Skip to main content

Photonic Integrated Circuit Applications

Key Takeaways

  • The primary difference between PICs and EICs is the type of raw material used to fabricate PICs.

  • PICs are deployed in scientific and technical applications including automobiles, medical diagnostics, sensors, telecommunications, etc. 

  • The development of wireless and radio technology has led to the use of PICs and optical fibers for data transmission. 

Photonic Integrated Circuit Applications

Photonic integrated circuits are used in data centers and telecommunication systems, among other things

Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are extensively used in automotive, medical, and communication systems. Their low cost, size, weight, power consumption, and high efficiency are significant factors that have led to their widespread use. A new generation of application-specific PICs (ASPICs) are being deployed in the market as well. In this article, we will explore the broader spectrum of photonic integrated circuit applications.

Photonic Integrated Circuits

Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are system-on-chips that operate depending on the movement of the photons. They perform intended tasks using components such as optical amplifiers, photodetectors, multiplexers, filters, switches, etc.

PICs are different from normal electronic integrated circuits (EICs) on various levels. The primary difference is the type of raw material used to fabricate PICs. It's not silicon, as we see in EICs; instead, it can be Ⅲ-V materials, silica-on silicon, or lithium niobate.

The performance of PICs is also different from EICs in aspects such as size, speed, power efficiency, bandwidth, etc. Most of these differences arise from the operation based on photons in the PIC, the counterpart being electrons in the EIC. As photons are being utilized, components are mostly optical-based, such as optical lasers, optical amplifiers, attenuators, etc.

Venn Diagram of Electronic integrated circuits

Advantages of Photonic Integrated Circuits

PICs rule the electronics market, as they are capable of performing functions that traditional EICs can’t. However, there is no competition between PICs and EICs, as they are complementary. There are applications where PICs and EICs are integrated to perform specific tasks. 

Advantages of Photonics

  • Low transmission loss
  • Electromagnetic interference immunity
  • Lightweight and compact size
  • Cost-effective
  • No issues due to ground loops and electrical short circuits
  • Can be used in combustible environments
  • Wide bandwidth
  • Secure from monitoring

When photonic devices are incorporated into an integrated chip, in addition to the above advantages, new ones are also offered by PICs.

Advantages of PICs

  • Increased bandwidth
  • Enhanced reliability
  • Expansion in frequency division multiplexing
  • Immune to vibrations
  • Improved optical alignment
  • Enhanced switching speed
  • Low-loss couplers are possible
  • Mass production and reduced costs are possible
  • Low SWaP

Various Photonic Integrated Circuits Available in the Market

Considering the advantages, numerous PICs were introduced to perform various tasks effectively. PICs are deployed in scientific and technical applications, including in automobiles, medical diagnostics, sensors, telecommunications, etc. In all these fields, various types of  PICs are used. Some of the commonly-used PICs are listed below.

Types of Photonic Integrated Circuits

  • Monolithic integrated transmitter laser circuits
  • Integrated tunable receivers
  • Integrated distributed feedback lasers and modulators
  • Monolithic integrated repeater chips
  • Monolithic integrated optical wavelength demultiplexers
  • Hybrid integrated bistable optical devices
  • Integrated balanced heterodyne receivers

Let’s go ahead and explore some applications of PICs.

Photonic Integrated Circuit Applications in Telecommunications and Data Centers

Let’s do a deep dive into the application of PICs in telecommunication systems and data centers.

photonic integrated circuit applications in telecommunications

Photonic Integrated Circuit Applications: A Market Analysis

It is estimated that by the year 2027, photonic integrated circuits will take a market share of 27,000 million USD. This is forecasted considering the current rate of growth of photonic integrated circuit applications. There are a few reasons for this tremendous growth.

  1. The critical shortcomings of traditional EICs, such as speed, bandwidth, and power efficiency, are addressed by photonic integrated circuits.
  2. PICs can cover frequencies up to 10,000 times higher than microelectronics and reduce power consumption by up to 50%.
  3. The hybrid and monolithic integration process in PIC fabrication reduces manufacturing costs. Low-cost manufacturing increases the end-user demand for PICs.
  4. Unexpected growth in data and network traffic drove research developments and market growth for PICs.
  5. The use of photonic and optical sensors worldwide for night vision, cameras, etc. has boosted the market for PICs.

Photonic integrated circuit applications are going to increase even more, and it is worth investing in the research and development of PICs, as they will play a key role in the future of electronics. To adapt, Cadence offers an integrated electronic/photonic design automation (EPDA) environment that helps you design PICs.

Leading electronics providers rely on Cadence products to optimize power, space, and energy needs for a wide variety of market applications. If you’re looking to learn more about our innovative solutions, talk to our team of experts or subscribe to our YouTube channel.