With the upgrading of electronic technology products, people’s requirements for electronic products will become higher and higher, and the key to determining the performance of electronic products lies in the chip. However, as Moore’s Law is gradually approaching the limit of physical laws, the bottleneck of the development of integrated circuits in microelectronics has emerged, and photonic chips that use optical signals for data transmission, processing and storage are expected to become the next generation of chip technology development.

As an emerging technology, photonic chip technology is expected to drive the entire information technology industry into a transition from electrical data to optical data, and will play an important role in the future in development of optical storage, optical display, optical interconnection, optical computing, as well as medical and health, aerospace, defense and other fields. At present, some countries around the world are stepping up their scientific research and industrial layout.

The photonic industry enters the early stage of the outbreak

As we all know, in the past few decades, the development of the computer industry has always followed “Moore’s Law”, the volume of semiconductor circuit transistors has become smaller and smaller, and the number of transistors that can be accommodated on a single chip has become more and more. The rate of doubling in 24 months is increasing iteratively. The increase in the number of transistors means that the faster the processor, the higher the efficiency.

In order to survive in the rapidly developing IT industry, chip manufacturers have also been committed to developing smaller transistors. However, the size of transistors has reached the nanometer level, and the possibility of continuing to shrink the size is gradually becoming smaller. The development of “Moore’s Law” seems to be approaching its limit. At the same time, transistors rely on the movement of electrons to transfer information. In the chip, since photons are not affected by electromagnetic resistance, etc., their propagation speed is faster than electrons, which can reach more than twenty times. This means that if the electronic signals in the semiconductor path are replaced with photons, the computer’s computing speed can be increased by several tens of times without changing the size of the chip.

In the view of industry insiders, optical chips have great potential in increasing the computing speed of computers, and the replacement of microelectronic chips by photonic chips will be the general trend in the future. Compared with microelectronic chips, optical chips have obvious advantages in computing power, energy consumption, cost, and size. Optical chips can not only be used in optical communication equipment, data communication equipment, wireless communication equipment, data centers, supercomputing, IoT sensor, artificial intelligence, etc., but also in consumer fields such as smart phones, tablets, and wearables.

With the advent of the “consumer photonics” era, integrated circuits will move towards the era of integrated optical circuits, breaking through the “Moore’s Law” bottleneck; at the same time, the “consumer electronics” era will transition to the “consumer photonics” era. At present, the entire IT industry is in the process of “from electric to optical”, and now is the best time for the development of integrated optical circuits.

Market research firm MarketsandMarkets predicts that by 2023, the global photonics market will grow from US$520 billion in 2017 to US$780.4 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.0%. The growth of market demand is mainly driven by the growth of application demand in the fields of information and communication technology, medical technology, life sciences, and automated vision. Among them, information and communication technology occupies the largest market share in the entire photonics market, and will maintain a rapid growth trend in the future.