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Silicon Photonics

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Teraxion embraces silicon photonics for its products

Teraxion has become a silicon photonics player with the launch of its compact 40 and 100 Gigabit coherent receivers.

The Canadian optical component company has long been known for its fibre Bragg gratings and tunable dispersion compensation products. But for the last three years it has been developing expertise in silicon photonics and at the recent European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) exhibition it announced its first products based on the technology.


"You don't have this [fabless] model for indium phosphide or silica, while an ecosystem is developing around silicon photonics"

Martin Guy, Teraxion


"We are playing mainly in the telecom business, which accounts for 80% of our revenues," says Martin Guy, vice president, product management & technology at Teraxion. "It is clear that our customers are going to more integration and smaller form-factors so we need to follow our customers' requirements."

Teraxion assessed several technologies but chose silicon photonics and the fabless model it supports. "We are using all our optical expertise that we can apply to this material but use a process already developed for the CMOS industry, with the [silicon] wafer made externally," says Guy. "You don't have this [fabless] model for indium phosphide or silica, while an ecosystem is developing around silicon photonics."

The company uses hybrid integration for its coherent receiver products, with silicon implementing the passive optical functions to which the active components are coupled. Teraxion is using externally-supplied photo-detectors which are flip-chipped onto the silicon for its coherent receiver.

"We need to use the best material for the function for this high-end product," says Guy. "Our initial goal is not to have everything integrated in silicon."


Coherent receiver

A coherent receiver comprises two inputs - the received optical signal and the local oscillator - and four balanced receiver outputs. Also included in the design are two polarisation beam splitters and two 90-degree hybrid mixers.

Several companies have launched coherent receiver products. These include CyOpyics, Enablence, NEL, NeoPhotonics, Oclaro and u2t Photonics. Silicon photonics player Kotura has also developed the optical functions for a coherent receiver but has not launched a product.

One benefit of using silicon photonics, says Teraxion, is the compact optical designs it enables.

The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) has specified a form factor for the 100 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) coherent receiver. Teraxion has developed a silicon photonics-based product that matches the OIF's form factor sized 40mmx32mm. This is for technology evaluation purposes rather than a commercial product. "If customers want to evaluate our technology, they need to have a compatible footprint with their design," explains Guy. This is available in prototype form and Teraxion has customers ready to evaluate the product.

Teraxion will come to market with a second 100 Gigabit coherent receiver design that is a third of the size of the OIF's form factor, measuring 23mmx18mm (0.32x the area of the OIF specification). The compact coherent receivers for 40 and 100Gbps will be available in sample form in the first quarter of 2013.


Teraxion's OIF-specification 100 Gig coherent receiver (left) for test purposes and its compact coherent receiver product. Source: Teraxion


"We match the OIF's performance with this design but there are also other key requirements from customers that are not necessarily in the OIF specification," says Guy.

The compact 100Gbps design is of interest to optical module and system vendors but there is no one view in terms of requirements or the desired line-side form-factor that follows the 5x7-inch MSA. Indeed there are some that are interested in developing a 100 Gigabit CFP module for metro applications, says Guy. 



Teraxion's roadmap includes further integration of the coherent receiver's design. "We are using hybrid integration but eventually we will look at having the photo-detectors integrated within the material,” says Guy.

The small size of the coherent design means there is scope for additional functionality to be included. Teraxion says that customers are interested in integrating variable optical attenuators (VOAs). The local oscillator is another optical function that can be integrated within the coherent receiver.

In 2005 Teraxion acquired Dicos Technologies, a narrow line-width laser specialist. Teraxion's tunable narrow line-width laser product - a few kiloHertz wide - is available in the lab. "The purpose of this product is not to be deployed on the line card - right now," says Guy. "We believe this type of performance will be required for next-generation 100 Gig, 400 Gig, 1 Terabit coherent communication systems where you will need a very 'clean' local oscillator."

Teraxion is also working on developing a silicon-photonics-based modulator. The company has been exploring integrating Bragg gratings within silicon waveguides for which it has applied for patents. This is several years out, says Guy, but has the potential to enable high-speed modulators suited for short-reach datacom applications.

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