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When applying integration to your custom optical system, we will be developing what is called an Application-Specific Photonic Integrated Circuit (ASPIC).

Photonic chip design does not start with technology but is firstly based on customer specifications. Specifications on the function that the ASPIC should deliver into your product. Once these requirements are clear, the next step is to evaluate the most appropriate integration technology that could deliver the required functionality. Any optical system is composed of multiple building blocks, and it is here that technology comes into play: what specific material platform can be best used to implement the required components?

In this aspect VLC Photonics is technology independent, we will realize your ASPIC in the best suitable technology according to your needs. Therefore, we are not limited to a monolithical system with a single base material, being able to design in the main current material platforms: III-V compounds and Silicon Photonics (InP, SOI, SiO2, Si3N4, etc.). From a customer point-of-view, all this is transparent to your application.

Advantages of Photonic Integration

When integrating an optical system (or part of it) into a chip, you can obtain the following benefits:

  • Miniaturization: less volume and weight

  • Higher thermal and mechanical stability

  • Less power consumption

  • Functional scalability, enabling complex architectures

  • Increased volume manufacturing, reliability and yield

  • Lower cost: reduced Bill-of-Materials and labour time

  • Easier Assembly and Test of numerous and complex systems

Main Technologies

Silicon Photonics
The Silicon Photonics technology platform offers passive light manipulation at a very small footprint, allowed by the relative high contrast index of silicon. Such small chip size, its cheaper base material and its CMOS fabrication compatibility also results in a lower chip price. However, no light amplification is possible at the time, meaning that integration with other technologies will be required for some active functionalities. The main semiconductor materials for this platform are:

  • Thin (220-300 nm) Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI)
  • Thick (2-4 um) Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI)
  • Germanium-on-Silicon (GeOI)

III-V Materials
The III-V Materials technology platform offers light amplification and detection, next to passive light manipulation as filtering, splitting or interfering. In the past 20 years, this technology has been widely used by chip manufacturers to make lasers, modulators and detectors, usually based on one epitaxial growth step. In the last five years, manufacturing technology has evolved to allow for a second or even a third epitaxial growth layer that allows for lower losses, more advanced passive components and electro-optical phase shifters. The main materials for this platform are:

Dielectrics and Other
The Dielectrics technology platform offers passive light manipulation with very low transmission and fiber coupling losses, given the refractive index match of Silica. However, due to the low refractive index contrast, chip size is not as compact as in other technology platforms. Also referred as Planar Lightwave Technology (PLC), it became very popular in the early 2000’s, allowing for a large cost reduction because of mass production of splitters and AWGs. The main materials for this platform are:

  • Silicon Dioxide or Silica (SiO2)
  • Silicon Nitride (Si3N4/SiN) or TriPleXTM, for higher mode confinement and smaller chip size.
  • Silicon Oxinitride (SiON)
  • Polymers


Several markets are enabled by optics and photonics, and thus integration can benefit multiple applications. Below you will find an overview of optical applications currently enabled by photonic integration.

Optical Signal Processing
Optical Communications

Use Cases

Examples of previous developments done at VLC.

Telecom, datacom and RF components
Optical Code Division Multiple Access (OCDMA)
Frequency discrimination photoreceiver


Here you will find photonic integration tutorials and technical whitepapers from VLC Photonics, available for direct download.

Photonic Integration: a step-by-step guide

PIC Magazine, Vol. 1-1 (June 2016)


Elektronik, pp. 26-27 (Mar’2014)

Basic silicon photonic building blocks for commercial applications

Optik&Photonik 8(2), pp. 52-55 (Jun’2013)

  • Current silicon photonics trends
  • Arrayed waveguide grating – AWG
  • Mach-Zehnder Interferomer – MZI
  • Multi-Mode Interference coupler – MMI
  • Ring Resonator – RR
How to Integrate an optical system on a chip

Step-by-step process on how to integrate an optical system into a single photonic chip.

Towards fabless photonic integration
  • Generic photonic integration
  • Foundry/Design house Business model
  • Foundry examples
  • Foundries table
  • Examples of VLC Photonics PICs
Improve your products with photonic integrated circuits
  • What is photonic integration
  • How PICs are fabricated
  • Examples of optical components
  • Examples of integrated photonic chips
  • VLC Photonics way of working

Research and Development

VLC Photonics is also involved in several research activities in the fields of nanotechnology and photonics, mostly focused now in integrated quantum optics and photonic graphene modelling. Below you will find a selection of the most significant scientific contributions as well as current research projects:








  • P. Munoz,  J.D. Domenech, R. Banos, J. Fernández Vicente,  B. Gargallo et al., “Foundry developments towards silicon nitride photonics from visible to the mid-infrared,” in IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics. DOI: 10.1109/JSTQE.2019.2902903
  • Rahim, Abdul & Goyvaerts, Jeroen & Szelag, Bertrand & Fedeli, Jean-Marc & Absil, P.P. & Aalto, Timo & Harjanne, Mikko & Littlejohns, C & T. Reed, Graham & Winzer, Georg & Lischke, Stefan & Lars, Zimmermann & Knoll, D & Geuzebroek, Douwe & Leinse, Arne & Geiselmann, Michael & Zervas, Michael & Jans, Hilde & Stassen, Andim & Baets, Roel. (2019). “Open-Access Silicon Photonics Platforms in Europe.” IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics. PP. 1-1. 10.1109/JSTQE.2019.2915949.

VLC Photonics is open to any R&D collaboration, two-way partnership or in a consortia, with Universities, Research institutions and Private companies. If you are interested in exploring any research topic related to photonic integration, or just getting a copy of any of these publications, please contact us at info(at)

VLC Photonics H2020 Projects

Toward wireless communication systems beyond 0.1 THz radiation for free space sort range and ultra-high bandwidth links

Hybrid photonic integrated technology platform development for fast and dynamic re-allocation of bandwidth in metropolitan networks

Development of an heterogeneous-based platform to integrate InP QD laser structures on SiN waveguides

Development of a high performance and low power reprogrammable photonic integrated circuit based on MEMs SiPh integrated technology

Pilot line for supporting life science and biomedical applications on silicon nitride-based photonic integrated platforms

To drive and co-integrate PIC-based Continuos-Variable Quantum Key Distribution (CV-QKD) and Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) cryptograpy systems into the optical telecommunication netwrok market.

Project that aims to develop 2D single photon sources integration into Photonic Integrated Circuits for quantum photonics applications.