One of main predictions of CIR’s 2020 report on co-packaged optics (CPO) is that next-generation switching chips is just the beginning for CPO. We took the position that CPO is essentially a new way to opto-electronic integration and that novel switching technology is just a place to start.
With $15 million in recent funding, POET Technologies, one of the companies mentioned in our report has just announced that it has extended the Optical Interposer into new applications and markets with the addition of a fully-integrated, multiplexed light-source for optical computing chipsets and sensing applications. The company is referring to this new light source as “LightBar-C.”
LightBar-C: With LightBar-C the POET Optical Interposer platform has been extended rues to support both Conventional Band (“C-band”) and Long Band (“L-band”) lasers, which produce light in a frequency range of 1530nm to 1625nm. POET has designed, developed cooled lasers for its Optical Interposer platform with up to 90mW of power operating at room temperature. In addition, the Company has demonstrated a DWDM embedded in the Optical Interposer waveguide layer that allows channel spacings of 200GHz, providing the high density and broadband requirements needed for high-performance optical sensing and other CPO applications.
What is of immediate importance in all of this to CIR is that POET is the first company to take the possibilities for CPO outside of the telecom/datacom space for the first time and to make explicit what the opportunities really are and why.
What we are talking about here is moving beyond the O-Band environment, which is more or less ubiquitous in telecom and datacom to C-band. Implementing this change means that CPO can be used in entirely new environments such as the following:
LiDAR: LiDAR sensors will be used in self-driving cars among many other types of sensors. More specifically, it will be used to identify objects in the distance and also to measure those distances. Other kinds of sensors will be used for identifying objects close to the car.
However, the current generation of LiDAR is focused on 900 nm wavelengths. As the power of LiDAR devices is ramped up, there are growing safety concerns. At 900 nm more power may not be eye safe and this alone is a reason to move to C-band. C-band is eye safe and is also less vulnerable to atmospheric variations. The next generation LiDAR, POET believes, will be in the safer C-band and could use light sources such as POET has just announced. If the self-driving car market takes off to the level expected by some analysts, what we are talking about potentially is shipments of millions of devices annually
AI: Another market that may make a good market for LightBar-C is photonic processors for AI applications. Here the modulators that operate with such processors are known to work well in the C-Band. However, from the perspective of CPO there are many uncertainties – advanced AI may not use photonics, for example
Back-to-origins: Finally, it may be the case that devices such as those just announced by POETS may not need exotic applications to validate LightBar-C. The now somewhat mundane long-haul may find some uses for this new device. Because the loss of light over a distance is much lower in C-Band, C-Band is strongly associated with long-haul. Indeed, this is where C-Band started.