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What is silicon photonic chip?


Silicon photonic chip is a new type of integrated circuit that uses silicon-based materials and processes to integrate optoelectronic devices on the same chip. Silicon optical chips are mainly composed of modulators, detectors, passive waveguide devices, etc. It can integrate multiple optical devices on the same silicon-based substrate to achieve functions such as generation, transmission, control and detection of optical signals.


Silicon photonic chip is a silicon-based optoelectronic large-scale integration technology that uses photons and electrons as information carriers. It can greatly improve the performance of integrated chips. It is a basic supporting technology for emerging industries such as big data, artificial intelligence, and future mobile communications. It can be widely used. In big data center, 5G, Internet of Things and other industries.


Advantages of silicon photonic chips

- High integration: Silicon photonic chips use silicon as the substrate of the integrated chip. Silicon-based materials have low cost and good ductility. The mature silicon CMOS process can be used to produce optical devices. Compared with traditional solutions, silicon photonic chips have higher integration and more embedded functions, which is conducive to improving chip integration.


- Great potential for cost reduction: Traditional GaAs/InP substrates have high production costs due to limited wafer material growth. In recent years, with the further improvement of transmission rates, larger Group III and V wafers are required, and the cost of chips will further increase. Compared with Group III and V semiconductors, silicon-based materials have lower costs and can be manufactured in large sizes, significantly reducing chip costs.


- Excellent waveguide transmission performance: Silicon is transparent for the communication band of 1.1-1.6μm (typical wavelength 1.31μm/1.55μm) and has excellent waveguide transmission characteristics. In addition, the refractive index of silicon is as high as 3.42, which can form a large refractive index difference with silicon dioxide, ensuring that silicon waveguides can have a smaller waveguide bending radius.


Silicon photonic chips have unique advantages in size, speed, power consumption, etc., and can be widely used in optical communications (5G), data centers, artificial intelligence(AI), medical testing, high-end computing, autonomous driving, national defense and other fields.


- Optical communications: Silicon photonic chips can implement high-speed optical transceiver modules to support high-speed information transmission in data centers and 5G infrastructure. Some technology companies have launched 800G optical modules based on silicon photonic chips.


- Artificial intelligence(AI): Silicon photonic chips can achieve high-performance data exchange and calculation, supporting the rapid operation of artificial intelligence algorithms. Some companies have developed neural network accelerators based on silicon photonic chips.


- Lidar: Silicon photonic chips can realize highly integrated laser transmitting and receiving devices, supporting precise ranging and positioning in scenarios such as autonomous driving and robots.


- Quantum communication: Silicon photonic chips can achieve complex optical path control and high integration, and support the preparation and manipulation of quantum entangled states.

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