March 28, 2005 Carlsbad, CA -- Luxtera Inc. says that it has taken the first step in bringing CMOS economics to 10-Gbit/sec optical applications. The fabless startup announced today that it can provide 10-Gbit/sec optical modulation in a CMOS package, one of several CMOS building blocks that company sources say will be included in products that will be ready for sampling in the second quarter of next year.
According to Cary Gunn, co-founder and vice president of technology, and Gabriele Sartori, vice president of marketing, Luxtera's CMOS Photonics enables the company's chips to use the same CMOS process that Luxtera's development partner, Freescale Semiconductor, uses for mass production of their microprocessors. The use of CMOS technology versus III-V material should reduce the cost, power, and size of optical devices such as transceivers, they say. For example, CMOS offers a bend radius for waveguides two orders of magnitude tighter than current planar lightwave circuit approaches, according to Gunn. The new technology also would enable the use of optical technology in applications where optics is a court of last resort, such as backplanes, or aren't used as all, such as in chip-to-chip interconnect.
Gunn and Sartori are mum about the form the company's first products will take. They did say that the company is looking at applications such as server/blade interconnect, 10-Gbit per lane Infiniband and PCIe transceivers, 10-Gigabit and above Ethernet transceivers, memory interconnect, CPU busses, low-latency cluster interconnect, and fiber to the home/office/desk. Gunn says that "moderate reach applications" typically less than 2,000 m are the sweet spot, where "copper is running out of steam." The technology is optimized for 1550-nm operation, according to Gunn, and is compatible with WDM technology for future applications in the 10-Tbit range.
"Until now, all of the progress in silicon photonics has been in the form of research. Luxtera is the first company to develop a complete, working product that meets a market need," Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of The Linley Group, a semiconductor technology analysis firm, was quoted as saying in a Luxtera press release. "I'm impressed that Luxtera has accomplished this feat using a production CMOS process, allowing its technology to be built in CMOS fabs all over the world."
Luxtera was founded in 2001 by a team of researchers and technology managers drawn from the communication and semiconductor industries. Luxtera is funded by Sevin Rosen Funds, August Capital, and New Enterprise Associates.
-- S. Hardy