Previous/Completed Projects

Ramplas

RAMPLAS: Silicon-based, integrated Optical RAM enabling High-Speed Applications in Computing and Communication
[September 2011 – February 2015]

PCRL participated in the EU-funded project RAMPLAs, a cross-disciplinary project that aimed to revisit the fundamentals of optical RAM technology and to develop the first 100GHz RAM chips, fostering their effective application in ultra-fast energy-efficient computing architectures and optical communication systems. RAMPLAS followed a holistic approach and blended innovation in computer science, optical design, photonic integration and semiconductor physics. Novel epitaxial methods for the fabrication of ultrafast dilute-nitride-antimonide on GaAs (InGaAsNSb/GaAs) SOAs acting as active elements for the 100GHz optical RAM chips and being capable of uncooled operation. Heterointegration techniques on established SOI technology paved the way towards the development of densely integrated optical multi-bit RAMs and kByte capacities. The research outcomes of RAMPLAS have been evaluated in a solid proof-of-concept validation plan based both on simulations and experiments, intending to set the scene for new paradigms in Computing, Communications and Test & Measurement. PCRL’s role was to identify application scenarios of the optical RAM in the latter two fields and to evaluate the system-level performance of the RAM-chips.

Polysys

Direct 100G connectivity with optoelectronic POLYmer-InP integration for data center Systems

[October 2010 – January 2014]

POLYSYS aimed to realize for the first time serial 100 Gb/s direct connectivity in rack-to-rack and chip-to-chip data communications systems. In specific, POLYSYS focused on the development of photonic and electronic components operating directly at 100 Gb/s based on electro-optic polymers enabling the best possible material compatibility with current polymer-based optical backplanes. The technical objectives of POLYSYS were achieved through the cost-effective polymer material system for realizing the electro-optic components and the utilization of InP for developing high-performance optical and optoelectronic components.

After 40 months of development efforts it can be said that POLYSYS has been extremely successful in helping EO polymers evolve from a device specific technology into a broader purpose platform for small-scale and high-performance integrated circuits for datacom applications. Achievements to this direction include:

  • The monolithic integration of MMI couplers and tunable Bragg-gratings together with MZMs on EO polymer chips.
  • The hybrid integration of InP chips (laser diodes, gain chips, photodiodes) with EO polymer chips and the development of lasers with 17 nm tunability combining InP gain chips with monolithic Bragg-gratings.
  • The integration of EO polymer chips with InP-DHBT circuits using wire-bonds and the packaging of integrated transmitter modules.

At the same time, POLYSYS has also been extremely successful in extending the limits of InP photodetector technology and developing quad arrays of pin-photodiodes and pinTWAs with potential for 100G operation, as well as in advancing the state-of-the-art of InP-DHBT technology and developing novel MUX-DRV circuits and twin-DEMUX circuits for operation at 100 Gb/s. Through the integration of all these components, POLYSYS has impressively achieved the final packaging of six out of the seven modules that had targeted:

  • The 100 Gb/s transmitter
  • The 2×100 Gb/s transmitter
  • The tunable 100 Gb/s transmitter
  • The 100 Gb/s integrated optical interconnect
  • The 4×100 Gb/s pin-DEMUX receiver
  • The 4×100 Gb/s pinTWA-DEMUX receiver

Four of these modules (100G Tx, 2x100G Tx, tunable 100G Tx and 4x100G pin-DEMUX receiver) were successfully tested and confirmed the potential for error-free operation at 80 and 100 Gb/s and transmission over SMF links of at least 1km without dispersion compensation, whereas the testing of a fifth one (4x100G pinTWA-DEMUX) will be completed after the final review meeting.

POLYSYS gained remarkable visibility through a variety of dissemination actions and prestigious publications (including the ECOC 2012 PDP), and succeeded in defining concrete exploitation plans by all partners. Significant achievements that are related to the actual exploitation of the foreground knowledge are the industrial strategic partnership between GigOptix and HHI in the last period of the project and the funding of a follow-up research project (http://www.ict-panther.eu/) that was based on the knowhow of POLYSYS.

