Photonics Manufacturing (October 1998)
IMOS Infrastructure for Photonics Manufacturing
Develop and demonstrate the processes needed to manufacture integrated modules of miniaturized optoelectronics components at the wafer scale, analogous to the fabrication of integrated circuits.
Sponsor: Digital Optics Corporation5900 Northwoods Business Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28269
The optoelectronics industry continues to rely on costly manual assembly of disparate components, lacking the systems-level engineering capability, testing methods, and other technologies needed for automated processing of integrated devices. Emulating the approach used by the microelectronics industry to make very small, inexpensive integrated circuits, Digital Optics Corp. will develop and demonstrate the processes needed to implement prototype wafer-scale integration of miniaturized optoelectronic components. The project centers around the concept of an integrated micro-optical system (IMOS), which is a low-cost, compact module (a few millimeters wide) consisting of optics, lasers, detectors, and electronics that are aligned and assembled on a wafer into complex, three-dimensional systems. Many technical challenges must be overcome to make IMOS a reality. Various software packages and data formats must be integrated into simulation and design tools that account for the thermal and mechanical interactions of the components, mounting fixtures, and coatings. New processes must be developed to align and bond wafers, integrating diffractive and refractive optics. Advanced heat management methods and reduced alignment tolerances will be needed. In addition, lithographic techniques and materials must be adapted to make uniform, high-precision micro-optics. Other challenges include wafer-level integration of components, including bonding of lasers to optics, and the development of methods for automated testing and connecting components. If successfully developed, the new technology will enable substantially reduced opto-electronics device cost, size, and development cycles. The ATP funding will accelerate the research greatly, leading to the commercialization of IMOS several years sooner than otherwise would be possible. The technology will offer valuable economic and quality-of-life benefits through its use in numerous next-generation commercial and military products for telecommunications; data storage; retail applications; and sensors for medical, environmental, and industrial applications. In addition, the low cost and small size of the modules will expand markets and lead to new products and jobs. Suppliers of components such as laser diodes, detectors, and optics also will benefit from the increased demand.