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Startup unrolls low-power 10G optical module

Posted: 27 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:optical transceiver? LRM modules? Infiniband? waveguide modulators?

Lightwire Inc. is shipping samples of an optical transceiver based on a novel CMOS design, claiming lower power and size than competing alternatives. The startup has demonstrated at the Optical Fiber Conference Feb. 25 its first product, a 10Gbit/s module for the SFP+ 10GBase-LRM standard.

Low-power solution
The LSME10XX consumes about 400mW, about half the power of other 10Gbit LRM modules that target a 220m range. The device uses a very small and simple switching element based on a Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI). The MZI consumes just 30mW at 10Gbit/s using a 1.2V power supply and measures just half a millimeter.

Lightwire is sampling the LRM module now. Before year-end, 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 10km. It also will release before the end of the year a 40Gbit module using four 10Gbit links for the upcoming 40Gbit/s version of Infiniband.

By early next year, Lightwire plans to ship versions of 10Gbit 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, CEO of Lightwire and former general manager of the fibre optic division of Agilent, said the company's technology will scale to support 100Gbit/s networks. "We prefer four 25Gbit/s links to support 100Gbit 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 ICs," 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.

Competing devices
Startup Luxtera is one of Lightwire's closest competitors. Albuquerque notes Lightwire uses a popular 1,310nm laser, which matches with a wide variety of optical components. Luxtera uses a 1,550nm laser source for modules it has been sampling since November.

The 1,550nm 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 VP 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 40Gbit/s rate.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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