Photonics West 2023, the place to be…

In addition to a strong emphasis on the commercialization of photonics and laser technologies, Photonics West 2023 reflected their importance in new application fields, such as medicine, energy, transportation and AR/VR and the significant economic impacts on global markets.   

Courtesy of SPIE, 2023

Photonics West 2023 featured a wide range of exciting and innovative products and technologies, as well as presentations from leading experts in the field.

The conference’s exhibition occupied the entire Moscone Center, with over 1,400 companies and organizations showcasing their latest products and technologies. The conference attracted 22,000 attendees, all of whom had free access to the exhibition. And Industry Session presentations hosted on two stages in the main exhibit floor, highlighting the latest market trends, technology breakthroughs, and policy initiatives.

Yole Group was part of Photonics West 2023 to present its vision of the industry and its evolution. Discover HERE (Replay section) all presentations right now!

The following technology & market analyses have been used to develop those presentations: Silicon PhotonicsMicroLEDInPPhotonics GaAs/InP CS Market Monitor, Module IIICo-Packaged Optics 2022 – Focus Data CentersQuantum Technologies. For those 2 last reports, 2023 versions are coming soon: more info.

Industry sessions

Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group presented three Industry Sessions, highlighting co-packaged optics, microLED technology and 3-D sensing (More info.).

The session on co-packaged optics, included advances in material science, such as the use of silicon photonics, and new approaches to device design and fabrication. The presenters discussed the potential applications of co-packaged optics in data centers, 5G wireless networks, and high-speed interconnects.

The second session provided an overview of microLED technology and its benefits. The Yole Intelligence’s analyst presented the various challenges in developing microLED displays, such as the difficulty of mass transfer and yield issues. The presentation also highlighted the latest trends in vertical microLED R&D, including advances in materials science, and new approaches to fabrication and assembly. The presenters discussed potential applications of microLED displays, including VR and AR devices, smart watches, and large-scale displays.

For the 3-D sensing session, the presenters discussed the breakthroughs and trends especially in the compound semiconductor materials used to advance this technology.

All three presentations were well received, with many attendees commenting on their insightful and thought-provoking nature, the analysts’ deep understanding of the technologies and applications, as well as a clear and engaging presenting style.

Something new at Photonic West: the Quantum West conference

A new element this year was the Quantum West conference. Here, speakers at various positions in the supply chain discussed the possibilities of applied quantum technologies.

A keynote was given by Marco Pistosia, Managing Director and Head of Research of JPMorgan Chase & Co, who discussed quantum technology for the financial industry and why finance has been identified as an important sector to benefit from quantum computing.

There was also a market and industry overview of quantum technologies by Eric Mounier, Fellow Analyst at Yole Intelligence. He reviewed the market and status of quantum technologies for communication, sensing and computing together with current and possible future applications. He also looked at how photonics could be an interesting approach for quantum technologies. The total quantum market is estimated to be US$2,13 billion in 2030 and today, quantum sensing has the largest share with real use-cases, but beyond 2030, quantum computing market is expected to dominate, totaling US$4.09 billion in 2035 (both hardware and service). QaaS (Quantum as a Service) will represent the major share, with most of the services running on quantum computers in the cloud.

Quantum technology was well represented at Photonic West 2023. Many exhibitors demonstrated how photonic devices, such as lasers or photon detectors, are critical elements for quantum computers, cryptography systems or ultra-sensitive sensors. Photonics will be important in the development of quantum technologies, as lasers and other photonic devices are used for trapped ion /photon /neutral atom technologies.

In cryptography, for example, D-QKD requires single photon detectors while CV QKD, which uses a laser source, requires heterodyne or homodyne photon detectors. Lasers are particularly important systems for quantum manipulation and custom lasers systems have to be specifically developed for these applications.

