Understanding photonics: light and future
Photonics, the science of light, is a rapidly growing discipline that is promising to change not only how we see the world, but also how we interact with it. From medical research to telecommunications, photonics has endless applications. But why is it relevant for companies? What are Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) and how do they compare to traditional Integrated Circuits (ICs)?
The spectrum of light
Photonics is the study and management of photons, the elementary particles that make up light. This multidisciplinary science is fundamental to a wide range of technologies, from sensors to telecommunications, and its relevance only continues to grow.
The power of photonics lies in its ability to control, generate and detect light in ways that other technologies simply cannot compete. In business terms, this translates into improving the efficiency, speed and capacity of operations that require the transmission, processing and storage of information.
PIC vs. IC: the race of light against electrons
One of the most prominent applications of photonics in the modern era is Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs). PICs, which use photons instead of electrons to transmit information, represent a great leap forward compared to traditional Integrated Circuits (ICs).
The turning point of the CIPs
The current state of development of CIPs resembles that of ICs some 20 years ago. This parallel suggests that we are at an inflection point similar to the one that occurred when ICs began to dominate electronics. The implications of this change are profound and vast.
Benefits and challenges of CIPs
PICs have several crucial advantages over ICs. In terms of energy efficiency, the cost of transmitting a bit in a PIC is a thousand times lower than that of an IC. In addition, PICs can handle a frequency range that is 10,000 times wider than ICs. This translates into faster transmission speeds, increased processing capacity and reduced power consumption.
However, the widespread adoption of CIPs still faces obstacles. Although the technology is progressing rapidly, the level of PIC integration is still relatively low. In addition, the materials used in PICs are limited, and the integration of PICs with ICs is still in its early stages of development.
The PIC revolution in industries
Despite these challenges, the adoption of PIC technology is already underway in various industries and its impact is only expected to grow over time. In data centers, companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google are already experimenting with PICs. In the automotive industry, PIC-based lidar systems are being tested. In the healthcare sector, less invasive sensors are being developed using ICPs.
PIC adoption is also advancing in the aerospace industry, with companies such as Boeing and Airbus testing PIC-based sensors. The application of PICs has even reached space, with Hispasat and the European Space Agency using components based on this technology.
Meanwhile, in the defense sector, PIC-based Electronic Warfare systems are being developed. The ability of PICs to uniformly process a wide range of frequencies makes them especially useful in applications where speed, efficiency and spectrum spread are critical.
Europe’s push for photonics technology
Spain is taking a leading position in supporting the development and adoption of photonics technology. There are several poles of knowledge, design, development and manufacturing in Barcelona, Valencia and Vigo mainly and PERTE CHIP actions have specific budgets for this technology.
Photonics and the future of the business world
Photonics and PIC technology represent a significant opportunity for companies in a variety of industries. While we face the challenges of materials integration and development, the advantages of PICs in terms of energy efficiency, speed and processability are too great to ignore.
Companies that are able to adopt and adapt their products to these emerging technologies will be at the forefront of their respective industries. With the rapid evolution of PIC technology, the future promises to be bright for those who are ready to enter the era of photonics.
The next chapter in business evolution
The era of photonics, driven by PIC technology, promises to revolutionize not only how businesses operate, but also how we live our lives. We are already seeing this technology transform the way we transmit, process and store information, with applications ranging from improving efficiency in data centers to developing more accurate and less invasive sensors in the healthcare sector. In the automotive and aerospace industry, Lidar systems and PIC-based fiber sensors are undergoing testing, promising a future of safer and more efficient vehicles and aircraft.
Even in space and defense, PICs are proving their worth. As we overcome current obstacles and advance the development and integration of PICs, the scope of their applications will only continue to grow.
There is no doubt that we are at the dawn of a new era in which photonics will play an increasingly important role in shaping our future.
Carlos Founaud, Innovation Director of Grupo Oesía