In PIX4life we aim to mature a high performance, high yielding and CMOS-processing compatible SiN Photonic IC pilot line together with the accompanying supply chain for applications in the visible range (400-1000 nm) in order to become the world’s premier pilot line for multitype integrated biophotonic applications. PIX4life will enable miniaturizing and increasing the cost effectiveness of bulky, expensive optical life science systems. We will pave the way towards making the platform available in open access for a broader number of customers from the (bio-)photonic and life science communities with industrial development in mind.
An open access MPW SiN platform to drive European R&D in visible biophotonic applications.
1) We aim to mature SiN Photonic Integrated Circuit technology via Multi Project Wafers (MPW) and via generic photonic building blocks and interfaces. The technology will be implemented in an industrial foundry and a R&D CMOS pilot line and will provide a superior quality, highly reliable technology platform in the visible range using the accuracy and yield of microelectronic CMOS fabrication processes; in concreto:
- PIX4life aims to mature a SiN waveguide platform with very low propagation losses, low autofluorescence and a high level of integration to realize compact systems at low cost targeted towards the visible spectrum. Similar to microelectronics, the key for success is to realize a broad range of optical functionalities with a small set of elementary components using a generic wafer-scale technology for integration. Materials and process steps need to be further optimized to have high performance at visible wavelengths and to satisfy constraints specifically related to life science applications (such as e.g. autofluorescence).
- Whereas prior investments in cleanroom based pilot lines and equipment (at partners IMEC and LioniX) can largely be reused to realize visible range photonic circuits, the metrology of these wafers in the visible range is underdeveloped. PIX4life will ensure that adequate process in-line metrology tools, photonic chip validation, process statistics software and reliability tools are ported and extended to control the quality and reliability of SiN photonic IC’s in the visible range.
- In PIX4life, we will build passive components with best-in-class performance, including waveguides, splitters, filters, multiplexers and couplers based on optimized ultra-low loss SiN material. Furthermore, we will improve state of the art active modulators exploring the best suited tuning options including thermo-optic, electro-optic and piezoelectric tuning using additional materials.
- The performance and stability improvements should translate in the development of validated high performance generic building blocks for well-chosen wavelength ranges that are widely used for a broad range of biophotonic applications.
2) We will improve accessibility to the technology, not only for photonic end users, but also for system houses and pioneering life science companies willing to try out photonic components to address miniaturization needs in life science instrumentation. We will develop an end-to-end supply chain reaching from design to packaged and characterized chip components by aligning and extending existing European expertise in design tools and kits, source, detector integration and fluidic integration, achieving functional photonic components in the visible range.
- In order to make efficient use of the fabrication runs and inspired by the cost sharing model that has been developed for ASICs and silicon photonics in past projects, we will define Multi Project Wafer Runs (MPW’s). Six runs will be scheduled during the project. At each run, an increasing number of capabilities expected from a stable and mature pilot line will become available.
- PIX4life will extend design tools capabilities including process design kits, simulation tools, layout tools and design libraries to the visible range. We will reuse the available design tools developed by Phoenix and Luceda to the maximal extent, in order to reach a standardized and highly performant design tool set. The design tools will be made available to and validated by the consortium, in order to develop a library of basic building blocks with controlled and verified performance.
- PIX4life will combine already mature multitype laser sources (GaN and GaAs edge emitting laser diodes and VCSELs) and CMOS imager technology with the SiN PIC technology to enable a complete platform in the visible range. Some of the integration technologies are still at an early development stage and need to be matured in the framework of PIX4life with life science applications and open access in mind.
3) The value chain will further be guided and validated by well-chosen applications coming from European industrial customers aiming to launch new products in the life sciences area. Concretely, we will demonstrate the potential of the SiN photonics technology by realizing complex photonic ICs meeting the application driven specifications for miniaturized biosensors, optical coherence tomography imagers, multispectral sources for microscopy, and point of care cytometry.
- PIX4life will further build functional circuits to prove the optical performance of the technology platform in the context of different applications in biosensing, multispectral light sources, cytometry and imaging.
- Standardized technologies and elementary components with optimized performance free application oriented designers and system houses to focus on optical system architecture.
4) The end goal is to build and validate an open access model for customers internal and external to the consortium with the aim to lower barriers to entry for European companies, SME’s and universities to test and validate photonic concepts in the visible range. PIX4life aims at realizing an open access Multi Project Wafer (MPW) service and an end-to-end supply chain. Based on customer feedback from consortium partners and early adopters external companies, we will adapt the open access model to best suit customer requirements.
- PIX4life will have 4 MPW runs that will be accessible to external customers through an early access scheme.
- A business model and a legal framework will be developed and tested for supporting early access to external customers. The model will be based on best practices and experience in the consortium at LioniX, Europractice and ePIXfab.
- Specific attention will go to fine tuning the model towards Life Science end users via targeted trainings, websites, business and IP models.
- We want to differentiate between subsidized European and non-subsidized non-European customer access, but will use feedback from all customers to finetune our offering.