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photonic chip manufacturers work on next generation microchip technology that harnesses the power of light to make energy efficient, faster and more accurate microchips. These chips help solve societal challenges in fields like healthcare, energy and telecom.
Industry leaders such as Intel and IBM offer silicon photonics solutions to support the evolution of data centers, AI, analytics and cloud-to-edge technology. These companies are helping to drive bandwidth growth in data centres, and next-generation 5G deployments.
A key advantage of photonics is that it can integrate both optical and electrical signals on a single chip, allowing chipmakers to achieve much faster performance than using electronic circuits alone, says Anushree Verma, director analyst at Gartner Inc. In addition, these chips can be made using a variety of materials, including GaN.
Integrated photonics are used in high-performance computing facilities, fiber-optic networks, laser-guided missiles and medical sensors. The market for these devices is estimated to grow by more than 20 per cent annually through 2020, according to research firm Pitchbook.
These chips can also be used in smartphones and other consumer electronics, which is expected to be one of the fastest growing application areas over the next few years. This is because photonic chips can be incorporated in small, low-cost devices that don’t require replacement for years and save energy.
These chips can be fabricated in foundries with the use of photolithography, which projects a blueprint (called a mask or reticle) onto a wafer by projecting a beam of light through it. This is then etched and delaminated. The process is similar to that used for electronic circuits, but the pattern can be smaller and more complex.