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14 February 2011
Research into optoelectronic integrated circuits is becoming more intense judging by the news that Intel and the US military are backing a new silicon photonics foundry.  The Optoelectronic Systems Integration in Silicon (OpSIS) project was officially launched on 1 February.
The aim of OpSIS is to make it radically easier and cheaper to make photonic systems on a chip, says its director, Michael Hochberg, who is also a professor at the University of Washington.  OpSiS will offer a “shuttle run” prototyping service, which allows researchers to share the cost of expensive, one-off semiconductor wafer production runs across multiple research projects.
The OpSIS project has received about $250,000 in support from Intel, and the US Air Force is chipping in another $500,000 a year for five years, according to reports. The chips themselves will be fabricated by BAE Systems with three shuttle runs planned in the first year, allowing 30—40 research projects to share each one.
A similar approach is also being employed in Europe, where ePIXfab organizes shuttle fabrication runs with IMEC in Belgium and CEA-LETI in France.  Co-funded by the European Union through FP7 and coordinated by IMEC, ePIXfab plans to offer six shuttle runs in 2011.
by Pauline Rigby