Application of Photonic Integrated Circuits

Applications of Photonic Integrated Circuits

Major innovation is being made possible by integrated photonics in a variety of applications. Multiple photonic functionalities are being incorporated into integrated circuits for communication, sensing, and, in the future, computer applications in the quickly developing subject of photonics. By integrating several discrete single-function components (such as specialized lasers, photodetectors, and pertinent optical interfaces), complex photonic circuits are now able to create, process, and detect light, just like electronic integrated circuits are able to do for electrical signals.

The use of solid-state integration on a Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC), as opposed to the assembly and packaging of numerous discrete photonics components and bulk optics, holds the promise of significantly reducing size, weight, manufacturing costs, and power consumption while improving reliability.

Impactful applications of integrated photonics already exist, including high-speed fiber-based optical communications, next-generation low-cost environmental mapping systems, and lab-on-a-chip biosensors for quick and precise biological sample analysis.

This essay will concentrate on the applications of PICs and how they are promoting innovation in certain fields.

Application of Photonic Integrated Circuits in Automotive

The electrification, driver assistance systems, automated driving, changes in urban planning, and other factors are driving a fast shift in the automobile sector. These developments will have an impact on changes in car/fleet ownership and use, as well as the physical form and functionality of commercial, public, and private vehicles. The integrated photonics sector is given new, major prospects by the growing need for sensors in automobiles, in electric and hybrid drivetrains, as well as in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving systems.

Photonic Integrated Circuits in Lidar

Although integrated photonics has only played a small part in the automobile industry so far, it has a large potential and may be used in all system and vehicle design elements. Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) devices, which let autonomous cars “see,” are one potential field. The current high cost of these laser-based systems—often exceeding tens of thousands of dollars for a single system—restricts their economic viability. Concerns concerning the dependability, eye safety (due to the usage of close to visual range wavelength areas), and low precision of these early systems were also present (given the relatively simple ranging schemes possible). System safety may be improved while cutting costs using integrated photonics.

The phenomenon of a wave’s frequency shifting as its source is moving in relation to an observer is known as the Doppler effect. By detecting the doppler shift coherently, frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) lidar avoids interference from other lidar systems and sunlight. Although this system design has a poor acquisition speed and needs a highly coherent laser source that is accurately chirped, it has distance resolution. A single FMCW laser may be multiplexed using a cutting-edge silicon-nitride microresonator on a photonic device, according to research from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Application of Photonic Integrated Circuits in Healthcare

Due to rising expenses, expanding populations, and swift demographic changes, the old healthcare model of prioritizing diagnosis and treatment of patients only when they become gravely sick is coming under increasing pressure to shift (i.e. aging). In order to keep people healthy for as long as feasible, there is a rising movement to approach healthcare more holistically, with a special focus on emphasizing prevention over sickness. The emphasis on rehabilitation has also risen, ensuring that former patients may quickly and completely recover to good health by employing a more comprehensive healthcare strategy than just medicine.

Patients are often diagnosed and treated at specialist facilities (i.e. clinics and hospitals). Decentralization, or moving diagnosis and treatment closer to the patients, is necessary for a holistic approach to health, and the long-term goal should be remote diagnosis and treatment from patients’ homes. There hasn’t been any change in the global national health care strategy despite clear evidence that it would save national health expenses and enhance patient prognosis while decreasing hospital time and resources. A replacement for hospital-specific medical devices must be developed in order to apply a more futuristic approach to healthcare, and Integrated Photonics can offer the solution.

When light interacts with organic bodily tissues and fluids, a number of its characteristics may be altered. Light-based sensors have already found their way into a number of medical devices, and their widespread use will continue.

With the help of integrated photonics, it may be possible to significantly lower the price and size of medical equipment geared at hospitals, therefore launching a brand-new method of diagnosis and treatment. By creating Integrated Photonic technology in two key areas—bio-sensing (see below) and Optical Coherent Tomography (OCT), a diagnostic tool for eye, skin, and neurological diseases—a number of international businesses are attempting to overcome this difficulty.

