Eindhoven, The Netherlands During King Willem-Alexander’s visit to the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven on…
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
During King Willem-Alexander’s visit to the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven on April 20, he gained insight into the value chain of integrated photonics in the Netherlands and Europe from various perspectives. This emerging chip technology is accelerating thanks to a €1.1 billion program led by PhotonDelta. With demonstrations at Holst Centre and roundtable discussions at PhotonDelta, the King learned about the essence of the technology, its applications, and its importance for the future of the Netherlands and Europe.
Ewit Roos, CEO of PhotonDelta, is very pleased with the day’s outcome.
Ewit Roos, CEO at PhotonDelta
The King’s visit is a tremendous honor for the ecosystem. It underlines once again the importance of integrated photonics for our country. We told him about the applications of integrated photonics for innovations in medical diagnostics, autonomous driving, the agricultural sector, and data communications. PhotonDelta and Holst Centre are central to the development of this new value chain. For the King, this was certainly a wonderful opportunity to get the most complete picture possible of the quality of the unique position of the ecosystem and all the opportunities that still lie ahead.
Photonics is all about the interaction between light (photons) and matter. Through photonics, data can be transmitted at the speed of light, reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency. Integrated photonic chips, considered a key technology worldwide, enable the development of smaller, faster, and energy-efficient devices. This will lead to innovations that will help solve the major challenges of our time and contribute to a healthy and sustainable future.
National Growth Fund
The Netherlands has recognized the opportunities of integrated photonics through the National Growth Fund. PhotonDelta, the ecosystem of organizations in photonic chip technology, has mobilized public and private investment totaling 1.1 billion euros through this fund to transform the Netherlands into a leader in the next generation of semiconductors.
The investment consists of 470 million euros through the growth fund, with the rest coming from other partners and stakeholders. It is all part of the Dutch government’s plan to strengthen the country’s position as a world leader in integrated photonics.
Demonstrations and Roundtable Discussion
The King first visited Holst Centre, a collaboration between the research centers imec and TNO. Researchers from different disciplines develop new technology for photonic chips and prototypes that companies can use for their production process and new products.
The King was given a tour of Holst Centre’s laboratory and attended demonstrations of the application of photonics in various sectors. Representatives from Signify, EFFECT Photonics, Delta Diagnostics, Quix Quantum, and Lionix explained the different stages in the value chain. During this tour, the main focus was on the applications that help solve society’s critical challenges.
Integrated photonics is one of the pillars of Holst Centre’s strategy. By combining the expertise of imec and TNO, many aspects needed in the development and production process can be offered, such as design, prototyping, testing, and manufacturing. We combine the photonic microchip technology of imec in Belgium, the complementary photonic platforms in the Netherlands, the design expertise of imec in the Netherlands, and the optics and systems integration knowledge of TNO to help develop new sustainable solutions in different industries.Kathleen Philips, director of imec at Holst Centre
The subsequent visit to PhotonDelta, also at the High Tech Campus, began with a presentation on the ecosystem. In recent years, PhotonDelta has grown this community from 12 to 60 stakeholders who together form a value chain that conceives, develops, and makes photonic chips and solutions based on them. The roundtable discussion covered topics such as industrialization, application technology, and European cooperation. Phix Photonics Assembly, Smart Photonics, and Trumpf Photonics Components addressed the challenges and possible solutions in scaling up the most crucial industrialization processes. Following this talk, Synopsys NL and NXP discussed the challenges around application strategies: creating a library of easy-to-use building blocks for new applications. Finally, the European playing field came into focus through PhotonDelta itself and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. This covered Europe’s ambitions around strategic autonomy and the impact of the European Chips Act. Photonic chips have been designated as a key technology by the European Commission. Security of supply for digital technology is the guiding principle in the Chips Act.
Strategic autonomy does not mean developing a copy of the global semiconductor value chain in Europe, but taking unique European positions in these chains where we can be ‘world-class’. This implies interdependence through quality and capacity rather than taking over one-to-one what is already happening elsewhere. Integrated photonics is one such position where Europe can excel.Ton van Mol, Director TNO at Holst Centre
PhotonDelta is an ecosystem of organizations that conceive, develop and make solutions based on photonic chips. PhotonDelta supports the system by stimulating collaboration between stakeholders, providing funding, and connecting them to the market.
About Holst Centre
Holst Centre, a collaboration of imec and TNO, brings together expertise in wireless sensor technologies and flexible electronics under one roof. The sharing of specific knowledge in an open structure enables the alignment of research and innovation with societal issues in health and vitality, energy and climate, and mobility and industry 5.0.
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More information:€1.1 billion program, autonomous driving, chip technology, data communications, Delta Diagnostics, EFFECT Photonics, Europe, Holst Centre, Integrated Photonics, King Willem-Alexander, Lionix, National Growth Fund, Netherlands, PhotonDelta, Quix Quantum, Semiconductors, Signify
Eindhoven, The Netherlands PhotonDelta, a cross-border ecosystem of photonic chip technology organizations, has secured €…
- Capital from the Netherland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and other organizations will be used to build 200 startups, scale up production, create new applications for photonic chips and develop infrastructure and talent
- Photonic chips enable the creation of devices that are substantially faster, cheaper to produce, and use considerably less electricity
- Development of photonic tech will tackle societal challenges such as sustainability, create a new European industry, and open the door to a huge range of new applications including quantum computing
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
PhotonDelta, a cross-border ecosystem of photonic chip technology organizations, has secured € 1.1 billion in public and private investment to transform the Netherlands into the leader of the next generation of semiconductors.
