Integrated circuits (ICs), or microchips, are essential parts of countless modern technologies from medical devices to smart watches to spacecraft. They consist of a set of electronic components such as transistors, resistors, and amplifiers on a semiconductor wafer.
Much of the functionality of these electrical components can be replaced with photonic components including laser diodes, waveguides, filters, and gain media to create photonic integrated circuits (PICs) which use light instead of electrons to function.
PICs offer numerous advantages over conventional circuits including higher speed, greater bandwidth, and lower energy loss. Hybrid technologies utilizing both PICs and ICs as well as purely photonic circuits are advancing technology and science past the electronics age and into the future, pushing the boundaries of what is possible for telecommunications, computing, defense, and consumer technology.
PICs are still a developing technology, but some photonic-based systems are currently supplementing or replacing electrical components in larger systems with PICs to increase efficiency. PICs will likely continue replacing conventional ICs in a wide range of applications.
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