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Photonic Integrated Circuits

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Acronym: PIC or PLC = planar lightwave circuit

Definition: integrated circuits with optical functions

German: photonische integrierte Schaltungen

Photonic integrated circuits (also called planar lightwave circuits = PLC or integrated optoelectronic devices) are devices on which several or even many optical (and often also electronic) components are integrated. The technology of such devices is called integrated optics. Photonic integrated circuits are usually fabricated with a wafer-scale technology (involving lithography) on substrates (often called chips) of silicon, silica, or a nonlinear crystal material such as lithium niobate (LiNbO3). The substrate material already determines a number of features and limitations of the technology:

Photonic integrated circuits can either host large arrays of identical components, or contain complex circuit configurations. However, for various reasons the complexity achievable is not nearly as high as for electronic integrated circuits. Their main application is in the area of optical fiber communications, particularly in fiber-optic networks, but they can also be used for, e.g., optical sensors and in metrology.

An important distinction is that between devices with smaller or larger mode areas:


[1]F. A. Kish et al., “Current status of large-scale InP photonic integrated circuits”, IEEE Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 17 (6), 1470 (2011)
[2]W. S. Zaoui et al., “Bridging the gap between optical fibers and silicon photonic integrated circuits”, Opt. Express 22 (2), 1277 (2014)
[3]L. A. Coldren and S. W. Corzine, Diode Lasers and Photonic Integrated Circuits, John Wiley & Sons, New York (1995)

See also: integrated optics, silicon photonics, optical fiber communications, fiber to the home

Categories: communications, photonic devices

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