What is Siliconization of Optical Interconnect?

By Lisa Crewe | Posted on September 4, 2017

Find out in this Q&A with Chris Doerr, Associate Vice President, Acacia Communications

As part of a new series on our blog, we will be talking with executives at Acacia about the projects they’re working on, the conferences they’re presenting at, and the industry trends they’re most interested in.  Following on the heels of our conversation with Acacia’s new VP of Sales Eric Fisher, I sat down with Chris Doerr to learn more about his innovative work.

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Chris Doerr, Associate Vice President, Acacia Communications with members of the contract manufacturing team.

Q: What is your role as Associate Vice President at Acacia Communications?

A: I joined Acacia in October 2011 and was employee number one in New Jersey. I had nearly two decades experience working with integrated photonics and was tasked with leading the silicon photonics effort within the company. That means I helped set the course for how Acacia approaches and integrates silicon photonics into the products we provide our customers. This is an effort I still lead today.

Q: Why is Acacia dedicated to siliconizing the optical interconnect? How does this benefit companies?

A: Siliconization of the optical interconnect is a great way to reduce cost, power, and chip size. At Acacia, we have managed to put the entire coherent receiver and transmitter on one silicon photonics chip, which has traditionally been difficult with other technologies. For customers, using the silicon photonics chip means they can design more ports per linecard, increasing the capacity of their system.

Q: Aside from a cost reduction, what benefits do companies receive by shifting to low-cost optics packages?

A: Shifting to a ball-grid array (BGA) package means reduced assembly costs. It also makes it easier for the customer to assemble the BGA onto a board, similar to a standard component assembly done with an automatic pick and place machine. Our design can utilize standard manufacturing processes, so it avoids any specialized training for soldering or assembly. Lastly, and maybe most important long term, using a BGA means better signal integrity, which improves speed and performance.

Q: At OFC 2017, you presented a post deadline paper: Silicon Photonics Coherent Transceiver in a Ball-Grid Array Package. Why was this presentation so significant to the industry?

A: The Silicon Photonics Coherent Transceiver in a Ball-Grid Array Package paper was the first published result of a working, high-performance fiber-optic component in a BGA package run through a standard manufacturing process. Doing so offers a significant cost reduction and changes how people view optical components. Traditionally, optical components have been viewed as expensive and difficult to manufacture. At Acacia, the BGA allows our silicon photonics to be handled like a standard electronic device. This was a challenging task, but it was a significant technical achievement and very rewarding for our entire team.

If you’re heading to ECOC 2017, you can learn more about silicon photonics from Chris, who has been invited to present a tutorial on the topic, session W.1.C.1 Integrated Silicon Photonics on Wed 20 Sep, 8:30 am. You can register for the conference here. If you’d like to meet with Chris or other Acacia representatives at ECOC, email us at marketing@acacia-inc.com. Hope to see you there!