Transforming where Light meets Digital for Increased Connectivity
We are redefining the possible in communications with innovative and high performance light-to -digital technologies. Using our proprietary digital signal processing and forward error correction technology, ultra-pure light sources and integrated optical system-on-chips, EFFECT Photonics offers compact form factors with seamless integration, cost efficiency, low power, and security of supply.
As a highly vertically integrated, independent photonic semiconductor company with offices throughout the world, we aim to disrupt, challenge and simplify what’s possible in tomorrow’s telecommunications and data communications networks so that all people can be connected whenever, wherever and however they choose.
At the heart of all we do and all we create are our people. We are a diverse group of innovators working hand-in-hand to develop next generation technologies that interconnect humanity. Our team’s talent and passion drives our success and their commitment is what defines us and makes the difference. Help us define the future where light meets digital.
EFFECT Photonics’ coherent technology portfolio has grown in the last two years, including coherent transceivers,…
EFFECT Photonics’ coherent technology portfolio has grown in the last two years, including coherent transceivers, laser sources, and digital signal processors. To lead this portfolio, EFFECT Photonics has hired Charlie Fu as our new Coherent Product Manager. To give you more insight into our new colleague and what drives him, we asked him a few questions.
Tell us a little more about yourself and your background.
So, my whole life is actually devoted to photonics. When I was a student in college, I studied optoelectronics, and my undergraduate project was doing a diode laser response curve. I also worked hard in graduate school with my supervisor in the lab to test coherent lasers back in the early 1990s when this technology was in its early stages. Back then, the laser was based on bulk micro-optics and could transmit for maybe 10 kilometers of distance. It was a significantly bigger package than now.
I was very lucky to start my career during an optical communications boom, working on fiber optic devices and modules with JDS Uniphase. I built my career there, starting with optical design and a lot of learning.
I then moved to a network company, Nortel Networks, designing links for long-haul transmission systems. We ensured the performance of the optical system and how to specify all the optical components modules to ensure the required performance. Nortel had a very ambitious project at the time. It was a technology challenge of transmitting 40G long haul transmission. Perhaps too ambitious, the year 2000 was perhaps too early still to go coherent.
So yeah, my whole career has been devoted to optics. From working as a hardware design engineer and learning all the optical transponder optical module design. Working with a few well-known brands such as Oclaro.
What did you find exciting about working for EFFECT Photonics?
So I think EFFECT Photonics has a good combination of people and technology, with many interesting technology innovations. The entrepreneurial drive to achieve success.
What attracted me the most was the core technology message of where light meets digital. If we look around, quite a lot of companies have photonics technology OR digital signal processing (DSP) technology. But almost no one has both IP for DSP and photonic technology. Having those IPs puts EFFECT Photonics in a very unique, prestigious position.
What do you find exciting about coherent technology and what has drawn you to it over your career?
I still believe coherent technology is in its infant stage in its application to optical communication. There are still a lot of things to do. For example, moving it to access network communications instead of just long haul. That’s something EFFECT Photonics wants to do and why I’m very excited about the future of our coherent optics.
The coherent system implementation may have changed a lot and gotten smaller, but the technology, the core concept, it’s still exactly the same as 30 years ago. I want to help develop these new systems with the new technology available to optics in the semiconductor sector.
I’m very excited to develop products that use these new technologies, hence why I am now in a Product Manager position.
I’m very excited to leverage my experience and knowledge and I’m very confident I can make a positive contribution to EFFECT Photonics in product design and development.
In today’s rapidly evolving world, traditional technologies such as microelectronics are increasingly struggling to match…
In today’s rapidly evolving world, traditional technologies such as microelectronics are increasingly struggling to match the rising demands of sectors such as communication, healthcare, energy, and manufacturing. These struggles can result in slower data transmission, more invasive diagnostics, or excessive energy consumption. Amidst these challenges, there is a ray of hope: photonics.
Photonics is the study and application of light generation, manipulation, and detection, often aiming to transmit, control, and sense light signals. Its goals and even the name “photonics” are born from its analogy with electronics: photonics aims to transmit, control, and sense photons (the particles of light) in similar ways to how electronics do with electrons (the particles of electricity).
Photons can travel more quickly and efficiently than electrons, especially over long distances. Photonic devices can be manufactured on a semiconductor process similar to the one used by microelectronics, so they have the potential to be manufactured in small packages at high volumes. Due to these properties, photonics can drive change across multiple industries and technologies by enabling faster and more sustainable solutions manufactured at scale.