The investment includes €470 million of funding obtained through the National Growth Fund (Nationaal Groeifonds), while the rest is co-invested by various partners and stakeholders. It is part of the Dutch Government’s national plan to cement and expand the country’s position as a world leader in integrated photonics.
The program will run for six years and will enable PhotonDelta and its partners to further invest in photonic startups and scaleups, expand production and research facilities, attract and train talent, drive adoption, and develop a world-class design library. By 2030, PhotonDelta aims to have created an ecosystem with hundreds of companies, serving customers worldwide and a wafer production capacity of 100,000+ per year.
Photonics uses photons (light) to transfer information. Photonic chips, also called photonic integrated circuits (PICs), integrate photonic functions into microchips to create smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices. PICs can process and transmit data much more effectively than their electronic counterparts. Just like with traditional chips, the production process is carried out using automatic wafer-scale technology. This allows the chips to be mass-produced, reducing costs.
Crucially, PICs can overcome the expected limit to Moore’s Law and will also help tackle energy sustainability issues. PICs are currently used in the data and telecom industry to reduce the energy consumption per bit and increase speeds. With data and internet use expected to be around 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027, PICs provide a powerful way to limit the impact on the climate. Photonic circuits will also soon play an important role for innovative sensors that can be mass-produced, leading to earlier diagnostics of diseases, safe autonomous vehicles and infrastructure, and more efficient food production.
Ewit Roos, CEO at PhotonDelta
This investment is a game-changer. It will make the Netherlands the home of the next generation of semiconductors which will have a profound impact on the whole European tech industry.
The ongoing chip shortage highlights the pressing need for Europe to create its own production capabilities for strategic technologies. We will now be able to support hundreds of startups, researchers, producers and innovators to boost this industry that will be as impactful as the introduction of microelectronics a few decades ago.
The Netherlands is considered a pioneer in the development of PIC technology, and thanks to the continuous support from the Dutch government, we have been able to build a full supply-chain around it that is globally recognized as a hotspot for photonic integration.
Photonic chips are one of the most important technological breakthroughs of the last decade. Not only do they allow for the creation of devices that are faster, cheaper, more powerful and greener – they also enable radical new innovations like affordable point-of-care diagnostics or quantum computing to become a reality.
EFFECT Photonics is honored to be part of the allocation of the National Growth Fund. It is an exciting time for our industry and this kind of on-going support and funding from the Dutch government will bring the maturity and scalability of the Dutch photonics eco-system to the next level and allow us to compete on truly global scale.Boudewijn Docter at President EFFECT Photonic
For EFFECT Photonics this means that that we will be able to build on our ambition to make photonics simpler, more accessible, and affordable as we further the development of our next generation coherent solutions including the integration of our recently acquired DSP capabilities.
Our thanks go to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate for making this possible and to PhotonDelta for their guidance, organization, and coordination. We very much look forward to working together in the coming months and years to further drive innovations and value in our industry.
The PhotonDelta proposal has been submitted by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy in close collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), University of Twente (UT), Delft University of Technology (TUD), Holst Centre, TNO, IMEC, PITC, CITC, OnePlanet, SMART Photonics, LioniX International, EFFECT Photonics, MantiSpectra, PhotonFirst, PHIX, and BRIGHT Photonics.
The PhotonDelta ecosystem currently consists of 26 companies, 11 technology partners and 12 R&D partners. The organization is part of a consortium which has jointly invested €171 million in promising photonics companies including SMART Photonics, PhotonFirst, Surfix, MicroAlign, Solmates and EFFECT Photonics.
Notes to Editor
- Strategic partnership with a foundry agreed
- Research activity connected with applications of technology
- Ongoing evaluation of PhotonDelta’s ecosystem
Example applications of PICs:
Data & Telecoms: The biggest challenge within this domain is the high energy consumption of data infrastructure. Without any savings made, the share of data and internet use is expected to be around 10% of global electricity consumption by 2027. This includes energy consumption by end-users on the one hand and data centers on the other. 5G, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence will further accelerate this. Photonics provides gains in speed, weight, and energy consumption.
Healthcare: The development of mobile, wearable photonic devices (combined with advanced biosensors for direct point-of-care diagnostics and treatment that measure the medical condition and well-being of the wearer) can contribute to early detection and diagnosis of diseases, as well as an earlier and more targeted treatment. Photonics will eliminate the need for a visit to the hospital for many treatments or consultations.
Mobility: The biggest challenge in automotive in the near future lies in the availability of affordable sensors to enable autonomous driving at various stages. With the advantages of photonic chips (weight, speed, cost), the possibilities for self-driving transport are increasing. This has positive implications for road safety and lost travel time is made available again. Photonics can also mean a lot for battery management in electric vehicles and the control of traditional cars. For the aircraft industry, the emphasis is on sensor systems.