Photonic Biosensors

The best PICS for the detection of biological substances is silicon nitride (SiN PICs). They operate across an extremely broad wavelength range, from visible to near-infrared, avoiding the water absorption window and enabling fluorescence detection. They are simple to integrate with a low-cost laser source due to their wavelength range.

The light-contacting waveguide may be rolled up to generate a very long light route on the chip’s surface since SiN permits a short bend radius. The biosensors based on SiN PICs become very sensitive as a result of the prolonged contact duration of the light with nearby proteins. Additionally, by utilizing the same bodily fluid, they enable the simultaneous multiplexed detection of various target molecules (e.g. blood, saliva).

PIC-based biosensors are anticipated to be used for a wide range of purposes, including environmental applications, the food industry, health-related targets (such as the monitoring of glucose levels in diabetic patients, early detection of the onset of cancer or infectious diseases), and health-related targets (e.g. determination of antibiotics or hormone residues in food, early detection of infectious diseases). PIC-based biosensors are being developed by Dutch company Lionix International to create quick tests for COVID-19.

Data & Telecommunications

According to research, the overall demand for internet services is increasing at a rate of roughly 40% annually. This is caused by a voracious demand for video; during peak times, Netflix can consume up to 30% of the available internet bandwidth. Mobile video access is expanding, as are video-focused applications like Tik-Tok.

By the end of 2023, mobile users in North America are anticipated to utilize 48 GigaBytes (GB) per month per smartphone. When included into optical communication systems, integrated photonics has the potential to offer considerable power, area, and cost reductions as well as additional capabilities. They can also boost the capacity of current communication networks for transmission.

Effect Photonics, a Dutch firm with more than a decade of experience in this area, has a 10 Gb/s DWDM tuneable optical transceiver module that is now available for sale. The module contains an automatic tuning capability that searches the network to determine which channel to utilize. It is plug-and-play and hot-pluggable, so no engineer is needed to program it when it is installed. The next phase is larger bandwidths; a 25Gb/s with 100 and 400/600 channels is now in development.

6G Network Components

In all 6G network segments, photonic technology will be crucial. It may be possible to transmit and route significant volumes of data traffic via 6G networks at a reasonable cost. Photonic connectivity and switching will create a new architecture for data centers that may optimize resource usage while consuming less energy. Additionally, exciting research is being done on packed integrated photonic circuit-based photonic beam-forming networks. Furthermore, integrated photonics could be able to assist with some of the radio system operations needed to advance toward the sixth generation of mobile networks.

Quantum Computing

There are several benefits to photon-based quantum computers over electron-based ones. The computer’s ability to function at ambient temperature is a significant benefit. For maximum functioning, a traditional quantum computer must be kept at well-below-freezing temperatures, making storage and upkeep very expensive and delicate.

The world’s first publicly accessible photonic quantum computing platform was released earlier this year by Canadian firm Xanadu. Through the cloud, users may access 8, 12, and soon 24 qubit devices. Despite this monumental achievement, photonic quantum computing’s full promise has yet to be realized.

Other Application of Photonic Integrated Circuits

Within the next decade, more application areas and market niches for Integrated Photonics are anticipated to reach maturity. These include fiber-based sensor systems for very accurate distributed real-time structural health monitoring, applications in energy grids and wind turbines, monitoring systems for extremely important structures like dikes and bridges, as well as defense and aerospace applications. NIR spectrum sensing modules and components for fruit and vegetable nutritional, flavor, and structural insights analysis is another fascinating field that will address the rising worldwide concerns about food safety, storage, and traceability. Future articles will discuss a few uses of integrated photonics.

Closing Thoughts

A fast developing technology and business called integrated photonics promises a significant cost and size decrease for many communications and sensing components. As a result, it has the potential to enable a wide range of applications and sectors to adopt creative, disruptive products. One of the technologies that will define our time is integrated photonics, which is developing quickly.