology available to a wide variety of users.

The CEA (Atomic Energy Commission) is a French government organization pursuing research and development; CEA's Leti is devoted to research in applied electronics. HELIOS is a contraction of "pHotonics ELectronics functional Integration on CMOS." The participants in HELIOS include major European CMOS photonics and electronics research centers and companies that are potential users of the technology. The project is intended to drive European research and technical development in CMOS photonics and to pave the way for industrial development.

Goals accomplished

First-phase achievements of HELIOS have concentrated on photodetection and light coupling and routing. Successfully completed milestones related to photodetection include the characterization of vertical and lateral PIN germanium and III-V metal-semiconductor-metal photodetectors, showing low dark current, high optical responsivity, and high optical bandwidth compatible with 40 Gbit/s operation; and the demonstration of a germanium photodiode bandwidth of 90 GHz. Successes in the area of integrated photonics include the demonstration of inverted-taper coupling structure with 1 dB coupling loss; the design and fabrication of a transition between rib and strip waveguides with less than 0.2 dB measured losses; and the demonstration of a high-efficiency grating coupler showing a coupling efficiency of -1.6 dB and a 3 dB bandwidth of 80 nm.

Project results are intended to lead to low-cost solutions for optical communications, optical interconnections between semiconductor chips and circuit boards, optical signal processing, optical sensing, and biological applications. By integrating optics and electronics on the same chip, high-performance and highly integrated devices can be fabricated using the standard CMOS fabrication process. Advances in CMOS photonics will move the emphasis from devices to overall architecture; this will allow development efforts to be focused more on new products and new functions and less on getting the technology to work.

The four-year HELIOS project includes the development of such essential building blocks as efficient sources (silicon-based and heterogeneous integration of III-V on silicon), fast modulators, and--more long term--the combination and packaging of these building blocks for the demonstration of complex functions to address a variety of industrial needs. These include a 40 Gbit/s modulator on an electronic IC, a 16 x 10 Gbit/s transceiver for WDM-PON applications, a photonic QAM-10 Gbit/s wireless transmission system, and a mixed-analog and digital transceiver module for multifunction antennas.

A strong team

Partners in HELIOS include world-famous research centers such as IMEC (Belgium), CNRS (France), IHP (Germany), and IMM (Italy); industrial research labs such as the Alcatel Thales III-V lab; universities in six European countries; and commercial outfits including DAS Photonics (Spain), Austriamicrosystems AG (Austria), and Phoenix BV (The Netherlands). In the area of photonics, technical papers from CNRS in particular appear frequently in journals; such a strong research base complements the enormous amount of experience the HELIOS members have in the electronics arena.

--John Wallace

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