AgriFood: To feed a world population that is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, a drastic increase in food production is needed. But this must be done in a sustainable way: without excess nitrogen or excess CO2 emissions and preferably also in a way in which animal proteins have made way for vegetable proteins. In addition, food safety is an important precondition. The solution lies in precision agriculture, something in which photonics can play a major role. Sensor systems that run on photonics ensure that all requirements regarding safety, health, and sustainability can be met.
Full list of PhotonDelta partners (47):
|Core partners (supply-chain) 25: |
VTEC lasers & sensors
|Suppliers (technology partners) 11: |
Chip Integration Technology Center (CITC) Etteplan
|R&D partners (12): |
Photonic Integration Technology Center (PITC)
University of Twente
Eindhoven University of Technology
Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology
Technical information on photonics tech: https://www.photondelta.com/how-it-works/
More detail on how the investments will be used:
The goal is for accelerated, far-reaching further development of the photonics ecosystem and industrial development. Spread over 3 axes:
- Accelerated industrialization: scaling up and optimizing production processes, new factories and integration with other platforms, such as CMOS or SiPh via ChipLet technology
- Application technology: developing new applications via building blocks to meet major societal (and industrial) challenges
- Ecosystem development: strengthening the ecosystem with targeted investments in weak spots: support startups, scale-ups, campus development, talent development, shared infrastructure for development, access for new entrants
PhotonDelta is an ecosystem that researches, designs, develops, and manufactures solutions with integrated photonics technology. Connecting pioneers in the field with investors, and viable markets, PhotonDelta helps to take the industry forward with funding, investments and R&D roadmaps. PhotonDelta is located in the Netherlands but connects and collaborates throughout Europe. www.photondelta.com
Background PhotonDelta organization
In December 2018, a covenant was signed in which Dutch companies, knowledge institutions and governments pool a total of € 236 million in cash and in-kind resources, with the aim of exploiting the leading knowledge position in the field of integrated photonics and thus creating a strong economic position in the world.
The PhotonDelta partners together form a cohesive and co-operative industrial cluster. The ambitions and strategy for 2019-2026 are laid down in the PhotonDelta National Plan of the Dutch government, which is structured along four strategic pillars. The PhotonDelta Foundation is the implementing organization for this plan and started its activities on 1 January 2019.Tags: coherent, Development, Dutch Government, innovation, Ministry of Economics & Climate, National Growth Fund, PhotonDelta, start up
Aircision builds high capacity free space optics (FSO) systems that can be deployed fast, cover…
Aircision builds high capacity free space optics (FSO) systems that can be deployed fast, cover long distances and are highly secure. In December 2021, Aircision successfully demonstrated the capabilities of their first 10 Gbps FSO system. EFFECT Photonics is a leading transceiver vendor and able to deliver the flexible, pluggable optical transceiver that is a key component of Aircision FSO system . Together, Aircision and EFFECT Photonics are looking to push the boundaries of ground-to-ground FSO technology by combining the advantages of integrated and free space photonics.
“We were impressed with the capabilities of the EFFECT Photonics 10G SFP+ devices that we tested. It was an easy decision to involve them in our development plans for our next generation 100 Gbps coherent transmission systems” said Luis Oliveira (CEO and co-founder at Aircision). New technologies emerge every day and our digital society will keep evolving. To keep up with the ever-growing demand for bandwidth across larger distances, Aircision is developing a 100 Gbps coherent free space optics system capable of transmitting up to 10km.
Joost Verberk, Director of Product Management at EFFECT Photonics, “As we look to applications outside of pure fiber-based communications, we liked the market use cases Aircision presented as well as the market traction they already have. Our roadmaps follow a similar course making a joint development program an interesting option for EFFECT Photonics.”
Both Aircision and EFFECT Photonics are part of the PhotonDelta eco-system, a platform which is in place to accelerate developments such as this and reduce the time-to-market of new applications.
About EFFECT Photonics
EFFECT Photonics delivers highly integrated optical communications products based on its Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) optical System-on-Chip technology. The key enabling technology for DWDM systems is full monolithic integration of all photonic components within a single chip and being able to produce these in volume with high yield at low cost. With this capability, EFFECT Photonics is addressing the need for affordable DWDM solutions driven by the soaring demand for high bandwidth connections. EFFECT Photonics is headquartered in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, with additional facilities in the UK, the US and Taiwan, and a worldwide network of sales partners.
Aircision is a deep-tech startup located on the HighTech Campus Eindhoven focused on developing high performing FSO systems for Ground-to-Ground applications. Aircision was founded in early 2019 with support from the Eindhoven Startup Alliance and HighTechXL. For more information, see the Aircision website here.
In 2018, Brainport Eindhoven, via the Region Deal, invested €35 million into helping build and…
In 2018, Brainport Eindhoven, via the Region Deal, invested €35 million into helping build and support the broader PhotonDelta eco-system. EFFECT Photonics was one of the companies that benefited from this support. In the following video, we, together with MantiSpectra and PhotonFirst, introduce our businesses and share how this initiative has helped us grow.
As part of this initiative, the Dutch government, provincial departments, companies and knowledge institutes will invest €236 million in Dutch-based photonics technology in the coming years in order to further develop the technology and remain a global leader in this field. This investment is expected to create around 4000 jobs by 2025.
