[News] TSMC Reportedly Allocates Over 200 R&D Personnel for Advancements in Silicon Photonics

2023-10-05 Semiconductors editor

The Silicon Photonics topic is heating up as major companies race to address the data transfer speed between chips. Intel’s Silicon Photonics project has a leading advantage, while TSMC is collaborating with major customers Nvidia and Broadcom, investing 200 research and development personnel. They aim to complete the project in the second half of 2024, with production set to begin in 2025.

According to Taiwan’s Commercial Times, Luo Huaijia, the Executive Director of the Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA) in Taiwan, stated that silicon photonics technology has always been a crucial focus in the field of photonics. Photonics products are evolving towards being compact, lightweight, energy-efficient, and power-saving.

Among Taiwan’s semiconductor fabs, TSMC stands out with its COUPE, which provides heterogeneous integration of photonic integrated circuits (PIC) and electronic integrated circuits (EIC), reducing energy consumption by 40%. TSMC is rumored to deploy a 200-person R&D team, collaborating with international major clients for joint development. Consequently, following the completion of its Hsinchu plant, TSMC invested NT$90 billion in constructing a new packaging plant in Tongluo, Miaoli, recognizing the significant demand and potential in heterogeneous integration.

Luo Huaijia pointed out that silicon photonics uses semiconductor technology to create a platform with optical properties, with the goal of integrating light and telecommunications signals. This involves packaging traditional optical components, including optical waveguides, light-emitting elements, and transceiver modules, together, thus also involving heterogeneous packaging.

As early as 2002, Intel publicly conducted research in the field of “Silicon Photonics,” but at that time, the data volume could be handled with copper wire transmission. Luo Huaijia believes that with the exponential increase in AI computing power, data processing will start in the gigabyte range, prompting companies to invest heavily in development.

Luo Huaijia analyzed that currently, GlobalFoundries is likely the first company to provide wafer foundry services for manufacturing optical fiber transceivers, using FD-SOI technology integration solutions. Intel also currently offers a 400Gb/s optical fiber transceiver solution. In addition to their own ASICs or FPGAs, this technology is applied to Switch ICs. Intel even plans to expand its silicon photonics solution into the automotive market, using it in Mobileye’s optical radar by 2025.

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(Photo credit: ITRI)