DustPhotonics Claims First to Develop 800G Silicon Photonics Chip

October 09, 2023 by Aaron Carman

Leveraging silicon photonics for the data center, designers now have a single-chip solution for 800 Gb/s transmission.

DustPhotonics has announced its single-chip 800G-DR8 silicon photonics chip for data center applications, representing a major milestone in practical photonics for data centers. The company claims its single-chip solution offers a high-performance yet simple-to-implement solution for system architects.


DustPhotonics’ 800G-DR8 photonic integrated circuit

DustPhotonics’ 800G-DR8 photonic integrated circuit offers a single-chip solution for fiber-copper interconnects in data center and AI applications. Image used courtesy of DustPhotonics

While photonic integrated circuits (PICs) have been used for some time in high-bandwidth and high-efficiency applications, not all processes are built alike. Some photonics processes make use of gallium- or indium-based wide bandgap semiconductors. Alternatively, DustPhotonics advancements are based on silicon photonics, which opens the door to silicon's more mature and scalable processes.

To give readers a glimpse into the technology behind DustPhotonics’ latest PIC, this article takes a closer look at the photonics technology built into the system and the advantages of moving toward a single-chip solution for data center applications.


Data Centers Require a High-Bandwith Solution

As the amount of data flowing through data centers continues to increase, limited transfer speeds impose processing bottlenecks. Traditional copper-based wiring schemes, while sufficient for many applications, cannot support the bandwidth and efficiency demands that the next generation of data centers will need. 

This becomes especially true with 800 Gb/s transmission on the horizon and even more so when looking toward the future of 1.6 Tb/s and 3.2 Tb/s data rates. As such, designers are investigating photonics to improve the bandwidth and efficiency of data center communications.

As demand increases for higher data rates, data centers will have to leverage photonics solutions

As demand increases for higher data rates, data centers may benefit from leveraging photonics solutions. Image used courtesy of Rosenberger

This is not to say that PICs are currently the optimal solution for everyone. Deploying a photonics solution could create many headaches for little improvement if the application doesn’t demand sustained high data rates. 


DustPhotonics Reaches for 800 Gb/s

The DustPhotonics 800G PIC provides designers with a single-chip solution for DR8 applications, providing a relatively easier transition to higher data rates. The chip itself supports eight optical channels, each modulated at 100 Gb/s, and can use single-mode fibers.


DustPhotonics 800G PIC

Leveraging silicon photonics, a single-chip solution can be deployed instead of using discrete components, reducing system complexity, power loss, and cost. Image used courtesy of DustPhotonics

While the chip includes lasers in the package, it also leverages DustPhotonics’ low-loss laser coupling technology to support various commercial off-the-shelf lasers. In addition, the single-chip solution shows a reported 20% power reduction compared to solutions using discrete components, improving the overall efficiency while keeping the system itself simple.

The DustPhotonics 800G-DR8 device is currently in the sampling stage, with production expected to begin in Q1 2024.


Uniting Silicon Photonics With CMOS

While silicon photonics may not be a one-size-fits-all semiconductor technology because of its fundamental limits, it does present a myriad of benefits, including improved bandwidth, efficiency, and throughput of optical/electrical transitions. By leveraging mature silicon processes, silicon photonics solutions may show a faster development cycle compared to other technologies.

Silicon photonics may become more commonplace in data center applications as this technology is unified with traditional CMOS designs. The DustPhotonics 800G PIC exemplifies this possibility and highlights the utility of integrating optical and electrical transmission to improve data rates.