An Introduction to Silicon Photonics

In our industry, the phrase “silicon photonics” becomes a hot topic of conversation, touted as the “future of optical networking.” This article explains how this great technological advancement will impact everything from 5G deployments to 400G transceiver development.

Silicon photonics is built on Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs). PICs utilize wafer thin semiconductor material to increase bandwidth and reduce the cost of manufacturing. The integration of several components on a single wafer allows size to be reduced and the speed of processing to be increased.

The smaller size and increased bandwidth are leading the way for 400G transceivers development. By utilizing silicon photonic technology, the QSFP form factor can now accommodate 400G transmission rates.

Silicon Photonics is not just for optical transport. Other hardware such as switches, variable optical attenuators, active optical cables (AOC), sensors, and more will also take advantage of silicon photonics innovations.  Low power consumption, small size, and fast speeds allow for greater flexibility in equipment design.

The integration of many pieces onto a single silicon chip allows for easier and faster assembly into transceivers, switches, and other accessories. By minimizing the number of discrete components, the chance for imperfections is reduced thus improving overall quality.

The implementation of silicon-based photonic devices will lead to much smaller and lower-cost photonic devices, making accessible a range of applications which so far have been challenging because of the high cost of manufacturing. Some examples these applications are FTTx, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G wireless services.

Silicon Photonics is just scratching the surface of possibilities due to its lower cost, simpler manufacturing, and low power consumption. Product development is just now starting to see the possibilities of utilizing the latest PIC technology. Subscribe to our blog to stay updated on this exciting new technology.

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