Xponent devises new way to build optical components

March 27, 2003--At OFC this week, startup Xponent Photonics Inc. gave its first public demonstration of Surface Mount Photonics (SMP) technology. The new technology dramatically reduces the cost, footprint, and complexity of singlemode fiber-optic components, say company representatives.

March 27, 2003--At OFC this week, startup Xponent Photonics Inc. gave its first public demonstration of Surface Mount Photonics (SMP) technology. The new technology dramatically reduces the cost, footprint, and complexity of singlemode fiber-optic components, say company representatives.

"Surface Mount Photonics solves the core problems of optical component packaging by reducing complexity," explains Jeff Rittichier, Xponent's president and chief executive officer. "With Surface Mount Photonics, we've dramatically reduced the number of subcomponents, completely eliminated hermetic packages, and simplified assembly to the point where it can be easily outsourced to contract manufacturers. Consequently, our customers, optical component and module vendors, benefit from reduced design, operations, and materials costs without sacrificing device performance."

Xponent claims to have solved three of the costliest problems in optical component packaging: 1) how to efficiently couple multiple die using high-speed, passive assembly; 2) the elimination of hermetic packages; and 3) the ability to perform test and burn-in at the wafer level.

SMP replaces nearly all of the optical subcomponents in a typical package with surface mount converters. These structures are added to standard devices, such as edge-emitting lasers, at the wafer level thousands at a time. Surface mount converters function like "optical wire," enabling efficient optical power transfer between SMP chips when they are bonded together. These converters also make it possible to tap light out of active devices at the wafer level in order to identify failed parts before they are separated and needlessly assembled onto submounts. Additionally, because the optical train is fully enclosed within the assembled chipset, standard encapsulation materials and techniques can be used in place of hermetic packages.

During Xponent's demonstration, a compact (2 x 5 mm) 1310-nm SMP fiber-coupled laser operates underwater without a hermetic package.

Initial Xponent products include transmit optical sub-assemblies (TOSA) and fiber-ready PIN diode assemblies for 1310-nm singlemode applications, including SONET, Fiber Channel, and Gigabit Ethernet.

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