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Photonics at Leti

CEA-Leti, a French research consortium, reviewed their technology projects during Semicon West last week. I got a chance to speak with Leti’s Hughes Metras afterwards to talk a bit about their photonics work.

They see light as being a useful data conduit when information at the rate of around 10 Mbps needs to be carried over 1 km. Using that product – 10 Gbps-m – as a threshold, it means that for small distances on the order of 1 mm, you need to be transferring data at the rate of about 10 Tbps. We’re certainly not there yet – he sees that happening 5-10 years from now.

Their focus is on silicon integration because of the rapid cost improvements that tend to accrue to things associated with silicon just because of the high volumes produced. They’ve worked on all of the individual photonic components, and are now starting to assemble them into systems. They’ve solicited projects from a number of companies and organizations doing work in this area to combine onto multi-project wafers. That not only makes better use of the wafers, but also provides a variety of configurations that help to push the technology in different directions.

When we looked at optical design tools before, we noted that neither Code V nor LightTools could be used to design photonics. I asked about tools: Mr. Metras sees photonics design being incorporated into standard EDA tools. Right now they’re developing PDKs, process rules, and IP blocks, but no standard commercial tools have picked this up yet.

Work in this area is extending beyond consortia. A number of unnamable IDMs are doing work to combine photonics with CMOS, and Leti hopes to announce a major partnership early next year.

A brief summary of Leti’s photonics work can be found here

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