Integrated Photonics Enables New Networks and Sensors
Two of the biggest sectors photonics can impact are communications and sensing.
Light is the fastest information carrier in the universe and can transmit this information while dissipating less heat and energy than electrical signals. Thus, photonics can dramatically increase communication networks’ speed, reach, and flexibility and cope with the ever-growing demand for more data. And it will do so at a lower energy cost, decreasing the Internet’s carbon footprint.
The webpage you are reading was originally a stream of 0 and 1s that traveled through an optical fiber to reach you. Fiber networks need some optical transceiver that transmits and receives the light signal through the fiber. These transceivers were initially bulky and inefficient, but advances in integrated photonics and electronics have miniaturized these transceivers into the size of a large USB stick.
Aside from fiber communications, photonics can also deliver solutions beyond traditional radio communications. For example, optical transmission over the air or space could handle links between different mobile network sites, cars, or satellites.
There are multiple sensing application markets but their core technology is the same. They need a small device that sends out a known pulse of light, accurately detects how the light comes back, and calculates the properties of the environment from that information. It’s a simple but quite powerful concept.
This concept is already being used to implement LIDAR systems that help self-driving cars determine the location and distance of people and objects. However, there is also potential to use this concept in medical and agrifood applications, such as looking for undesired growths in the human eye or knowing how ripe an apple is.
Integrated Photonics Drives Down Power Consumption
Photonics can make many industries more energy efficient. One of the photonics’ success stories is light-emitting diodes (LEDs) manufactured at scale through semiconductor processes. LED lighting sales have experienced explosive growth in the past decade, quickly replacing traditional incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs that are less energy efficient. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that residential LED sales have risen from around 5% of the market in 2013 to about 50% in 2022.
Greater integration is also vital for energy efficiency. In many electronic and photonic devices, the interconnections between different components are often sources of losses and inefficiency. A more compact, integrated device will have shorter and more energy-efficient interconnections. For example, Apple’s system-on-chip processors fully integrate all electronic processing functions on a single chip. As shown in the table below, these processors are significantly more energy efficient than the previous generations of Apple processors.
Mac Mini Model
Power Consumption (Watts)
2018, Core i7
2014, Core i5
2010, Core 2 Duo
2006, Core Solo or Duo
2005, PowerPC G4
Table 1: Comparing the power consumption of a Mac Mini with an M1 SoC chip to previous generations of Mac Minis. [Source: Apple’s website]
The photonics industry can set a similar goal to Apple’s system-on-chip. By integrating all the optical components (lasers, detectors, modulators, etc.) on a single chip can minimize the losses and make devices such as optical transceivers more efficient.
There are other ways for photonics to aid energy efficiency goals. For example, photonics enables a more decentralized system of data centers with branches in different geographical areas connected through high-speed optical fiber links to cope with the strain of data center clusters on power grids. The Dutch government has already proposed this kind of decentralization as part of its spatial strategy for data centers.
More Investment is Needed for Photonics to Scale like Electronics
Photonics can have an even greater impact on the world if it becomes as readily available and easy to use as electronics.
We need to buy photonics from a catalog as we do with electronics, have datasheets that work consistently, be able to solder it to a board and integrate it easily with the rest of the product design flow.
Tim Koene – Chief Technology Officer, EFFECT Photonics
Today, photonics is still a ways off from achieving this goal. Photonics manufacturing chains are not at a point where they can quickly produce millions of integrated photonic devices per year. While packaging, assembly, and testing are only a small part of the cost of electronic systems, they are 80% of the total module cost in photonics, as shown in the figure below.
To scale and become more affordable, the photonics manufacturing chains must become more automated and leverage existing electronic packaging, assembly, and testing methods that are already well-known and standardized. Technologies like BGA-style packaging and flip-chip bonding might be novel for photonics developers who started implementing them in the last five or ten years, but electronics embraced these technologies 20 or 30 years ago. Making these techniques more widespread will make a massive difference in photonics’ ability to scale up and become as available as electronics.
The roadmap of scaling integrated photonics and making it more accessible is clear: it must leverage existing electronics manufacturing processes and ecosystems and tap into the same economy-of-scale principles as electronics. Implementing this roadmap, however, requires more investment in photonics. While such high-volume photonics manufacturing demands a higher upfront investment, the resulting high-volume production line will drive down the cost per device and opens them up to a much larger market. That’s the process by which electronics revolutionized the world.
