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Integrated microwave photonics

Tap into imec’s optical beamforming platform to develop directional and high-bandwidth communication hardware for the next generation of mobile networks.

Microwave photonics combines two worlds: those of radio frequencies and photonics. It attracts interest from both the research community and the commercial sector for its ability to create functions that are very complex and power-hungry, or not directly possible in the RF domain. For example:

  • broadband and flexible beam shaping and beam steering via phase shifting
  • frequency conversion at a wide RF spectrum – up and beyond 30 GHz

In particular for beamforming networks, imec developed a technology platform that enables multifunctional and high-performance circuits through hybrid integration of microwave photonics components. Now you can gain access to this platform to build hardware components tailored to your applications.

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Value of optical beamforming for telecom networks

At the heart of networks for 5G – and beyond – are beamforming devices that enable directional and high-bandwidth communication links. These devices need to be compact, low-power, and resilient to interference to create flexible bandwidths.

Optical beamforming is the preferred technology for the development of these devices. It allows true time delay from one picosecond to a few nanoseconds. That’s not possible with RF-based beamforming, and is extremely power-consuming with digital beamforming.

Hybrid integration of microwave photonics

As an advanced R&D hub with deep knowledge of materials, circuits, and systems, imec can create optical beamforming devices for telecom that combine the best of two technologies:

  • Indium Phosphide (InP) for Mach-Zehnder interferometers (MZM), lasers and detectors
  • low-loss silicon nitride (SiN) for switches and delay channels

An example is the addition of lasing and amplification to a passive SiN platform by flip-chip bonding of the laser to a SiN waveguide.

Want to discuss the possibilities of integrated microwave photonics for your application?

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