HiLight Semiconductor targets DML driver through $1.4 million Innovate UK grant

HiLight Semiconductor Ltd. said is it has successfully applied for a second Innovate UK grant to help develop a new directly modulated laser (DML) driver. The driver has applications in data centers and in 5G cellular network infrastructures.

HiLight Semiconductor Ltd. said is it has successfully applied for a second Innovate UK grant to help develop a new directly modulated laser (DML) driver. The driver has applications in data centers and in 5G cellular network infrastructures.

The company says that the £1 million (approximately $1.4 million) grant will go toward the development of a DML driver capable of modulation currents up to 80 mA, while supporting both 25 Gbps NRZ and 50 Gbps PAM4 data rates in a standard CMOS process. Standard CMOS use will decrease costs and increase power consumption, while permitting greater integration and more compact optical transceiver applications, says the company.

HiLight has successfully concluded the feasibility study for 25 Gbps and 50 Gbps DML laser drivers; the process of converting CAD simulations into real silicon, capable of being economically mass-produced in the millions, is underway. The project will build on HiLight's work on its low power, fully programmable series of CMOS "combo" ICs supporting 1, 2.5, and 10 or 12.5 Gbps rates (see "HiLight Semiconductor sampling HLC10Px series CMOS combo ICs").

"We are very pleased that once again Innovate UK has recognized HiLight Semiconductor as an industry leader in fiber-optics based communications," said Christian Rookes, HiLight's vice president of marketing. "This new program builds upon a previous $2 million EU Horizon 2020 grant, where HiLight developed a 4x25-Gbps chipset for shorter, VCSEL based links inside data centers. This new project will allow us to address the other half of fiber links which require higher power lasers. It will also allow us to extend our low power CMOS offering to the worldwide 5G network roll-outs."

Innovate UK is the operating name of the UK's innovation agency and non-departmental public body, Technology Strategy Board. Founded in 2012, HiLight is a venture capital backed, fabless chip company. The company says it has sold around 50 million ICs into the fiber-based PON, data center, and networking markets.

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