Silicon photonics is a transformative technology that will have a major impact on system architectures in future IC design applications. Already a major solution for Datacom applications and emerging applications in sensing, design techniques in silicon photonics, with the ability to leverage CMOS technology to integrate large numbers of photonic components, are now being applied to enable optical computing. In almost all of these applications, however, an electrical interface is required, not just to provide modulation and detection signals, but to deliver real-time tuning to overcome manufacturing variability and temperature sensitivity inherent to silicon photonic components. In many cases, the supporting electrical connectivity and requisite I/O become dominant in the overall design process which includes floor-planning and physical implementation in photonic applications. Design tools, particularly tools for photonic circuit automation, need to be jointly aware of both the photonics and the electronics.
I’ve had a front row seat to development of design tools for photonics over the past seven years. It started with my involvement in a silicon photonics workshop in 2011. At that time, photonic workshops consisted of academics and researchers spending a week learning all the necessary details on every aspect of silicon photonic design, ranging from component design and modeling, to photonic circuit design to physical layout, and verification to manufacturability. Since then, the community has evolved to apply design methodologies created by EDA companies that rely on interoperable tool flows and trusted PDKs. This is discussed in the March 2018 edition of Laser & Photonics Reviews where Professors Wim Bogaerts and Lukas Chrostowski give an excellent overview of the state of available design tools, with ideas on how to enable design automation in their article, “Silicon Photonics Circuit Design: Methods, Tools and Challenges.”
While there are existing capabilities available, we know reapplying EDA tools and design methodologies created for IC design alone does not fully meet the needs of the photonics community. As a relatively young community, growing during a time of enormous compute resources, photonic design engineers are apt to delegate many of their tasks to scripting automation. Increasingly, Python scripting is becoming their language of choice. Python is a powerful, open-sourced language with broad usage and support by many of the leading photonic vendors including Luceda Photonics, Lumerical, VPIphotonics, and OptiWave. We see several startups and academic institutions leveraging Python in their custom, automated circuit layout solutions and photonic designers now come with inherent understanding of Python scripting.
Read more: Semiconductor Engineering .:. Design Automation For Silicon Photonics: Pushing Research Into Production reposted by Silicon Valley Microelectronics, Inc.