With $21.7M in New Funding, Luxtera Signs Deal to Make Optical Chip

3/1/12Follow @bvbigelow

Carlsbad, CA-based Luxtera, which recently raised $21.7 million in venture funding, says today it has signed a partnership with European semiconductor giant STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM) to produce a new generation of chips that combine high-performance optics with silicon-based electronics.

“We think it’s a really big deal,” says Chris Bergey, Luxtera vice president of marketing. “We’re able to build a complete fiber optic system in silicon.”

Luxtera says its technology, based on a standard microcircuit technology known as complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS), will be integrated by STMicro in at its chip-making plant in Crolles, France. By creating wave guides in photonic channels embedded in the silicon, Bergey says it’s possible to apply voltages to modulate the light, enabling Luxtera to produce a 100 gigabit per second (Gbps) transceiver on a single chip.

Luxtera says it is the first company to overcome the technical obstacles of integrating high-performance optics on a standard CMOS chip. Luxtera’s process also uses silicon, a relatively low-cost and reliable semiconductor material, instead of more esoteric materials like gallium arsenide or iridium phosphate.

STMicro plans to manufacture silicon photonics chips in state-of-the-art, 300 millimeter (12 inch) wafers, Bergey says. “This is our first 300-millimeter fab, and gets us to quite a bit of capacity,” he says. Until now, Bergey says Luxtera was working only with Austin, TX-based Freescale Semiconductor on 200-millimeter wafer production.

In a joint statement today, Flavio Benetti, general manager of STMicro’s mixed process division, says, “This will bring silicon photonics into the mainstream of important technologies such as optical networking, ultra-fast computer processors and other applications via the commercial volume availability of a best-in-class silicon photonics IP platform.”

In November, Luxtera said it was providing samples of its single-chip 100 Gbps optical transceivers to customers supporting cloud computing data centers and high-performance computing. The company said at that time its optical transceivers could be “socketed” directly onto customers’ switch or server boards, allowing servers to be connected to one another via fiber optic cables.

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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