Silicon photonics process to integrate quantum dot lasers

September 08, 2021 // By Rich Pell
Silicon photonics process to integrate quantum dot lasers
Analog integrated circuit foundry Tower Semiconductor and quantum dot-based photonics technology provider Quintessent have teamed to create a foundry silicon photonics platform with integrated quantum dot laser.

Offered as the world’s first silicon photonics (SiPho) process with integrated quantum dot lasers, the platform is designed to address optical connectivity in artificial intelligence/machine learning and disaggregated computing (datacenter) markets. The new foundry process will build upon Tower’s industry-leading PH18 production silicon photonics platform and add Quintessent’s III-V quantum dot-based lasers and optical amplifiers to enable a complete suite of active and passive silicon photonic elements.

The resulting capability, say the companies, will be an industry first in demonstrating integrated optical gain in a standard foundry silicon photonics process. The initial process development kit (PDK) is planned in 2021, with multi-project wafer runs (MPWs) following in 2022.

“Quintessent and Tower are re-defining the frontiers of integrated silicon photonics under this effort,” says Dr. John Bowers, UCSB Professor and Quintessent Co-Founder. “I’m very excited by the prospects for a new class of high-performance lasers and photonic integrated circuits on silicon, leveraging the unique advantages of quantum dot materials.”

The co-integration of lasers and amplifiers with silicon photonics at the circuit element level will improve overall power efficiency, eliminate traditional design constraints such as on-chip loss budgets, simplify packaging, and make possible new product architectures and functionalities. For example, say the companies, a silicon photonic transceiver or sensor product with integrated lasers will be capable of complete self-test at the chip or wafer level.

These advantages are further enhanced by employing semiconductor quantum-dots as the active optical gain media, which enables devices with greater reliability, lower noise, and the ability to operate efficiently at higher temperatures.

“Bringing the III-V laser diode within our silicon photonics platform," says Dr. David Howard, Tower Semiconductor Executive Director, and Fellow, "will enable single-chip photonic integrated circuit (PIC) design. This means that both III-V quantum dot amplifiers and lasers, and Tower’s silicon photonics passive and active elements, will be delivered by a foundry through a single MPW chip run.”

Dr. Alan Liu, co-founder, and CEO of


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