Our thanks go to PhotonDelta and all the parties involved that made this possible including the Dutch government, the Province of North Brabant, the Brainport Foundation, Brainport Regional Fund and the Municipality of Eindhoven. If you would like to know more, then please visit
Tags: #invest, Brainport Eindhoven, Integrated Photonics, Investment, optical networking, optical technology, PhotonDelta, photonic integrated chip, photonic integration, PIC, programmable optical system-on-chip, region deal
Data usage and, thus, data traffic over the mobile and fibre networks is growing exponentially…
Data usage and, thus, data traffic over the mobile and fibre networks is growing exponentially every year. While the currently used optical transmission solutions are reaching their limits, a new technology is ready to be implemented. Traditional photonics (phos = light) use manipulation of light to generate, detect, or process information. More recently, integrated photonics has shown the advantage of squeezing complex functions into a single chip. This yields a more energy-efficient and low-cost solution. Here, Giuseppe Coppola and Jorn Smeets from PhotonDelta, and Ruben Fokkema from Brainport Development, discuss integrated photonics, the landscape and the challenges that the world faces in the upcoming years. They also explain the potential of integrated photonics and what their organisations are doing speed up the development of this technology. Boudewijn Doctor, Joost Verberk and Michiel Boermans from EFFECT Photonics discuss the advantages of using their SFP module platform with tuneable transceivers in the 5G network. Field trials are being executed in the VodafoneZiggo network and in the 5G Hub to show the performance of their transceivers. But it is not only about the results now, it is about what their technology is able to do in the future.
Integrated Photonics as a Key Technology
Integrated Photonics is one of the key technologies from the Brainport region and it can be the next big thing. Ruben says: “I truly believe that it is worthwhile to invest in all kinds of ways in this next generation chip industry. We have to bring everything to the game to make it happen as integrated photonics is one of the most promising industries in development”. According to Giuseppe, Europe should cooperate on this: “The Netherlands, in particular the Brainport area, can aspire to be the integrated photonics valley of the world. Still joining forces with the rest of Europe is needed to ensure that the industry has enough scope to stay competitive”.
PhotonDelta drives the creation and acceleration of the growth of Dutch-based companies and technology institutes active in the integrated photonics industry. A national strategic plan is being drawn up to build the industry for integrated photonics. Jorn mentions: “Where does the Netherlands see itself in twenty/thirty years? We must act now to get there. We already have the three universities that publish the highest number of articles on photonics. We need to transform that to a production industry.” Brainport Development supports PhotonDelta by identifying and prioritizing the most promising companies to work together on their ecosystem. As Ruben mentions, the Brainport region contains a lot of knowledge, but the focus needs to be on creating an industry in a holistic manner.
From designing to developing and the actual manufacturing, when someone says, “integrated photonics,” people should think immediately about the Brainport region. But what is integrated photonics? And what is the potential for the use of it?
Integrated Photonics Explained
Integrated photonics enables photonic circuits to process and transmit light, just as electronic signals are processed and transmitted by electronic integrated circuits. Photons (light particles) move at the speed of light without interference. This means that information can move faster and more efficiently while using less power.
So, why is photonics not used on a large scale already? According to Giuseppe, the two biggest challenges are creating a solid base of the supply chain and connecting it to the market. The supply chain needs to mature, and opportunities need to become more concrete. Jorn adds that the expected energy savings of using integrated photonics in datacentres is in practice not as high as expected. However, photonics does not only add value from a savings point of view. It has a lot more to offer for for instance 5G.
Giuseppe mentions that the added value for 5G can be classified into three categories. The first one belongs to the backbone of the 5G network: by using photonics, one can send more data with lower latency and with higher capacity. This is the solution that EFFECT Photonics is working on. EFFECT Photonics delivers tuneable optical transceivers that connect both ends of the fibre in a mobile fronthaul DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) network. The DWDM technology multiplexes several optical signals onto a single optical fibre by using different wavelengths of laser light, hence increasing the capacity of the network. “EFFECT Photonics is different from other transceiver companies because we are able to put all optical elements into one chip. It makes the assembly easier because you just need to design the chip, make it, and connect it to the fibre,” Joost mentions. This System-on-Chip (SoC) technology provides cost-effective modules with a complete solution on one chip.
At the same time, a bit further out in the future, photonics could enable free space communications by sending light out in the air. It is like an invisible fibre. One important aspect that should be considered, though, is the safety for the human eye. However, developments in this aspect are going fast. Imagine Li-Fi (wireless internet connection based on light) where you can direct beam to your laptop so that you can use all the bandwidth available. Light does not only create links, but the beam can also be moved around. That brings us to the third category.
An optical phased array is where the direction of light beams can be steered by dynamically controlling the optical properties of a surface. These beams can follow specific clients that need very fast access with the ability to dedicate the bandwidth to whoever needs it the most: for example, critical services.
Additional advantages of photonics are that you can reach higher speed and process huge amounts of data while saving energy (and thus costs). As Giuseppe says: “If you can do it cleverly, you can have the physics working for you and be able to process data and compute faster. At the speed of light!”.
