NIST and AIM photonics collaborating to boost photonic chip design to 110GHz

The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with AIM Photonics that will give chip developers a critical new tool for designing faster integrated photonic circuits, as key components in fiber-optic networks and high-performance computing facilities as well as laser-guided missiles, medical sensors and other advanced technologies.

As a Manufacturing USA institute, AIM Photonics (the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics) is an industry-driven, public-private United States Department of Defense (DoD)-sponsored engineering technology consortium, spearheaded by the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly). Its aim is to accelerate the commercialization of new technologies for manufacturing photonic chips. The institute provides small- and medium-sized businesses and academic and government researchers access to expertise and fabrication facilities during all phases of the photonics development cycle, from design to fabrication and packaging.

As part of the new collaboration, NIST will design electrical calibration structures that can be used to measure and test the electronic performance of the chips. This will result in improved designs for photonic chips that operate at speeds up to 110GHz. Most existing photonic chips operate at about 25GHz.

“This effort will leverage NIST’s expertise in chip measurements, calibration and integrated device modeling,” says Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST director Laurie E. Locascio. Also, while planning for this effort began before the passage of the CHIPS Act, it aligns with the act’s goals. “This shows how government and industry can work together to drive innovation and restore US global leadership in semiconductor manufacturing,” Locascio adds.

In addition, AIM Photonics will incorporate these calibration structures into its process design kit (PDK) for engineers designing new chips for fabrication at AIM’s facilities.

“Accurate measurements are key to advancing high-speed communications,” says David Harame, AIM Photonics’ chief operating officer. “These enhancements will give our members and customers the tools they need to design the next generation of advanced photonic chips.”

Experts from both organizations are already working to integrate the new measurement structures into AIM Photonics’ foundry process, and an updated PDK with the calibration structures should be available to users in about a year.