SAN JOSE, Calif. Lightwire Inc. is sampling an optical transceiver based on a novel CMOS design, claiming lower power and size than competing alternatives. The startup is demonstrating at the Optical Fiber Conference Monday (Feb. 25) its first product, a 10 Gbit/second module for the SFP+ 10GBase-LRM standard.
The LSME10XX consumes about 400 mW, about half the power of other 10 Gbit LRM modules that target a 220 meter range. The device uses a very small and simple switching element based on a Mach-Zehnder interferometer. The MZI consumes just 30mW at 10 Gbits/s using a 1.2V power supply and measures just half a millimeter.
Lightwire (Allentown, Penns.) is sampling the LRM module now. Before the end of the year, it aims to have production quantities at prices it has not yet disclosed.
The startup will roll out this year products for the 10GBase-LR standard to span up to 10 km. It also will release before the end of the year a 40 Gbit module using four 10 Gbit links for the upcoming 40 Gbit/s version of Infiniband.
By early next year, Lightwire plans to ship versions of 10 Gbit modules for Fibre Channel and Sonet networks. The device is another in an expanding set of options for high-speed data center and telecom links.
Vijay Albuquerque, chief executive of Lightwire and former general manager of the fibre optic division of Agilent, said the company's technology will scale to support 100 Gbit/s networks. "We prefer four 25 Gbit/s links to support 100 Gbit connections," he said.
Company founder and chief technologist Kal Shastri was one of the first designers of serdes components in CMOS.
The company has "highly optimized waveguide modulators that get the most modulation depth per unit length per unit electrical power of any silicon photonics design I have seen while still maintaining very high inherent modulation bandwidth," said Thomas L. Koch, director of an optical technology center at Lehigh University and a member of Lightwire's technical advisory board.
"The optical source is still a separate laser chip, which could be viewed as a disadvantage compared to some photonic integrated circuits," said Koch. "However, Lightwire has devised techniques to address coupling laser chips into their CMOS photonics that are amenable to low-cost, high-volume manufacture," he added.
Lightwire claims its technology meets or exceeds the specifications of any copper or optical alternative, including emerging silicon optics devices in development by IBM and Intel.
Startup Luxtera (Carlsbad, Calif.) is one of Lightwire's closest competitors. Albuquerque notes Lightwire uses a popular 1310nm laser which matches with a wide variety of optical components. Luxtera uses a 1550nm laser source for modules it has been sampling since November.
The 1550nm lasers allow Luxtera to "integrate all transmit and all receive functionality as well as all electronics on a single CMOS die," said Marek Tlalka, the startup's vice president of marketing. "Since we are shipping products as complete optical active cable assemblies that plug into existing QSFP connectors, we do not face any interoperability issues," he added.
"By integrating everything on a single die, we are on the path to higher levels if integration with digital logic which is the ultimate goal of silicon photonics," Tlalka added.
He claimed Luxtera will also be about to scale its modulators to a native 40 Gbit/s rate.