EFFECT Photonics Field Trials in the 5G Hub
Currently, EFFECT Photonics and the 5G Hub are running the first public 5G trial of optical transceivers based on a fully integrated photonic chip in the Netherlands. The SFP transceivers from EFFECT Photonics are tuneable transceivers, which are different from the standard devices with fixed wavelength. As Michiel explains: “The tuneable devices can ‘detect’ different kinds of colours, so that you only need to have one transceiver on stock for multiple applications”. Although this seems very beneficial, there is also a downside, as Joost mentions, “You need to explain to the technician how the tuning of the device works, and connecting it right is very sensitive to errors. That is why we have added a bit of extra intelligence to the transceiver where it scans the network and finds its own colour. That is exactly what we will test in the VodafoneZiggo network and at the 5G Hub. This means you have both the advantages from fixed as well as from tuneable.”
The current trials work with transceivers that have 9 channels and can reach a throughput of 10 Gbps. “Although the network speed does not improve significantly with the current trials, the basis of their technology platform is very suitable for expanding that performance curve”, as Joost explains. However, using photonic integration brings a cost advantage, and the field trials are a test for the future. It is not only about the current performance, but very important for the network of the future. With this platform technology you can build incredibly complex chips. As Boudewijn mentions: “The more you put together, the more revolutionary it becomes.”
Applying the transceiver in a 5G network is very interesting because there is a demand for extra capacity at the edge of the network. At no extra cost. Boudewijn states: “We are bringing the high-end technology that is used in the centre of the network, now at affordable costs to the edge, supporting the architecture and bringing the technology that is now used on the inside of the network, to the outside.” Their application is able to provide potentially unlimited data transmission capacity and bandwidth. Combine that with 5G that is designed to support a massive increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency, and you can imagine the potential benefits in the network. The DWDM technology allows for increased load on the fibre network. Which is beneficial not only right now, but also enables us to make better use of the optical fibre cables that are already underground, negating the need to replace them to improve our network. In addition, a shorter latency to the central point can be achieved and first signal processing can be done at location, which also enables time-critical applications. The application is not limited to the 5G network, but also FTTx or Remote PHY networks can be upgraded using DWDM.
EFFECT Photonics is a partner of the 5G Hub, which enables them to execute field trials. These field trials are a valuable addition to all the tests that EFFECT Photonics executes themselves, to see how it really works in the network but also to learn more about all the practicalities around the use of their application. From how the technicians work with it, to at which locations the transceivers are actually used. However, it is not only about these trials. Working together with the 5G Hub brings them in contact with the ecosystem around the Hub and its network. It opens a lot of doors for collaborations and together we can bring this ecosystem forward. As Boudewijn mentions: “We want to learn more about not only the 5G network, but also about the possible applications of 5G and how we can add value to these applications.”
Brainport Development and PhotonDelta are building an industry. When more progress is made, new applications are discovered on the way. And Jorn mentions that telecommunications seem ready for integrated photonics. With the ever-growing data flow, the need for always more and faster, integrated photonics can play a huge role in the future to fulfill our needs. EFFECT Photonics is one of the key players in shaping this future of photonics, applying their tuneable optical transceivers into the network already today. If you are interested in learning more, check out the website of EFFECT Photonics, PhotonDelta and Brainport Development.Tags: 5GHub, Brainport, PhotonDelta, Photonics
It seems like everybody agrees that photonics is one of the most promising sectors for…
It seems like everybody agrees that photonics is one of the most promising sectors for high-tech advancement. In this case, however, it is not the usual suspects, like the USA, Japan or China, that are leading the development. Instead, it is led by the tiny Netherlands, followed closely by the United Kingdom. Dutch newspapers including the Volkskrant and AD signalled the rising star and reported its origination from Eindhoven, sometimes described as the Silicon Valley of the Netherlands. It is no surprise that the fertile soil for its rapid growth was prepared by tech giant Philips and the renowned University of Eindhoven.
In January 2021, local newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad published an article to explain – in layman’s terms – the world of photonics and its applications by taking the reader on a seven-question journey. A résumé of the article follows.
What exactly is photonics?
Professor Martijn Heck of TU/e (Eindhoven University of Technology) describes it as “systems in which a laser sends a beam of light that is received by a detector”. By coding the light into ones and zeros, it can be used to transmit photos, TV images, sounds, and data from the internet. Glass fibre enables the laser light to travel large distances, if necessary.
What is the promise of photonics?
“All across the world, companies are working hard on the development of photonics and this field is expected to grow exponentially”, Professor Heck, Eindhoven University of Technology, Photonic Integration Group. “Thirty years ago, using technology developed by Philips, among others, the continents of the world were linked with glass fibres to establish telephone and video connections. Later, exchanges and data centres for TV and internet were connected with fibre optics. In recent years, fibre optics have entered into people’s houses. Technology is currently being developed to direct light to devices in the home. This can be achieved via fibre, but also by air through advances such as LiFi – an alternative to WiFi. In addition, many companies are working on incorporating photonics into the printed circuit boards and chips in various devices.”
How far has photonics developed?
According to Photon Delta, the Dutch organisation that supports, promotes and drives the Dutch photonics eco-system and the development of photonic chips, investments are starting to pay off. The number of participating companies is increasing and next year employment will rise from 315 to 550 employees – with turnover rising from 13 million to 60 million euros. Investments have quadrupled to 88 million euros. The TU/e was one of the drivers of Jeppix, an international collaboration network. Companies such as Smart Photonics and EFFECT Photonics are cooperating to help develop and produce photonic integrated products.