Spotlight on the microLED Industry Event

With more than $8 billion spent to date on development and, at least, $3 billion targeted for high volume manufacturing over the next 3 years, microLED is at a defining stage in its evolution. The microLED session began with Yole Intelligence’s senior analyst, Eric Virey discussing the momentum in the microLED industry.

Apple and Osram’s smartwatch microLED display fab, in conjunction with various downstream partners will be an incubator for the entire industry. A successful microLED smartwatch launch would breathe confidence into the industry and confirm that the technology has reached escape velocity… (Related article: A decade later, Apple’s microLED Smartwatch!)

Sundiode presented its stacked, monolithic RGB microLED technology, enabling full color 5000+ PPI microdisplays with fully, independently controlled multi-junction microLEDs. The technology is already well advanced – there was an impressive demo! – and the same concept is proposed for large displays, enabling a 3x reduction in the number of mass transfer operation.

Another company, Innovation Semiconductor presented two innovative technologies: the monolithic integration of the LEDs and driver transistors into a single, GaN-based stack, and an innovative approach for monolithic, all-GaN, color tunable structures. It has already demonstrated pixel sizes ranging from 2 µm to 500 µm and color tunability from 425 to 640 nm. The next step is the full integration of both concepts into a single structure.

MicroLED were also found at Photonic West and the SPIE AR|VR|MR exhibitions. PlayNitride showed a collection of advanced demos ranging from full color-converted RGB microdisplays coupled into waveguides, to larger panels assembled with the company’s proprietary mass transfer technology.

Another company, Porotech had various demos of its dynamic pixel tuning microdisplays as well as a large, miniLED transparent display.

Microdisplays in all colors realized with MICLEDI’s fully CMOS compatible technology were there, including the new InGaAlP-based red displays.

JBD showed its collection of 0.13” microdisplays and its 0.85 CC RGB projector module. (Even smaller projectors and a monolithic RGB display are expected to be announced soon.)

NewSight Reality showed its Transparent Optical Module (TOM) – a proprietary near-eye display that bypasses traditional optical combiners by using a matrix of very small microLED displays (provided by Mojo Vision) to create a single image with a large field of view.

Finally, Aixtron used Photonic West to formally launch its high homogeneity, fully automated and low-defect, 8” G10-AsP MOCVD reactor. While the company can’t discuss its customers, people familiar with the industry can easily connect the dots and understand that the reactor is already being deployed in Osram’s €800 million microLED fab currently being built in Malaysia to support the manufacture of Apple’s first smartwatch microLED display.

Consumer 3D sensing, a special session powered by Yole Group

The consumer 3D sensing session, part of the industry session organized by Yole group, was opened by a presentation from Yole Intelligence’s analyst, Ali Jaffal. He spoke about compound semiconductor materials, notably GaAs and InP, used in the consumer sensing applications. Ali discussed the history of InP and GaAs-3D sensing which has witnessed an explosion of interest following the adoption of face ID modules in Apple’s smartphones in 2017. Due to an emission wavelength (1380-1450 nm) which is OLED transmissive, InP-based lasers and detectors allow some sensors to go under-display and thus reduce the notch size. InP has already appeared in the market, first, in Apple’s Airpod 3 family for skin detection and in the iPhone’s 14 pro models as proximity sensors in 2022.

Ali debated whether InP could penetrate further within under-display 3D sensing modules in the future. According to Yole Intelligence, the InP consumer sensing market is expected to reach a $356 million in 2027 with CAGR of 62%. Ali was joined by Mark Furlong, VP of product management at IQE, who reviewed the suitability of MOCVD and MBE techniques to scale InP to meet the anticipated mass production requirements of the consumer market. Mark also reviewed competing technologies in GaAs where emerging dilute nitride materials make possible long wavelength detection based upon incumbent 6” GaAs technology.

Meanwhile, Gerald Dahlmann, Senior Director of Marketing at Coherent (formerly II-VI), provided an overview of the status and emerging trends of the advanced sensing market for consumer electronics. Gerald also discussed laser technology platforms from the near-infrared to the mid-infrared range, and edge emitter as well as VCSEL diode architectures.

