SAN FRANCISCO Microphotonics could begin to replace some system electrical components in as few as five years if not sooner according to Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) Chairman Ray Stata.
Stata told EE Times Tuesday (Aug. 2) that ADI has a group currently doing advanced development of microphotonics and working with universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The group, he said, is beyond just exploring the possibilities and potential limitations of the technology and is actually working on product concepts.
Though hesitant to predict exactly when such microphotonic products would be brought to market, Stata suggested that it will probably be a lot sooner than most people think, likely within five years or less.
With the electronics industry quickly approaching a time when limitations posed by the size and speed of electrons become a constraint, microphotonics the science of directing and controlling microscope photons of electromagnetic energy is being developed as a potential successor to electronic system components.
MIT's Microphotonics Center, which counts ADI (Norwood, Mass.) among its prominent sponsors, is one of a number of top university programs currently studying and developing microphotonic technology.
"I think the whole world of microphotonics is certainly, clearly, one of the transition opportunities that will be integrated within systems," Stata said, adding that he expects that in some cases hybrids of electronics and photonic systems will exist within a chip. "Clearly, there are a lot of places where the speed and mobility of photons is such that they will be able to solve problems that electrons can't."
Stata, who co-founded ADI in 1965 and was a longtime CEO of the company, said one of the most desirable aspects of producing microphotonic products on a large scale is that it does not require a fundamental change in equipment set. A lot of the equipment that is used to make semiconductors or electronics is transferable to making microphotonics, he said, "so you don't have to completely reinvent the world."
The biggest challenge facing microphotonic technology, Stata said, is accumulating the engineering knowledge it will take to not only apply the technology to products, but do so on the high-volume scale that the industry will demand.