In the UK, the ecosystem has a lot to offer in the area of high-quality precision manufacturing. “That’s one of the key things we bring together in EFFECT Photonics – the high-tech from the PhotonDelta network combined with manufacturing experience from the UK, Boudewijn Docter, President EFFECT Photonics.
What advantages do photonics bring?
Laser light is as fast as… light. Nothing is faster. Moreover, light can be turned off and on very quickly. With a digital code, information can be sent very compactly. Another advantage is the lack of resistance. If you send the same information via copper wires, you are not only limited in speed and capacity, but you also have large losses. As a result, it costs a lot of energy. In data centres especially, photonics can save a lot of energy.
What role does photonics play in the self-driving car?
Electronics and communication devices in our cars will increasingly contain photonics, emphasizing the lidar phenomenon. In a lidar, a laser emits a beam of light in all directions and a sensor picks up its reflection. By measuring the minimal difference between sending and receiving, you can deduce the exact distance. This is how you create an image with depth, even in the dark. Waymo began Google’s first experimental self-driving cars had such a huge equipment on their roof that it cost about as much as the whole car. Now these devices are much smaller and can be deployed in many other applications, such as mobile phones.
Which other industries can already benefit from photonics?
Clearly, modern telecoms networks benefit from the ability to exchange enormous amounts of data, in internet usage for example. Healthcare is another good example. There are systems that enable doctors to shine a laser through the skin. By measuring the reflection of that laser with a sensor that distinguishes many colours, you get information about skin, blood vessels and blood. This can be used to make a diagnosis, for example, of skin cancer. Agriculture and horticulture could certainly reap benefits; the reflection of laser beams can also provide a lot of information about fruits and vegetables. There are already systems that can determine the colour, ripeness and location of an apple. By doing this, photonics can help in automatic harvesting of fruit and vegetable crops.
Article source: Dutch newspapers highlight opportunities for the photonics sector https://www.ed.nl/eindhoven/fotonica-hele-mensenlevens-flitsen-door-glasvezels~a85e306ef/
About EFFECT Photonics
EFFECT Photonics delivers highly integrated optical communications products based on its Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) optical System-on-Chip technology. The key enabling technology for DWDM systems is full monolithic integration of all photonic components within a single chip and being able to produce these in volume with high yield at low cost. With this capability, EFFECT Photonics is addressing the need for low cost DWDM solutions driven by the soaring demand for high bandwidth connections between datacentres and back from mobile cell towers. Headquartered in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, with additional R&D and manufacturing in South West UK, with sales partners worldwide. www.effectphotonics.comTags: 5G, EFFECT Photonics, Integrated Photonics, PhotonDelta, Telecom
Eindhoven – October 2020. EFFECT Photonics, in cooperation with PhotonDelta, gave an interview to the…
Eindhoven – October 2020. EFFECT Photonics, in cooperation with PhotonDelta, gave an interview to the Bits & Chips magazine. Boudewijn Docter, President and co-founder EFFECT Photonics, spoke with Mr. Paul van Gerven, editor Techwatch, about the history of our company and discussed the future of photonics.
“It’s been quite a journey, but EFFECT Photonics is finally ready to take the telecom market by storm with its tunable optical transceivers. In doing so, it will give the Dutch Photondelta integrated photonics ecosystem a most welcome boost, too.
In January 2011, Boudewijn Docter and colleagues from EFFECT Photonics left a Silicon Valley building thinking they would never hear from the internet company again. Sure, it had been a good meeting, if a little short – their appointment, a former colleague of Docter’s, couldn’t spare them more than half an hour. But a small Dutch startup with no track record to speak of snaring one of the world’s largest internet companies as its first customer? That seemed a little too good to be true.
“Yet, to our big surprise, one week later, we got an email, asking when we were planning to submit our proposal,” tells Docter, who together with Tim Koene founded EFFECT Photonics in 2009. Only then, the Eindhoven-based team took a closer look at what their potential customer actually wanted, and whether they could make that happen. “We concluded that the photonic integrated circuit – our core business – was feasible, but its packaging would be a major issue. The kind of sophisticated packaging we needed simply didn’t exist at the time. However, we did have some ideas on how to cost-effectively develop one,” explains Docter, currently serving as president of the company..
Co-funded by their new-found Silicon Valley patron, EFFECT Photonics started developing an integrated optical transceiver that can send sixteen different data streams over a single optical fibre cable. This would enable every fibre internet user to have his own dedicated bandwidth, without giving him his own fibre cable. Clearly, that would be a major step up from users having to share the connection to their provider with a number of neighbours, resulting in performance loss during peak internet hours.
But after a couple of years, EFFECT Photonics’ customer had scaled up its fiber ambitions and decided it didn’t want to wait for new technology after all. When it pulled the plug on the project in 2014, “we thought that was the end of the company,” says Docter. It wasn’t. It took another couple of years and some more twists and turns, but EFFECT Photonics is now moving integrated optical transceivers into production and onto the market. “It has taken us quite a while, but all those years of work have resulted in something much more than a product: we have a technology platform that allows us to create a range of products, each tailored for a specific application. This is exactly what we’ll be doing in the next few years: launching products aimed at the many different telecom applications out there.”
