Silicon had dominated the electronics sector for several decades before it became a potential material of choice across the photonics industry. Silicon photonics took off back in 2004, boosted by industry and governmental investments. After a series of breakthroughs and rising investments, silicon photonics is now considered the most active discipline in the integrated photonics field. Silicon, as a photonic material, does have some shortcomings. It is not an ideal material in its basic form; thus, numerous research projects have, in the past decade, addressed this and other such concerns, and with time, novel solutions are being formulated.
The key element driving the adoption of the silicon photonics market is the high-volume production at low costs it offers by leveraging CMOS-like fabrication. It has played a major role in bringing photonics to a wide array of technology sectors, wherein the cost of implementation would have been too high when using traditional photonic elements like the ones employed in the telecommunications industry. The field of silicon photonics has also gained traction because it enables the making of optical devices inexpensively through semiconductor fabrication technology.
Significant factors propelling the silicon photonics market forward are the surging demand from data centers for cloud computing and the escalating usage of internet. Government initiatives to push the adoption of online transactions and e-banking would also be beneficial for the adoption of the silicon photonics market in the future. Even with these drivers fostering market growth, challenges such as the advent of alternative technologies and high-volume markets might create some hurdles in the widespread implementation of the technology.
The leading companies in the industry include AIO Core Co. Ltd, Cisco Systems, Inc., Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., IBM Corporation, Infinera Corporation, Intel Corporation, IPG Photonics Corporation, Mellanox Technologies Ltd, NKT Photonics, and STMicroelectronics NV. This month, Rockley Photonics closed an additional USD 50 million funding round from VCs, institutional funds, and strategic investors, including Applied Ventures, the VC wing of Applied Materials, and Credit Suisse-backed SIG-i, along with the current shareholders. The latest round brought Rockley’s total funds raised to USD 225 million, allotted to developing its silicon photonics platform.
Both existing and emerging companies are striving to optimize the potential of the technology and get a competitive edge in the silicon photonics industry. Photonics-based computing requires less energy and is also able to transfer data much faster than traditional techniques and will help market growth, although manufacturing costs of silicon integrated circuits with embedded photonic elements can be prohibitive, which poses a substantial challenge.