Galactico

RAMPLAS: Silicon-based, integrated Optical RAM enabling High-Speed Applications in Computing and Communication
[September 2011 – February 2015]

GALACTICO aimed to develop the photonic integration technology to disrupt the current transition from 10/40Gb/s to 100GbE optical long haul networks and at the same time to address the next capacity increase towards 400 Gb/s and beyond. To achieve this goal, GALACTICO has demonstrated photonic integrated circuits and modules combining technical and economic feasibility as well as a broad market potential. GALACTICO has invested in two technologies that leverage cost-effective PIC fabrication in foundries; a) Silicon Photonics (SiPh) to implement the receiver interfaces and b) GaAs to implement the transmitter modulation interfaces.

On the “receive-side”, GALACTICO fabricated and demonstrated silicon nano-waveguide PICs that squeezed all the optical (signal coupling, polarization splitting, mixing) and opto-electronic (optical to electrical conversion) receive functionalities in record tiny, few-mm-scale chips. Fabrication was done using the standard toolset of a silicon foundry and through BiCMOS processes, opening the way for truly cost-effective “photonic BiCMOS”. On the “transmit-side”, GALACTICO fabricated GaAs modulator chips that integrate tightly all optical and opto-electronic functionalities (signal splitting, electro-optic modulation, polarization rotation/multiplexing) in modules that are well smaller than the current 100G standards set by the photonics industry. Fabrication was done leveraging cost effective fabrication in GaAs foundries that serve the mobile industry and run thousands of wafers per year.

GALACTICO delivered the receiver and modulator PICs as fully packaged modules and tested them in a series of lab experiments and field trials demonstrating the feasibility of delivering >200 Gb/s line rates using polarization multiplexed and multi-level coded signals (DP-QPSK, DP-16-64 QAM) being well aligned with upcoming optical transport system upgrades that foresee migration from 100G DP-QPSK to >200G DP-16QAM modulation formats. Being fully in line with development in Ethernet Alliance and IEEE 400G Ethernet Group, GALACTICO devices were qualified for integration in system portfolios that will deploy 400G interfaces with fully integrated optics hitting the right cost, size and technical feasibility points; i.e. all the requirements for quick and volume deployment of 100G systems as well as the sustained entry of 400G technology. By so doing, GALACTICO enabled key European industrial players to formulate and capture the growing OTN market, ultimately leading to new opportunities for high technology jobs within Europe.

Platon

Merging Plasmonic and Silicon Photonics Technology towards Tb/s routing in optical interconnects
[January 2010 – December 2012]

PLATON aimed to address the size and power consumption bottleneck in Data Centers and High-Performance Computing Systems (HPCS) by realizing chip-scale high-throughput routing fabrics with reduced energy consumption and footprint requirements. It intended to demonstrate Tb/s optical router prototypes for optical interconnects adopting plasmonics as its disruptive technology to reduce size and energy values. To achieve this, PLATON intended to deploy innovative plasmonic structures for switching applications and to develop novel fabrication processes for merging plasmonics with silicon nanophotonics and electronics. The enhanced functionality of PLATON’s platform was utilized to develop and demonstrate Tb/s routing, enabling the penetration of a merged plasmonics/photonics configuration in short-range blade and backplane data interconnects. PLATON’s optical board technology was expected to blend the functional potential of small-footprint, high-bandwidth plasmonic structures and the integration potential of plasmonics with the more mature SOI technology providing a new generation of miniaturized photonic components. Its main objectives span along the fabrication and demonstration of:

  1. a whole new series of 2×2 plasmonic switches with ultra-small footprint, very low power consumption and less than 1μsec switching times,
  2. a low latency, small-footprint 4×4 plasmonic thermooptic switch,
  3. an optically addressable plasmonic 1×2 switch capable of operating at bitrates in excess of 10Gb/s, and
  4. A 2×2 and a 4×4 Tb/s optical routing platforms relying on SOI motherboard hosting the plasmonic switching matrix and the IC header processor for application in optical blade and backplane interconnects.

System-level integration involved the demonstration of the packaged Tb/s routing prototype offering minimum space requirements and up to 1.12Tb/s throughput. Its performance was evaluated in a real WDM 40 Gb/s testbed for optical interconnects.

