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Optical Interconnects

Electric panel optical fiber floodlight

An Advanced Materials Foundation for Handling Big Data

Cloud computing, on-demand entertainment and mobile connectivity are all driving exponential growth in data, and pushing transfer speeds and densities beyond the functional limits of copper connection. As a result, the industry is exploring light-speed data links based on board-level optical interconnect fabricated from polymer waveguides. Unlike optical fibers, polymer waveguides offer unique options for optical devices, such as co-planar crossings, couplers and splitters. They also offer the potential for making optical assembly as straightforward and as low cost as today's PCB System Assembly.

The challenge, however, is thermal stress. Waveguides fabricated from conventional organic polymers can neither withstand the lead-free solder-reflow temperatures, the high-pressure lamination nor the drilling and plating processes encountered in standard printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication processes.

Breakthrough polymer waveguide silicones from Dow Consumer Solutions are providing a proven alternative. This highly advanced technology promises to help enable development of optical interconnect with low loss and reduced power consumption. Our 850-nm multimode silicone was the first material to be successfully integrated into a PCB lamination with negligible impact on optical performance, and demonstrated it could support 40Gbit/s data rates over 1 meter.

Key Benefits of Our Polymer Waveguide Silicones for Optical Interconnect Include:

  • Low loss: High transparency to light at datacom wavelengths minimizes loss of intensity. Our products have demonstrated losses as low as 0.03 dB/cm.
  • Easy processability: Our curable polymer waveguide silicones begin as a liquid that can be cast using a range of techniques from lab scale spin coating or doctor blading to volume production scale methods such as slot die coating.
  • High-volume production: Dow Consumer Solutions supplies two liquid materials, a clad and a core, that are both photopatternable via familiar film processing and photolithography techniques to simplify fabrication of complex waveguide patterns on conventional PCBs. The core creates the waveguide design, while the cladding helps to easily align features and structures.
  • Durability: Our materials have demonstrated strong resistance to humidity and temperature extremes in accelerated testing, including sustained performance over 500 thermal cycles between -40°C and 120°C. 

Collaborative Innovation

Dow owes its leadership in the development of polymer waveguide silicones to its close collaboration with industry pioneers. Our expert application development support can help customers transition seamlessly from system-level prototyping through to waveguide manufacturing scale-up.