Silicon photonics gaining ground in datacenter applications

Julian Ho, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: K&S

Demand for silicon photonics, mainly used in high-bandwidth optical transceivers, continues to gain momentum to support proliferating high-performance computing (HPC) applications and ever-larger datacenters, not only prompting many chipmakers to make deployments in the segment but also driving packaging equipment specialist Kulicke and Soffa (K&S) to release new solutions to facilitate related advanced heterogeneous packaging demand, according to industry sources.

Silicon photonics technology—a combination of silicon integrated circuits and semiconductor lasers—may help overcome the bottlenecks imposed by electrical I/O, replacing copper connections with optical ones at the board and package level.

The technology, used in datacenters for connecting switches that might be miles apart, is already bringing down costs and improving availability of high-speed optical transceivers.

The sources estimated global market demand for datacenter high-bandwidth transceivers will register a CAGR of 35% by 2025. The sources said that major chipmakers (including Intel and TSMC) and leading OSATs (including ASE Technology) are eager to develop silicon photonics technology and related solutions to better serve their clients.

Packaging equipment vendor K&S has recently announced it is expanding its thermal compression bonding (TCB) capabilities to accelerate innovation in the integration of semiconductors and silicon photonics. The new TCB solution is expected to help major datacenters worldwide sharply boost their data transmission speed to further fulfill advanced 5G and IoT requirements in the future.

CP Chong, executive vice president of products and solutions at K&S, said a key challenge of multi-chip integration is the trade-off between performance and power consumption, which can be optimized by the company's new TCB solutions. K&S is a pioneer in the silicon photonics packaging market and can help accelerate the development of the segment, he added.

Chong also noted that the solutions utilize a unique formic acid process that supports new assembly and packaging requirements for silicon photonics and facilitate 2.5D/3D heterogeneous integration of silicon photonics and semiconductors.

Industry sources said new-generation silicon photonics module packaging can make optical and electronics components more compact and reduce unnecessary losses, but the market for this emerging segment will take at least 2-3 years to incubate to support 5G, AI, datacenter, and metaverse applications.