EURO-FOS

Pan-European Photonics Task Force: Integrating Europe’s Expertise on Photonic Subsystems
[May 2008 – April 2012]

EURO-FOS has been a network of excellence (NoE) focusing on photonic components and subsystems for optical communications, funded by European Commission (EC) under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). It started in May 2008 and concluded in April 2012. Its concept was conceived upon the observation that the map of European research in photonic communications technology includes a large number of active but smaller in scale academic laboratories distributed all over Europe. EURO-FOS has been an ambitious initiative to integrate expertise, equipment and resources from the 17 participating institutes towards the creation of a powerful Pan-European laboratory (eurofoslab) that scales more than linearly the potential of the individual institutes.

Using the structure of eurofoslab, the objective of EURO-FOS has been three-fold:

1) to enable partners make top-quality research through the sharing of ideas and resources and through the organization of large-scale experimental activities,

2) to enhance the collaboration of partners with industry through the agreement on common research thrusts and through the organization of a service provision platform addressing the needs of the photonics industry, and

3) to exploit the size of the network and organize a large number of education and dissemination activities spreading the word for photonics across Europe.

The operation of EURO-FOS supported the integration of all partners through frequent meetings, continuous interaction, participation in the set up of eurofoslab and participation in joint experimental activities (JEAs). Looking back, the things that EURO-FOS has achieved over its 4-year lifetime look really impressive:

The network succeeded in the development of eurofoslab through the registration of expertise and resources in the web-based inventories of the lab. A total of 839 items have been registered including more than 50 large-scale optical communications testbeds. Moreover, the network succeeded in creating the structure and the web-tools that enable searching and booking of appropriate equipment, planning of experimental activities and reporting on the progress on these activities, thus turning the vision of the Pan-European Laboratory into a reality.

Furthermore, EURO-FOS succeeded in integrating all participating institutes in its research activities. Research was organized within 4 centres of excellence (CEs) covering different discrete scientific areas of optical communications. To implement this research, partners organized a total of 66 JEAs involving the participation of a large number of external industrial and academic partners. The scientific outcome of these activities has been impressive: more than 400 EURO-FOS papers were published, some of them presenting world-record results and scientific “firsts”. Moreover, a total of 12 patents were filed aiming at turning the research output into exploitable technology.

Regarding the education and dissemination activities, EURO-FOS organized 7 workshops, 5 booths at major photonic conferences, 2 summer schools and 2 winter schools, and a large number of smaller-scale events addressing the general public and the local communities. As a result of the collaboration of the partners on educational activities, the network produced an education kit and organized the framework for joint supervision from senior staff of 13 PhD students working on the scientific topics of EURO-FOS.

Finally, EURO-FOS succeeded in bringing academia closer to industry. The network created a cluster of 29 industrial affiliates that have been closely monitoring and participating in the network activities, and an industrial advisory board (IAB) consisting of representatives from 6 of these affiliates (ADVA, NSN, ALU Germany, Tellabs, VPI and Finisar). Through continuous interaction with the members of the IAB, EURO-FOS has been trying to align its research topics with industrial trends and explore the interest of industry for the set up of a service provision platform in the field of photonic communications based on the expertise and equipment of European academic institutes. Although the idea of securing the self-sustainability of eurofoslab through the establishment of industrial collaborations on a pay-for-service basis has been over-optimistic, significant steps were made; as for example the identification of the need for further elaboration on the legal framework for the operation of such a service provision platform, the identification of industrial interest for specific technical services, the pilot run of “charge-free” service provision projects in the last year of the network, and the definition of a viable techno-economic plan for retaining the eurofoslab structure in the post EURO-FOS era  with a 2-year horizon.

Boom

Terabit-on-chip: micro and nano-scale silicon photonic integrated components and sub-systems enabling Tb/s capacity, scalable and fully integrated photonic routers
[May 2008 – April 2011]

BOOM has been a photonic integration concept aiming to develop compact, cost-effective and power efficient silicon photonic components for high capacity routing applications. The project has focused on a hybrid integration technology allowing Si manufacturing with III-V material processing for the implementation of a wide range of optical functionalities, including high speed optical transmission, modulation and wavelength conversion, on the silicon-on-insulator substrate.

