Electronic Design

Process Speeds Manufacture Of Fiber-Optic Devices

A manufacturing process that accelerates the production of fiber-optic components has been patented by Lumenon Innovative Lightwave Technology Inc. of Quebec, Canada. While the fiber-optic industry is growing rapidly due to the rise in communications technology, the company hopes its new process will further boost this growth. Currently, Lumenon aims to produce 100,000 devices per year.

The company's Photonic Hybrid Active Silica Integrated Circuit (PHASIC) process uses a hybrid material that combines the properties of glass with the manufacturing ease of plastics. The low-temperature process creates planar lightwave circuit components in the form of "optical chips" on silicon. It incorporates a one-step coating of high optical quality for thin- and thick-film components and devices. The PHASIC process also uses Hybrid Sol-Gel Glass (HSGG) technology. This allows the optical material to be predictably tuned, enabling the production of devices with a wide range of linear and nonlinear optical properties.

First, a silicon substrate is coated with low-temperature HSGG. This material is an organically modified glass fabric that uses the most advantageous features of both organic polymers and glass. Since polymers have a broader range of physical properties than "silica-on-silicon" technologies, the use of HSGG in this process generates greater design flexibility.

A contact mask is placed on top of the substrate to map the circuit components the chip will carry. Light striking the chip through the opening of the mask alters the index of refraction of the exposed areas of the chip. Through this ultraviolet-light imprinting process, the desired circuit components are created.

The PHASIC process is resist- and metallization-free. It does not employ high-temperature annealing. The process occurs at temperatures under 200°C. This allows the combination of passive and active components on the same substrate.

As an integrated design and manufacturing process, the PHASIC technology does not use some of the expensive and complex machinery employed by other processes. Lumenon says this process is dramatically less labor-intensive than other processes used throughout the fiber-optic industry.

In addition to DWDM components, the PHASIC process can be used to create products to fit a broad spectrum of communications applications. Such applications include splitters, combiners, star couplers, and directional couplers. The process may be extended to fit additional photonic devices, including gratings, interferometers, diffractive micro-optics, interconnects, cross connects, large-scale photonic lightwave circuit modules, optical add-drops, dispersion equalizers, optical matrix switches, and modulators.

The company possesses proprietary material databases and microfabrication design tools to allow rapid customization of generic platforms to fit specific customer requirements. Designed elements can be used in modular form to create more complex, multifunctional devices on a chip. According to Lumenon, new configurations are generated through customization in a number of days, compared to the several weeks traditional methods generally require. Also, the company claims the design flexibility of the PHASIC process speeds time-to-market and eases mass production.

For more information, contact Lumenon Innovative Lightwave Technology at (514) 331-3738; fax (514) 331-1272; or www.lumenon.com.

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