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Juniper spins out silicon photonics into Synopsys joint venture

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Synopsys and Juniper Networks are setting up a joint venture to develop the industry’s first “Laser-on-a-Chip” open silicon photonics platform

The joint venture, as yet unnamed but with Synopsys as the majority owner, will be aimed at telecoms, datacoms, LiDAR, healthcare, high performance computing (HPC), AI, and optical computing applications.

The open silicon photonics platform will include integrated lasers, optical amplifiers and a full suite of photonic components to form a complete solution that will be accessible through a Process Design Kit (PDK) with lower cost and power consumption.

The new company is being formed, in part, from the carve-out of integrated silicon photonics assets from Juniper, which includes more than 200 patents on photonic device design and process integration. While part of Juniper, the new company has closely collaborated with Tower Semiconductor (now being bought by Intel) to develop and qualify Tower’s PH18DA process technology. The new company has created 400G and 800G photonics reference designs with integrated lasers with the first Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) scheduled to be taped out in Q2 2022 and samples in the summer.

“Silicon photonics is a rapidly growing market that is transforming many industries and creating exciting opportunities for new applications in the future,” said Sassine Ghazi, president and chief operating officer at Synopsys. “The new company’s open silicon photonics platform, combined with Synopsys’ existing investment in a unified electronic photonic design automation solution consisting of OptoCompiler, OptSim, PrimeSim, Photonic Device Compiler and IC Validator products, will help reshape the optical computing industry, enabling companies to cost-effectively shift to integrated lasers and significantly accelerate development of photonic IC designs.”

“This revolutionary technology will change the economics of how people are going to build photonic systems,” said Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Networks. “We have been strong supporters of integrated silicon photonics and we believe the new company will drive development of these systems by using an advanced open platform that will dramatically reduce costs and increase the performance and reliability of designs across multiple use cases. We are excited to continue to collaborate with the new company to enable a broad ecosystem to efficiently develop next-generation optical transceiver and co-packaged designs.”

A key challenge for silicon photonics has been the cost of adding discrete lasers, which includes the manufacturing as well as the assembly and alignment of those lasers onto the photonic chip. This becomes more important as the number of laser channels and the overall bandwidth increases. By processing the Indium Phosphide (InP) materials directly onto the silicon photonics wafer, the PH18DA platform reduces the cost and time of adding lasers, enabling volume scalability and improved power efficiency. In addition, monolithically integrated lasers on silicon wafers improves overall reliability and simplifies packaging.

“We have had a long history of successful collaboration with Juniper Networks on integrated photonics. The new company formed by Synopsys and Juniper will strengthen and accelerate the adoption of the silicon photonics platform,” said Russell Ellwanger, CEO of Tower Semiconductor. “Providing an open silicon photonics platform consisting of integrated lasers that has been qualified on Tower’s process will enable customers to create innovative products with the potential to transform the industry.”

www.synopsys.com; www.juniper.net

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