BOOM has invested on the micro-solder fabrication technique for the hybridization of active components on silicon boards. The Au-Sn bumping process has reached adequate level of optimization during the BOOMing years. A key-milestone success has been the flip-chip bonding of SOAs and EML transmitters on the SOI boards with placement accuracy down to submicron level enabling the fabrication of silicon-on-insulator hybrid components with good electrical/optical properties. This has been a major achievement since it proved that the current flip-chip assembly technology could certainly provide mounting capabilities well below the multi-mode fiber limit. Compared to other techniques, BOOM micro-soldering technology has been more flexible and compatible with advanced III-V processing steps.

BOOM has advanced the state-of-the-art in photonic wavelength conversion devices developing scalable all-optical wavelength converters (AOWCs) with record integrated line-rate performance. In contrary with silica-on-silicon demonstrations, BOOM converters have increased aggregate switching capacity by a factor of 4, assisting for first time data rates up to 160Gb/s. In terms of footprint, silicon wavelength converters have been more compact devices (10 times squeeze) due to their high refractive index material. With respect to energy consumption, BOOM devices consumed less power (by a factor of 7) compared to Mach-zehnder interferometric structures due to the utilization of only one active element for the wavelength conversion process.

The InP-photodetectors developed in BOOM have been in direct competition with Ge-detectors for integration with silicon waveguides. Their hybridization has been performed with the heterogeneous wafer-scale integration technique. A persistent difficulty with this approach has been the high series resistance and the non-uniformity BCB layer thickness limiting the high-speed optical transit time of the detectors. From a fabrication point of view, a key success has been an adaptation in the flow process mechanism in order to minimize contamination of the surface prior to metal deposition ensuring good metal/semiconductor contact. From the design point of view, a significant improvement has been performed in the III-V epitaxial growth so as the photodetector to be more transit time limited than RC limited. The new technological methodology has been proved reliable and fully extendable to other materials and other wavelength ranges.

As general conclusion, BOOM has offered mature technology setting the basis for large scale implementation of cost-effective and power-efficient silicon components. BOOM has faced difficulties but eventually succeeded in demonstrating reliable and state-of-the-art components. In our opinion, BOOM has been a highly successful project that turned silicon photonics into a stable and powerful integration platform.

Apache

Agile Photonic Integrated Systems-on-Chip enabling WDM Terabit Networks
[April 2008 – March 2011]

APACHE aimed to develop photonic integrated components capable of generating, regenerating and receiving signals of various modulation formats and rates involving amplitude- and differentially phase- encoded signals (i.e. OOK, DPSK and DQPSK) for high capacity agile WDM optical networks. Component fabrication within APACHE focused on the development of a hybrid integration technology platform for the integration of high performance monolithic active elements based on Indium Phosphide (InP) on low loss silica-on-silicon substrates, enabling the development of advanced photonic integrated circuits (PICs) with complex functionalities on chip.

More specifically, APACHE envisaged highly ambitious objectives that dealt with the design and fabrication of a) two types of transmitter arrays suitable for metro/core terabit network applications, b) a multi-format signal processing chip suitable for signal regeneration and wavelength conversion of different modulation formats and c) receiver arrays suitable for amplitude and phase encoded signals. The building blocks that were developed comprised arrays of: nested IQ Mach Zehnder Modulators (MZMs) and tunable distributed-feedback (DFB) laser arrays targeting up to 200 Gb/s throughput for single chips and terabit capacity (5x200Gb/s) for the array device, arrays of reflective electro-absorption modulators (REAMs) and arrays of reflective SOA-based lasers targeting 10x10Gb/s low cost metro applications, arrays of detectors with integrated delay interferometers for phase decoding on chip and SOA arrays embedded on complex Mach Zehnder Interferometer (MZI) structures for signal processing functionalities. The fabrication activities were supported by sophisticated simulation and software design tools that were developed within the project. Within APACHE, a full version of a software ‘design kit’ for photonic integration was demonstrated commercially and comprised the first design tool for the integration of optical circuits. Finally, the developed photonic devices have been successfully characterized and tested under laboratory and real network WDM transmission scenarios. Benchmarking of the APACHE devices against Ericsson transponders demonstrated that the APACHE technology would be an eligible solution for 100G systems in the next two or three years when their overall cost was expected to be further reduced.

