“PIC” your test

Today’s bandwidth boom is being driven by photonic integrated circuits (PICs). Tiny but mighty, this disruptive technology is shaping our future in various sectors. Often compared to the electronic processor, PICS unlock the best of both photonic and electronic worlds by merging optical components (e.g., lasers and modulators) with opto-electronic, electro-optical, fully electronic or even RF features. The result is a chip with endless potential in applications ranging from medicine to data centers, autonomous cars and quantum computing. But testing PICs comes with its challenges.

Testing PICs–expert insights

François Couny, Subject Matter Expert at EXFO, answers some frequently asked questions about PICs.

  1. Why this surge in interest about testing optical components?

Testing technologies for optical components evolved slowly over the past few decades, but the arrival of photonic integrated circuits and the advent of the 5G network pose a new challenge to component vendors. They are now faced with the issue of testing components quickly and more reliably than ever before. The new generation of optical components exhibit characteristics that make previous state-of-the-art performance redundant. The challenge for PIC developers today is no longer about designing or manufacturing these components, but it is all about testing them.

  1. Why test photonic integrated circuits?

PICs are to the photonics world what the processor was for electronics: a revolution. This long-awaited technology is out of the labs and being leveraged in many sectors from sensing to automated cars, via medical applications and next-gen telecom networks. The power of a PIC is that it enables you to pack a mix of optical and electronic functionalities on a chip. This reduces size, power consumption and cost, while boosting reproducibility and yield. At the heart of the R&D and manufacturing of those chips is the process of optical characterization. To address the sheer volume of PIC components that require testing, a whole new approach is needed to achieve fast and reliable characterization throughout component development. The test data has to be fed through design and fabrication to improve yield and also through assembly and packaging to reduce cost of integration.

  1. PIC development done right–how can this be achieved?

We have a bunch of active and passive testing solutions designed to help component vendors from development to mass production.

  • For passive component testing, the CTP10 is a device that provides fast, accurate and reliable results, under any test conditions. The CTP10 characterizes the spectral properties of up to 50 optical ports in one single scan with a resolution of 1 pm and more than 75 dB of dynamic range―even when scanning at 100 nm/s. Its electronics and internal processor make data transfer a breeze. The CTP10 can be remotely controlled using SCPI commands, facilitating integration as part of an automated PIC testing setup.
  • The CT440 is a compact version of CTP10, specifically developed for labs and universities, and particularly suited for PIC testing where a mix of optical and electronic spectral characterization is required. The CT440 can combine 4 lasers to test over the full telecom wavelength range (1240-1680 nm) and has a wavelength accuracy of ±5 pm.
  • For the characterization of active (i.e., light-emitting) components on a PIC chip, we have a dedicated optical spectrum analyzer—the OSA20. It has a scanning speed of 2000 nm/s and an optical resolution of 20 pm, which means that it can deliver best-in-class results really very fast.

Want to learn more on how to test photonic integrated circuits? Deep dive into the world of photonics with François Couny’s expert webinar PIC your test.

About EXFO
EXFO develops smarter test, monitoring and analytics solutions for fixed and mobile network operators, webscale companies and equipment manufacturers in the global communications industry. Our customers count on our expertise with automation, real-time troubleshooting and big data analytics, which are critical to their business performance. We’ve spent over 30 years earning this trust, and today 1,900 EXFO employees in over 25 countries work side by side with our customers in the lab, field, data center and beyond. Reach out to us on EXFO.com!

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