Luxtera, ST in deal to take silicon photonics mainstream

March 02, 2012 // By Peter Clarke
STMicroelectronics NV has said it agreed with CMOS photonics specialist Luxtera Inc. to develop a dedicated silicon photonics process at its 300-mm research and pilot production wafer fab in Crolles, France. Production at Crolles would then enable the two companies to provide silicon photonics components and systems.

The deal is intended to take silicon photonics mainstream and allow the integration of silicon photonic technology with system-on-chip (SoC) ICs.

Luxtera (Carlsbad, California) was a 2001 fabless semiconductor spin off from Caltech that builds complex electro-optical systems in mainstream CMOS processes. The technology has yet to find wide deployment but is expected to be of use in high-speed computing, CPU interconnect, data-storage and on-chip clock distribution.

Under the terms of the deal ST gains rights to use Luxtera's silicon photonics technology that will be implemented in an ST photonics process and subsequent generations of photonics processes. ST will provide Luxtera with silicon as a foundry supplier as well as being able to manufacture in its own name.

The silicon photonics process will offer scalability of electro-optical transceivers for data rates of 100-Gbits per second, 400-Gbits per second and beyond. It will support light at wavelengths of 1310-nm, 1490-nm and 1550-nm.

ST did not indicate how quickly the process would be developed or what the critical dimension capabilities would be. Nor did ST say when it would be able to manufacture photonic chips using the process for itself and for Luxtera.

"This will bring silicon photonics into the mainstream of important technologies such as optical networking, ultra-fast computer processors and other applications via the commercial volume availability of a best-in-class silicon photonics IP platform," said Flavio Benetti, general manager of mixed process division at STMicroelectronics, in a statement.

In the same statement Greg Young, president and CEO of Luxtera, said: "We can now offer our customers a high-volume, capable source of supply and an aggressive long-term photonic process technology roadmap. This will advance our base technology and enable the integration of optical transceivers with SoCs from advanced CMOS nodes to deliver photonic-enabled SoCs for large scale systems."