With the increasing bandwidth and miniaturization of control systems, the standard micro-electronic system solutions are reaching their limits. Therefore optical technologies have more potential than micro-electronics and are gaining global interest. Based on similar fabrication technologies and procedures as in micro-electronics, integrated optics is a fast emerging technology area. The main driver is the telecom market, where all optical technology for data communication in the whole trajectory from the source to the customer has the future. Other interesting markets are data processing applications, aviation, machine control, space and astronomy. Optical technology has excellent broadband signal processing characteristics. Optical signal processing solutions are initiated by the excellent properties: bandwidth, compatibility and interference independency. Present technologies used for photonics design and manufacturing are Silica On Glass, Silicon On Insulator, Polymers, and III/V semiconductor technologies like GaAs and InP. Most of these technologies have disadvantages in cost price, reliability or the technical performance. This leaves an opportunity for a better waveguiding technology for a lower cost price which is the aim of this project.
The scope of the Broadband Photonic Beamformer project is the research and development of an integrated waveguiding technology (photonics or micro-optics) to provide broadband photonics solutions. This waveguiding technology must enable the development of broadband frequency independent photonics devices based on newly developed true time delays, based on ring resonator principles. An antenna array radio telescope will perform as a pilot application. The most challenging issue is to obtain a complete supply chain solution, from waveguiding technology, through design principles, product design, manufacturing and an application in an user demonstrator.
It is the objective of this project to solve these issues resulting in:
- a 5 times lower cost price of TripleX related products with respect to the present market prices;
- a high quality photonics product performance;
- a design strategy in a recently discovered, IC compatible, integrated optics technology;
- product complexity reductions;
- high density devices, on-wafer solutions.
An interesting application area is astronomy, caused by the high bandwidth and high accuracy requirements of measurement signals. Advanced antenna array radio telescopes, equipped with many antenna elements over a large area (about 1 square kilometer) require broadband frequency independent signal processing for a well defined “galaxy picture”. The need for phase plane corrections, which has to be obtained by adjustment of every single antenna element in the total array, must be executed by True Time Delays instead of phase control. True Time Delays will be perfectly suitable for this purpose and the research and development of such components will be part of the project. True Time Delay circuits based on new ring resonator principles can be manufactured with new photonics technologies which are to be developed within this project.