Addressing New Markets

The PARADIGM consortium has, through a call for proposals, brought together an Applications Group, with which it will work closely during the course of the project, and which will be expanded through an active dissemination policy. PARADIGM expects to be able to address a variety of markets in which the costs of PICs are presently prohibitive for broad application. In the Applications Group we have pilot applications which are representative of different markets with a potential for large growth: sensors, data-interconnect, telecommunications, signal processing and gas sensing. These markets are discussed in some detail below.  Our target is to expand the Europe-wide group of potential users dramatically by the end of the project.

  • Optical Fibre based Sensors Fibre-based sensors are a rapidly increasing market. In 2006 their volume approached €300M, with annual growth rates over 50%. They play a key role in reducing environmental hazards by monitoring the health and integrity of large constructions like bridges, dikes, roofs of large buildings, windmill propeller blades, large reservoirs for storage of  oil or chemicals,  offshore platforms, aircraft structures, etc.  According to an OIDA forecast of April 2007 this market will exceed €1B in volume in 2011.  In fibre-based sensors the readout unit usually contains InP-based sources, detectors and signal processing devices in expensive equipment, which is usually far more expensive than the sensing fibre itself.  ASPICs could substantially reduce the costs of this equipment and open new markets with a value well over €1B. PARADIGM addresses this field with PICs for three different fibre sensor systems.
  • Gas Sensing Monitoring of gas concentrations through absorption lines in the near-infrared region of the spectrum, e.g. ~1.8-2.3µm. The monitoring of water vapour and carbon dioxide concentrations in air is highly relevant in agriculture, particular in glass-houses:  there is a clear requirement for monitoring the concentration of these gases since their concentration is often actively controlled to obtain optimized growth conditions. In medicine there is a requirement in monitoring the concentration of ammonia and carbon dioxide in the exhaled breath of hospitalised patients for early diagnosis. For ammonia there are no small, user friendly detectors available, the only detectors currently available on the market are bulky and expensive. For carbon dioxide many detectors are on the market, often optically-based, but these often lack sensitivity and need regular calibration, making the cost of ownership high.  Optical integration offers significant improvements and new opportunities. It gives the option of producing one sensor to monitor multiple species of molecules, and a route to significant reduction in the size and cost of the hardware, and through improved sensitivity, superior stability of alignment [1]

    The world market for gas sensor systems is extremely large: already by 2006 it had reached more than €1.5B A representative design is included in PARADIGM.
  • Data Interconnect With the increasing processor speeds the need for photonic interconnect in computer backplanes is rapidly increasing and not only the interconnection, but also the switching should be performed in the optical domain.  Fast photonic switches for Terabit server backplanes, HPC and multi-core architecture connections constitute a huge potential market for PICs that will be addressed by a PARADIGM switch ASPIC. The market size for server backplanes is estimated to be ~$150M in 2008 and predicted to be $800M by 2012. On board interconnects are anticipated to have a $4Bn market by 2012.  Large data centre operators such as Google have embraced optics as a route to managing the enormous data flows (and associated power demands) of modern computing.[2] Two PICs for this area are provided by the Applications Group:  a 4x4 switch array and a WDM source for active optical cables.
  • Telecommunications So far, telecommunications has been the main driver for PIC-development.  The access market is interesting for a foundry approach because of the large volumes inherent in this sector.  PARADIGM addresses a number of ASPIC designs for telecommunications, including devices for a WDM Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, Radio-over-Fibre (RoF) applications in wireless access, fast tuneable lasers, 100Gb/s transmission in the core network, WDM receivers, optical packet switching  and devices for key distribution in secure systems based on quantum cryptography.
  • Medical applications and signal processing The wavelength window around 1.5µm, that can be addressed with InP-based ASPICs, is particularly relevant for diagnostic analysis of opaque tissue, because the penetration depths at these wavelengths are a factor of 3 higher than in the near IR window around 0.8µm: up to a few millimeters, due to lower scattering losses in the tissue. This is particularly relevant for analysis of suspect skin tissue or intra-arterial diagnostics, using techniques like Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) or Raman Scatterometry. The market for OCT equipment presently exceeds €200M.
  • Raman scatterometry is a factor of ten smaller, but if it is possible to integrate the Raman sensor on an InP-chip at a cost of a few hundred €, it may be applied in a tool that will be in the diagnostic toolkit of a significant part of all doctors (more than a million for the EU only). Another application is in non-linear microscopy where sub-picosecond pulses reveal properties of biological tissue that cannot be assessed in another way. Mode locked lasers are promising devices for producing the short pulses required for these applications, but they are also useful in high-speed data transmission and clock generation. PARADIGM includes activity on fast-pulse lasers for such applications.  Lastly PICs for signal processing are represented by a complex optical circuit providing an A-D converter function.

These are just a few examples, we are convinced that the ASPIC cost level targeted in PARADIGM will generate many more applications than the ones indicated above and that the market for ASPIC driven products will certainly exceed the €5B level within a decade.  PARADIGM is an important step to provide Europe with a lead in this development.

[1] MNT Network: Gas Sensor Roadmap, Dec 2006

[2] V. Gill (Google), “Warehouse-scale computers: bandwidth drivers for large-scale computer systems”, European Conference on Optical Communication, Vienna, September 2009, paper 3.1.1 (invited).