That’s good news for EFFECT Photonics but also for the integrated-photonics industry as a whole. Companies like EFFECT Photonics moving into volume production – and Docter is convinced the volume is there in telecom – will boost the momentum of the technology, allowing it to fan out in other application areas. “It’s like how things evolved in electronics. Chips were originally developed to power computers, but once an industry of a certain size had been established, people started using chips for other applications. This is how it will happen in integrated photonics as well.”
The Dutch integrated-photonics ecosystem, in particular, stands to gain from the steps EFFECT Photonics is about to take, even though none of the companies in it have a need for transceivers themselves. United in the public-private open-innovation partnership called Photondelta, these companies are looking to establish a world-leading integrated-photonics industry in the Netherlands (see inset “Photondelta’s growth strategy”). Effect Photonics is working with several partners in the network, increasing not just their business activity but also the knowledge and experience they need to keep moving forward. The progress that Effect Photonics is making, therefore, represents a very tangible boost to the maturation of the ecosystem.
Photondelta’s growth strategy
Photondelta was set up in January 2019 to boost the emerging Dutch integrated-photonics industry. Its mission: to drive growth in terms of turnover (over 1 billion euros), resources (over 4,000 FTE) and number of participating companies (more than 25) by 2026. These goals are already very challenging considering the relatively limited time frame and resources, but on top of that, Photondelta has to operate in a double-trouble environment: an emerging new technology with (long-term) potential in likewise new emerging applications and markets.
To face this complexity, Photondelta identified four key target markets: medical devices & life sciences, datacom & telecom, infrastructure & transportation and agriculture & food. First, the organization performed a thorough analysis of relevant key trends, drivers and unmet needs by meeting with key prospective customers on a global level. Their unmet needs were then matched with the cluster’s current and future product and technological capabilities.
This resulted, at the end of last year, in the identification and prioritization, based on growth potential, of a limited number of key areas where Photondelta has the potential to further build and expand its portfolio of promising and differentiating solutions and where to focus on to effectively and efficiently target growth.
Earlier this year, dedicated focal area teams, staffed with business and technology experts from companies and knowledge institutes or purposely hired, have been set up and chartered to further sharpen relevant propositions and business/technology roadmaps, in open collaboration with global leading customers and end-users. These insights will drive further expansion of the portfolio offering, acquisition of new customers and cluster partners, as well as guide further Photondelta investments.
The focal area discussed in this article is called “Optical transceivers for ultra-high data transfer for short-haul/metro telecom fiber-based access networks/datacenters.”
Conversely, Photondelta has played an important role in getting EFFECT Photonics where it is today, says Docter. Apart from fostering cooperation and facilitating knowledge sharing, the organization “has really put integrated photonics on the map. Photondelta has provided us with funding directly, but it has also helped us tremendously in finding funding, both from investors and through collaborative research projects.”
The chip – or, more aptly: system-on-chip – EFFECT Photonics’ Silicon Valley customer was looking for was a 16-channel transceiver capable of dense wavelength-division multiplexing. DWDM allows data from incoming signals to be separated and encoded on different wavelengths of light, which are subsequently sent onward through a single fiber-optic cable. At the receiving end, the colors are disentangled and sent to their final destination: the customers of internet service providers. In essence, DWDM dramatically increases the amount of data that can be sent through a fiber-optic cable or network. Or, conversely, it saves a lot of fiber-optic cables.
So, even though the initial customer didn’t go through with it, EFFECT Photonics was still convinced that its chip made for a great business proposition. “It was clear to us that integrated optics has a lot to offer in fiber-optic networking. The equivalent system composed of discrete components would be prohibitively expensive. So, after the initial shock of the project getting canceled, we decided to pitch our technology to other networking companies, like Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.”
It worked: leveraging the interest of networking companies, EFFECT Photonics closed a new investment round in 2014 to develop a DWDM optical transceiver, this time geared towards less cost-sensitive business applications, such as corporate offices and cellular towers. “The chip would essentially be the same, except we needed only 10 channels, but more bandwidth per channel.”
After another couple of years of development, however, it dawned on EFFECT Photonics that there was a fundamental problem with their transceiver: even if they would get it market-ready, they probably wouldn’t be able to sell any. “You need transceivers at both ends of the connection. We had been focusing on the transceiver that sends out multiple wavelengths, but at the other end, you need transceivers too, to send a signal back.” Network operators wouldn’t even consider switching to DWDM before these single-channel (or: single-wavelength) transceivers were available at an acceptable price level. And they weren’t.
Flexible and scalable
This commercial bottleneck may have actually been a blessing in disguise for EFFECT Photonics. A single-channel transceiver was basically a much simpler version of what the company had been working on all these years. Developing one would be relatively easy, manufacturing it would be less complex, and even the advanced packaging – for which the company had developed a solution in-house at a facility set up in Brixham, in the southwest of England – would retain its advantages.
“We realized we had a great proposition here because we had tunable lasers. In the multi-channel transceiver, we had been taking advantage of that tunability, but only to keep the wavelength from drifting in response to, for example, temperature changes. For the generation of the light itself, it was more cost-effective to have a separate laser for every wavelength. On the other hand, a single-channel transceiver that can be tuned to a specific wavelength would be a major boon for network operators because they don’t like to keep a different model in stock for every wavelength.”