The APACHE research outcomes and results have been presented in several International conferences, exhibition halls and variable types of audiences as well as in peer reviewed journals and magazines. A number of invited talks and paper contributions regarding the APACHE technology have been carried out. The exploitation of the APACHE technology within industry and commercial use was also one of the main targets of the project. The commercial version of the first software design kit platform was released within the duration of the project. Also, the consortium continuously pursued to advance the knowledge and experience gained within APACHE by promoting external contracts with industrial partners. In all, APACHE successfully completed most of its technical goals and promoted the dissemination and exploitation of results yielding a direct impact on the socio-economic and the societal position of the European Community.

BONE

Building the Future Optical Network in Europe
[January 2008 – December 2010]

The core activity of the BONE-project was the stimulation of intensified collaboration, exchange of researchers and integration of activities and know-how into and amongst partners. Through the establishment of Virtual Centres of Excellence, the BONE-project looks into the future and builds and supports the final “Network of the Future” through education & training, research tools & testlabs on new technologies & architectures. The leading-edge position of European Research in the field and, consequently, of European industry, could be threatened by returning to an uncoordinated and scattered approach to optical networking research. BONE consolidates the process, supported during FP6, of integration and reorganization of research efforts across European academic and industrial groups in FP7 through:

Building Virtual Centres of Excellence that cover specific issues in the field of Optical Networking that can serve to European industry with education & training, research tools & testlabs and pave the way to development of new technologies & architectures.

Reaching out, including and linking to research activities in national programmes, or programmes outside Europe.

Stimulating an intensified collaboration, exchange of researchers between the research groups involved and active in the field.

Disseminating the expertise and know-how of these European Research groups to a broader audience, both R&D oriented as well as industry- and decision maker oriented.

MultiWave

Cost-effective MULTI-WAVElength Laser System
[November 2005 – October 2007]

The MultiWave project has demonstrated a multi-wavelength platform capable of generating source signals with channel spacing in the range of 12.5G, 25G, 50G, 100G or higher on the ITU grid, and covering the S, C, and L band. Error-free operation of the modulated channels in the C-band was obtained with performance equal to or better than commercial DFB lasers. MultiWave has demonstrated a cost-effective platform for upgrading present and future broadband fiber optic links.

e-PHOTON ONE

Optical Networks: Towards Bandwidth Manageability and Cost Efficiency
[March 2004 – February 2008]

The Network of Excellence (NoE) “e-Photon/ONe+: Towards Bandwidth Manageability and Cost Efficiency” covered the technical area of optical networking.

The project was funded for 24 months in FP6 Call 4 under strategic objective “Broadband for All”, with starting date March 1st, 2006, in temporal and technical continuation with a previous project called e-Photon/ONe funded in FP6 Call 1. Overall, the two phases of the NoE were funded for 4 years (plus a one-month extension).

The broad objectives of the e-Photon/ONe Network of Excellence (in its two phases) have been the following:

  • Integrate and focus the rich know-how available in Europe on optical communications and networking (from optical technologies, to networking devices, to network architectures and protocols, to the new services fostered by photonic technologies), both in universities and in research centers of well-positioned telecom manufacturers and operators.
  • Favor a coordination among the participants to reach a consensus on the engineering choices towards the deployment of optical networks, possibly providing inputs to standardization bodies and guidelines to operators.
  • Provide guidelines for the design of an optical Internet backbone, metro, access and in-home infrastructure, supporting traffic engineering and quality of service management in an end-to-end perspective.
  • Understand how the intrinsic characteristic of optical technologies can be exploited to provide large bandwidth together with acceptable levels of quality of service and protection/restoration inside and across network domains.
  • Promote and organize integration activities aiming at establishing a good exchange of information, and long-term collaborations in terms of research, infrastructure sharing, education and training, among participating institutions.
  • Promote and organize activities to disseminate knowledge on optical networks in the technical community and to the general public, through coordinated publications, technical events, and interactions with other consortia in the same technical area.