Photonics West also featured several presentations related to consumer sensing topics. For example, Trumpf presented recent advances in its InP-based VCSEL which could be used for under-display 3D sensing. The company is aiming to bring the first products to high-volume production in 2025 (Discover the latest interview with Trumpf: Long-wavelength VCSEL for consumer applications).

IQE also presented a technical session explaining that careful control of the layer structure and growth conditions of the long-wavelength dilute nitride active region resulted in state-of-the-art device characteristics for 3D sensing applications.

On the exhibition floor, there were several industry leaders in the consumer 3D sensing market. Among them was Coherent’s booth featuring 3-inch InP wafer with EELs that are used in consumer sensing application. The feeling from the exhibition floor is that everyone is looking at the long-wavelength solution for under-display 3D sensing which could be GaAs or InP. As a result: all eyes are on Apple!

The impression from the whole of Photonics West 2023 was a feeling of a return to pre-pandemic times. The conference was well attended, the exhibition floor was packed – all signs that life is good!

More about Photonic West, 2023 edition

Photonics West is a leading international conference and exhibition for the photonics and laser industries. It is organized by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The event is held annually at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, USA, and attracts a wide range of attendees, including engineers, scientists, researchers, business leaders, and investors. Photonics West covers a broad range of topics, including biophotonics, optical engineering, laser technology, and more.

About the authors

Ali Jaffal, PhD. is a Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in Compound Semiconductors and Emerging Substrates at Yole Intelligence. As part of the Power & Wireless team, Ali is deeply engaged in the development of dedicated collection of compound semiconductors market & technology reports and monitor.

Previously, he worked at CEA-Leti (France) as a Research engineer. His mission was focused on the design, growth and clean room processing of GaAs semiconductor nanowires for Visible-infrared photodetectors. During its PhD. Ali deeply investigated the epitaxy (MBE) on InP nanowires dedicated to telecom applications.

Ali authored/co-authored 8 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and a patent on III-V nanowires at CEA-Leti. He also proposed several presentations and was invited to numerous seminars within national and international conferences.

Ali Jaffal obtained his master’s degree in Nanotechnology from INSA (Lyon, France), Ecole Centrale de Lyon and Claude Bernard University (Lyon, France).

Eric Mounier, PhD. is Director of Market Research at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. With more than 30 years’ experience within the semiconductor industry, Eric provides daily in-depth insights into current and future semiconductor trends, markets and innovative technologies.

Based on relevant methodological expertise and a strong technological background, he works closely with all the teams at Yole to point out disruptive technologies and analyze and present business opportunities through technology & market reports and custom consulting projects. With numerous internal workshops on technologies, methodologies, best practices and more, Eric ensures the training of Yole’s Technology & Market Analysts. In this position, Eric has spoken in numerous international conferences, presenting his vision of the semiconductor industry and latest technical innovations.

Previously, Eric held R&D and Marketing positions at CEA Leti (France).

Eric Mounier has a PhD. in Semiconductor Engineering and a degree in Optoelectronics from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble (France).

As a senior market and technology analyst at Yole Intelligence, Eric Virey is a daily contributor to the development of LED, OLED, and display activities at Yole Group.

He has authored a large collection of market and technology reports as well as multiple custom consulting projects on subjects including business strategy, identification of investments or acquisition targets, due diligence in buying and selling, market and technology analyses, cost modelling and technology scouting.

Thanks to his deep knowledge of the LED/OLED and display industries, Eric has spoken at more than 30 industry conferences worldwide over the last five years. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading media all over the world.

Previously, Eric has held various R&D, engineering, manufacturing and business development positions with the Fortune 500 Company Saint-Gobain, based in France and the United States.

Dr. Eric Virey holds a PhD in Optoelectronics from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble.