€5m EU funding for Cork-based Tyndall to lead new photonics project

20 Jul 2021

PhotonicLeap’s Peter O’Brien, Parnika Gupta and Josue Parra. Image: John Allen

Focusing on the science of light, PhotonicLeap aims to reduce production costs of photonics technology to meet mass-market needs.

PhotonicLeap, a European collaborative project coordinated by the Tyndall National Institute based at University College Cork, has been awarded more than €5m through the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme to develop new photonics technology.

Photonics is the science and technology of light. It can involve creating, guiding, controlling, amplifying and detecting light.

High-speed fibre optic communications, cardiac diagnostic sensors and self-driving cars are all examples of technologies that require photonic integrated circuits (PIC).

With demand for photonics being driven by these mass-market needs, the global photonics market is expected to be worth more than €850bn by 2026.

Photonics manufacturing is currently very costly, particularly in the areas of packaging and testing, and so new innovations are required to meet this demand.

This is where Tyndall researchers want to step in.

The PhotonicLeap programme will develop new technologies to produce a Surface Mount Technology PIC package, which will incorporate multiple optical and electrical connections and can be scaled from low to very large volumes.

With this, the researchers intend to reduce the cost of PIC technology to less than a tenth of current prices.

The project will validate these technologies through two demonstrators, including a high-speed optical communication module and a portable medical device for cardio-vascular diagnostics.

Tyndall’s head of photonics packaging and systems integration, Prof Peter O’Brien, has led a number of EU photonics projects and will helm PhotonicLeap.

“Photonics is the key to unlocking the potential of technologies we need for today’s interconnected world,” said O’Brien.

“We need faster, more efficient, greener and cheaper solutions to our increasing usage of technology, which photonics manufacturing addresses. Therefore, we are delighted to receive this significant and vital funding from the European Commission to enable us to develop truly disruptive photonic packaging and test technologies.”

The project consortium will include a number of European research organisations and companies.

“We are confident that photonic packaging and test technologies developed in PhotonicLeap can make a real impact to increase the uptake of integrated photonics across Europe,” O’Brien added.

These technologies will be implemented by the European PIC packaging pilot line, PIXAPP, for future commercialisation. PIXAPP, which is also hosted at Tyndall and led by O’Brien, aims to provide users with single-point access to PIC assembly and packaging.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news