GF Fotonix Unites CMOS, Photonics
The new GlobalFoundries process combines photonic and digital components on a single 45nm chip. The primary application is data-center communications, but lidar and computing will benefit as well.
GlobalFoundries’ new silicon-photonics process offers both optical and electrical features on a single 300mm wafer. Focusing on radio-frequency (RF) circuits, which are necessary at the high-speed interface between photonics and electronics, GF Fotonix enables signal interchange on one chip. By sharing the same 45nm CMOS process that the foundry’s New York facility uses for digital circuits, photonic circuits benefit from the economics of established high-volume manufacturing. Developers must still provide an off-chip laser, though, since no silicon laser is commercially viable.
As optical connections move farther into the data center, combining all the electrical and photonic components necessary to convert and modulate signals on a single chip or chiplet makes pluggable and copackaged optics (CPO) more cost effective. The technology also targets time-of-flight (ToF) sensors, lidar, and photonic computing. It is currently available for design starts.
Fotonix includes RF amplifiers and drivers as well as standard-cell logic circuits, but it’s unsuitable for large digital designs because the 45nm node offers less performance and is far less dense than advanced FinFET nodes. Electronic-design-automation (EDA) tools allow electro-optical simulation of both devices and circuits, easing the design process.