By harnessing the power of light, integrated photonics can offer faster and more sustainable solutions to address the evolving challenges faced by various sectors, including communication, healthcare, energy, and manufacturing. However, for photonics to truly scale and become as accessible as electronics, more investment is necessary to scale production and adapt existing electronics processes to photonics. This scaling will drive down production costs, making integrated photonics more widely available and paving the way for its impactful integration into numerous technologies across the globe.
In a world of optical access networks, where data speeds soar and connectivity reigns supreme,…
In a world of optical access networks, where data speeds soar and connectivity reigns supreme, the thermal management of optical transceivers is a crucial factor that is sometimes under-discussed. As the demand for higher speeds grows, the heat generated by optical devices poses increasing challenges. Without proper thermal management, this excessive heat can lead to performance degradation, reduced reliability, and lifespan, increasing optical equipment’s capital and operating expenditures.
By reducing footprints, co-designing optics and electronics for greater efficiency, and adhering to industry standards, operators can reduce the impact of heat-related issues.
Integration Reduces Heat Losses
The best way to manage heat is to produce less of it in the first place. Optical transceivers consist of various optical and electronic components, including lasers, photodiodes, modulators, electrical drivers and converters, and even digital signal processors. Each of these elements generates heat as a byproduct of their operation. However, photonic and electronic technology advances have enabled greater device integration, resulting in smaller form factors and reduced power consumption.
For example, over the last decade, coherent optical systems have been miniaturized from big, expensive line cards to small pluggables the size of a large USB stick. These compact transceivers with highly integrated optics and electronics have shorter interconnections, fewer losses, and more elements per chip area. These features all lead to a reduced power consumption over the last decade, as shown in the figure below.
Co-design for Energy Efficiency
Co-designing the transceiver’s optics and electronics is a great tool for achieving optimal thermal management. Co-designing the DSP chip alongside the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) can lead to a much better fit between these components. A co-design approach helps identify in greater detail the trade-offs between various parameters in the DSP and PIC and thus improve system-level performance and efficiency.
To illustrate the impact of co-designing PIC and DSP, let’s look at an example. A PIC and a standard platform-agnostic DSP typically operate with signals of differing intensities, so they need some RF analog electronic components to “talk” to each other. This signal power conversion overhead constitutes roughly 2-3 Watts or about 10-15% of transceiver power consumption.
However, the modulator of an InP PIC can run at a lower voltage than a silicon modulator. If this InP PIC and the DSP are designed and optimized together instead of using a standard DSP, the PIC could be designed to run at a voltage compatible with the DSP’s signal output. This way, the optimized DSP could drive the PIC directly without needing the RF analog driver, doing away with most of the power conversion overhead we discussed previously.
Follow Best Practices and Standards
Effective thermal management also means following the industry’s best practices and standards. These standards ensure optical transceivers’ interoperability, reliability, and performance. Two common ratings that will condition the thermal design of optical transceivers are commercial (C-temp) and industrial (I-temp) ratings.
Commercial temperature (C-temp) transceivers are designed to operate from 0°C to 70°C. These transceivers suit the controlled environments of data center and network provider equipment rooms. These rooms have active temperature control, cooling systems, filters for dust and other particulates, airlocks, and humidity control. On the other hand, industrial temperature (I-temp) transceivers are designed to withstand more extreme temperature ranges, typically from -40°C to 85°C. These transceivers are essential for deployments in outdoor environments or locations with harsh operating conditions. It could be at the top of an antenna, on mountain ranges, inside traffic tunnels, or in the harsh winters of Northern Europe.
Temperature Range (°C)
Automotive / Full Military
Table 1: Comparing the temperature ranges of different temperature hardening standards, including industrial and automotive/full military applications
Operators can ensure the transceivers’ longevity and reliability by selecting the appropriate temperature rating based on the deployment environment and application. On the side, of the component manufacturer, the temperature rating will have a significant impact on the transceiver’s design and testing. For example, making an I-temp transceiver means that every internal component—the integrated circuits, lasers, photodetectors—must also be I-temp compliant.
Operators can overcome heat-related challenges and ensure optimal performance by reducing heat generation through device integration, co-designing optics and electronics, and adhering to industry standards. By addressing these thermal management issues, network operators can maintain efficient and reliable connectivity and contribute to the seamless functioning of optical networks in the digital age.