Open Competition 3 - Electronics and Photonics
Development of a Four-Channel Miniature Optical Filter Chip
Prototype a new semiconductor fabrication technology, Biased Target Ion Beam Deposition (BTIBD), and prove its effectiveness by designing and developing a novel four channel optical communications "multi-filter chip" that may reduce the cost of current four channel filter solutions by 80 percent.
Sponsor: 4Wave Inc.22977 Eaglewood Court
Sterling, VA 20166
4Wave will pioneer a new, high-precision, thin-film processing method to make a first-of-its-kind "multi-filter chip" that can greatly increase available bandwidth in metropolitan access networks. The initial result of a successful project would be a coarse wave division multiplexer (CWDM) that not only is 250 times smaller than the current versions but also is faster, more reliable, and easier to manufacture. Just as important, the next-generation CWDM chip would cut costs by 80 percent. Critical components of the chip include four distinct optical filters and a reflective mirror all mounted on a glass substrate interlaced with channels for linking to other elements of optical assemblies--a level of single-chip integration never before achieved in the communications industry. Making chips with this novel architecture will require mastering and scaling up an innovative processing technique called biased target ion beam deposition (BTIBD). This new thin-film method has the potential to achieve the exacting uniformity of film thicknesses, the required levels of temperature control, and the repeatability necessary for efficient, high-volume production of the integrated multi-filter chip. Realizing that potential, however, will be an enormous challenge. Any variations in thicknesses of the thin-film structures, for example, or even slight contamination of the underlying substrate would result in a defective chip. Successfully developed, the chip itself could help to meet demand in an emerging market: demand for CWDMs could begin to grow quickly with the recent adoption of a new Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers standard for 10-gigabit Ethernet transceivers, equipment that receives and transmits high-speed telecommunication signals. The 10-gigabit Ethernet transceiver market is estimated to reach $4.6 billion by 2005. Beyond the cost savings it is expected to offer, the miniaturized 4Wave chip would help transceiver manufacturers meet the new standard's stringent size specifications. Moreover, demonstrating the technical feasibility of the BTIBD process for high-volume production likely would spawn interest in spin-off applications in the magnetic storage, semiconductor, and sensor industries. Though private-sector investors and potential customers are interested in long-term prospects for both technologies, 4Wave has been unable to attract sufficient funding to sustain the accelerated research and development effort necessary to overcome the technical hurdles that stand in the way of emerging market opportunities.