Ironically, the single-channel transceiver, at the right price level, would even make the multi-channel one unnecessary. “You can just as easily use multiple single-channel transceivers. This has a major advantage, actually: you take as many as you need, while in a multi-channel, the number of channels is fixed. It’s a much more flexible and scalable way to move towards DWDM networking.”
Make its mark
From 2016 onward, EFFECT Photonics focused on the single-channel transceiver. It didn’t take long for the company to complete a prototype that met all specifications. Next up was the grueling process of meeting the demands of stability, reliability, reproducibility and manufacturing yield.
“We really had to go through a learning curve getting our product market-ready. Obtaining your first design that meets the specs is wonderful but not nearly good enough to start selling anything. We had to do a lot of optimization – the optimal design not being the one with the best performance, but with the highest yield and acceptable performance.”
“One standard requirement we had to meet, for example, was keeping our transceiver working for a thousand hours at 85 degrees Celsius and 85 percent humidity. That’s like hanging it just above the surface of a pot of boiling water! Traditionally, optical components have very sturdy packaging to withstand such conditions, using materials like kevlar. We had something entirely new and for cost reasons didn’t want to go that way. So we had to find our own solutions – and we did.”
EFFECT Photonics launched its first product this year, a 10 Gb/s DWDM tunable optical transceiver module. It’s 10-20 percent more expensive than a fixed-wavelength transceiver, which is impressive in itself, as tunable is typically twice as expensive as fixed. Total cost of ownership is where Effect Photonics’ product really shines, however. “We have an autotuning feature, in which the module scans the network for what channel to use. One component, not 40 different model numbers to keep in stock, no engineer required to program it at installation: it’s plug-and-play and hot-pluggable.”
10 Gb/s may not sound like much when transceivers of 400 or 600 Gb/s are being considered for some applications. But there are plenty of applications for which 10 Gb/s is still the best match, assures Docter: his company is already working closely with several companies to get the technology on the road. The transceivers are already in field trials.
EFFECT Photonics will move on to higher bandwidths, of course. “No one develops a chip technology for a single product. We’re now in possession of a technology platform that can relatively easily be expanded upon. Possibly, in other markets than telecom, but right now, we don’t want to distract ourselves.” A 25 Gb/s module is now being manufactured and slated for launch later this year – the 5G community has shown particular interest in this one. A 100 Gb/s version is in development as well and eventually, Effect Photonics will move into the 400-600 Gb/s realm. “At the right volumes, we think that we’ll be able to offer these up to four times cheaper than current solutions.”
Thus, EFFECT Photonics is finally ready to make its mark in the world. Starting with little more than an inkling of untapped potential, it’s taken the startup the better part of a decade to settle on a winning product, and another couple of years to get it market-ready. Now it’s time to reap the rewards.“Bits&Chips, Optical Chips, PhotonDelta, SFP, Telecom, Transceivers
On Friday 7 August, EFFECT Photonics, a leading developer of high-performance dense wavelength division multiplexing…
On Friday 7 August, EFFECT Photonics, a leading developer of high-performance dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) optical components based on its optical System-on-Chip technology, completed its Series-B funding with an additional 8 million Euro. The investment round, led by independent venture capital fund Innovation Industries, secured continued participation from btov partners, Innovatiefonds Brabant BV, Beek Capital and Optiverder BV, and attracted PhotonDelta as a new partner.
The superiority of EFFECT Photonics’ technologies in the key growth market of integrated photonics has been a major factor in attracting diverse investors who see the unique value of the company and its impact on the industry. According to the company, making photonics applications universally accessible, affordable, and sustainable calls for the development of long-lasting partnerships that promote the sharing of knowledge and experience.
Sophie De Maesschalck, CFO at EFFECT Photonics, comments: “This investment will not only support EFFECT Photonics by accelerating the sales and marketing effort, but will enable further improvement in time-to-market for our range of optical communication products, and in particular those developed for the 5G network.”
Nard Sintenie, a partner at Innovation Industries, says: “We continue to support EFFECT Photonics because we firmly believe in the strength of the technology in the short term, as well as its disruptive impact in the longer term, and we see an organisation that is capable of delivering on that promise.”
Ewit Roos, CEO of PhotonDelta, adds: “EFFECT Photonics has always been an important partner for PhotonDelta. They are a frontrunner in the development of complex integrated optical products in a high-volume market. Since their products are supported by many other companies within the integrated photonic scene, we believe that consistently supporting this partner’s growth ambitions will have a positive effect on the entire supply chain of integrated photonics in the Netherlands.”
– End of press release –
About EFFECT Photonics
EFFECT Photonics delivers highly integrated optical communications products based on its Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) optical System-on-Chip technology. The key enabling technology for DWDM systems is full monolithic integration of all photonic components within a single chip and being able to produce these in volume with high yield at low cost. With this capability, EFFECT Photonics is addressing the need for low-cost DWDM solutions driven by the soaring demand for high bandwidth connections between datacentres and back from mobile cell towers. Headquartered in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, with additional R&D and manufacturing in South West UK, with sales partners worldwide. www.effectphotonics.com
EFFECT Photonics B.V.
Tel: +31 40 3041359