In addition to research and technical activities, e-Photon/ONe put a strong emphasis on dissemination activities, with the aim of converting the international reputation of individual partners into a quality label for the network. Specific dissemination goals were:

  • Regularly organize technical schools on selected topics;
  • Organize workshops with these schools where young researchers can present their research work;
  • Establish regular links with, and provide active support to, major international conferences on optical networking and communications;
  • Present and promote e-Photon/ONe within the international scientific community;
  • Establish links with other EU-projects in the field, and with a number of industry associations or professional organizations;
  • Favor technical interactions with excellent institutions outside Europe (USA, Japan, China, ecc.);
  • Publication of joint technical papers;
  • Active participation to editorial boards of optical networking journals (Elsevier Optical Switching and Networking, IEEE Transactions on Networking, etc.);
  • Management of the e-Photon/ONe web site.

Finally, given the strong presence of universities in the project, a significant effort was devoted to teaching and training activities. Training activities must help improve the skills and knowledge of the future young workforce and indirectly help to establish a competitive and knowledge economy. e-Photon/ONe focused on organizing technical schools (mainly for PhD students), and on searching consensus in teaching programs. More specifically, e-Photon/ONe partners collaborated to define a syllabus for a master program in optical communications and networks, with collection and joint editing of teaching material (slides and course notes).

The management of e-Photon/ONe was implemented in a number of bodies and committees:

  • Project Office and Project Co-ordinator at Politecnico di Torino
  • General Assembly, composed by all NoE partners
  • JPA Committee: main executive body of the network, responsible for the implementation of the Joint Program of Activities (JPA); it was articulated in four boards:
  • Integrating Activities Board
  • Joint Research Projects Board o Exchange and Mobility Board
  • Dissemination and Training Board and two panels:
  • Gender Issue Panel
  • Innovation and IPR Panel
  • Quality Assurance Committee (QAC): it comprised four experts external to the NoE, and provides content monitoring and quality control
  • Local Administrators and JPA representatives for each partner

The follow-up project of ePhoton/ONe was the NoE BONE in FP7.

MUFINS

Multi – Functional In tegrated Arrays of Interferometric Switches
[September 2004 – August 2007]

The MUFINS project aimed to take the next logical step in the evolution of all-optical signal processing, to integrate multiple switching elements on a single chip, and to interconnect these integrated switching elements into functional logic modules with the aid of a external components. 2×2 Mach Zehnder Interferometers that operate as all-optical switches were fabricated as two and four element integrated arrays. These switches were used as the main building blocks for the development of a wide range of functionalsubsystems, such as Header Extraction, Half Adder, Full Adder, Time Slot Interchanger, Clock and Data Recovery, Data Vortex Switch, 4×4 Switching Matrix, all- optical 4-wavelength Burst Mode Receiver, 40 Gb/s all-optical Burst Mode Receiver.

LASAGNE

All-optical LAbel-SwApping employing optical logic G ates in NEtwork nodes
[January 2004 – December 2006]

PCRL participated in the LASAGNE project that aimed at studying, proposing and validating the use of all-optical logic gates and optical flip-flops based on commercially-available technologies to implement the required functionalities at the metro network nodes in All-optical label swapping (AOLS) networks. The optical gates were implemented using the same key building block: SOA-based Mach-Zehnder interferometers (MZIs). A functional photonic router prototype incorporating all-optical label swapping and wavelength conversion was integrated using optical logic gates and optical flip-flops. This photonic router was designed to be modular, scalable, and with potential for system integration.

DO_ALL

Digital Optical Logic Modules
[November 1998 – September 2002]

PCRL coordinated project DO_ALL, a project within the ESPRIT frame-programme. The aim of project DO_ALL was to research in a systematic way the state-of-the-art in high-speed all-optical logic and to develop novel signal processing concepts and technologies. In this respect, DO_ALL has defined, designed, and developed the necessary set of devices and modules required for the construction of optical logic circuits and has applied them into application experiments of nontrivial functionality to qualify their performance and limitations. Within this frame, the applications that have been explored were (1) the demonstration of all-optical bit-error-rate (BER) measurements capability and (2) the demonstration of an optically addressable exchange–bypass switch using all-optical techniques. The first application was selected so as to investigate whether it is possible to build a complex optical circuit consisting of several optical logic modules that would challenge in performance the corresponding electronic designs. The second application was chosen so as to demonstrate that the logical functionality of optical circuits is advantageous since in this instance one optical gate can replace several electronic gates