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University Opens Silicon Photonics Chip Design Service

Laser beam pointed at camera (Nayu Kim)The University of Washington in Seattle opens today a new service called OpSIS to help scientists and engineers share the high cost of developing a new type of light-based computer chips. OpSIS — Optoelectronics Systems Integration in Silicon — is a multi-project wafer service for silicon photonics, and part of the university’s College of Engineering.

Silicon photonics makes possible the building of computer chips that move information with light as well as electricity. These chips are made with the same manufacturing techniques as common processing chips found in today’s computers.

OpSIS aims to help engineers and scientists develop new silicon photonic systems by sharing the cost of fabricating complex chip-scale systems across many projects. This  practice, known as a shuttle, was originally developed in the semiconductor microelectronics industry.

The model for OpSis is MOSIS in Marina del Rey, California, a prototyping and small-volume production service for integrated circuit development, established in 1981. MOSIS keeps its costs low by combining designs from many customers into multi-project wafer runs.

The process of sharing development and prototyping costs, which OpSIS plans to adopt, makes it possible for engineers to submit several variations of the same design to the same run, thus reducing the time needed to bring a new chip design to market.

Photo:  Nayu Kim/Flickr

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