Over the past year, the Silicon Electronic Photonic Integrated Circuits Fabrication (SiEPICfab) consortium led by Lukas Chrostowski has grown, scaling up its fabrication activities in the Nanofabrication Facility at the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute (Blusson QMI) and expanding its partnerships from 11 companies and four universities in 2019 to 17 companies and six universities today.
Chrostowski, a Professor in UBC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), who was recently awarded the J.M. Ham Outstanding Engineering Educator Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), has been a leader in bringing silicon photonics capability to Canada. His influence and expertise is widely appreciated throughout the industry.
“We’ve seen 15 years of success in training graduate students in silicon photonics, with our annual workshops drawing students from many Canadian universities,” said Chrostowski.
In November, SiEPICfab will host a workshop on laser integration with ePIXfab, the European Silicon Photonics Alliance. The workshop will enable SiEPICfab to showcase their photonic wirebonding technique, a new process made possible using the SONATA1000, a precise multi-photon lithography tool from Vanguard Automation, for which SiEPICfab received funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
Typically, the process for packaging silicon photonic chips has been expensive and complex. The chips process information using photons (light), but silicon cannot produce light; typically, this has meant that technicians must align tiny optical fibres with silicon chips to make them functional. The new process, known as photonic wirebonding, enables integration of lasers onto silicon chips; on-chip laser integration is a process that the silicon photonics industry has been working toward for a long time.
Silicon photonic devices are used in consumer electronics, automobiles, computers, and biosensors, such as the COVID-19 biosensor biosensor Chrostowski has been developing with ECE colleagues Karen Cheung and Sudip Shekhar (listen to Chrostowski and Cheung discuss the project with UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono, below). Silicon photonic devices use less energy than those made with materials including copper, commonly found in electronic devices and cables, which use electrons to conduct electricity.
By partnering with ePIXfab, SiEPICfab will have a new audience with which to share its photonic wirebonding technique, expanding its potential customer base. Participants in the SiEPICfab-ePIXfab course will have the opportunity to buy and design a laser-integrated chip following the course. In addition, the partnership is enabling both groups to access a wider variety of potential speakers, expanding access to critical knowledge in silicon photonics on two continents. SiEPICfab’s objective is to help research progress from rapid prototyping towards commercialization, with the overarching goal of providing large-scale silicon photonic research fabrication within Canada. The new equipment and cleanroom in Blusson QMI’s Nanofabrication Facility has increased SiEPICfab’s capacity for prototyping and fabrication. Ultimately, SiEPICfab and its partners are working to establish Canadian leadership in a fast-growing global industry.
“Over the past 15 years, I have been very privileged to be part of this growing community of silicon photonics researchers, engineers and scientists,” said Chrostowski. “I have seen the field transition from a curiosity, to training 500 students, and finally seeing widespread industry adoption where now most data centres employ silicon photonic chips.”
For more information about the SiEPICfab-ePIXfab Joint Workshop on Laser Integration & Laser Integration MPW, or to register, visit the ePIXfab website.
Also in November, SiEPICfab will also host a Passive Silicon Photonics Fabrication Course in collaboration with CMC Microsystems, a long-term partner of the consortium. For more information, visit the CMC Microsystems website.
For more information about SiEPICfab and its activities, visit siepic.ca; to subscribe to the SiEPICfab newsletter for information on upcoming consortium meetings and activities, email Steve Gou, Project Manager, at email@example.com.