Optical Connections Magazine Spring 2023



In this article, Ivan Nikitski , EPIC’s Photonics Technology Program Manager, talks to Philippe Babin , CEO of AEPONYX, a Montreal-based developer of Photonic Integrated Circuits (PIC) for telecom, datacom and life science markets.

What’s the background to your appointment as CEO at AEPONYX?

a single chip for applications like tuneable transceivers and optical circuit switching for data centres and telecom. We are known for a tuneable optical filtering/ switching (TOF/S) platform combining the low loss of silicon nitride (SiN) waveguides with a proprietary design for thermo- optically tuned wavelength selectivity. We are also launching a tuneable laser for telecom and sensing applications. For select customers we provide the chips for their end products

that they wanted to combine into a single product. Their original idea was to work in medical applications, but we saw a great opportunity to use the technology to build our own tuneable transceivers and optical switches. To cut a long story short, we licensed the technology and started doing small proof-of-concepts in the University labs and then looked for micro-electro- mechanical systems (MEMS) foundries capable of manufacturing the products. With a workforce of around 40 and equity funding of 21 million Canadian dollars together with government grants and tax credits, the last 8 years have been focused entirely on R & D. We will launch our first commercial product later this year and will scale up in 2023.


PB After graduating with a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, I joined C-Mac Microcircuits Inc. as a Process Engineer, and in 1999, I became Director of Manufacturing of production and process engineering for their print and laser departments. In 2001, I moved to Mediatrix Telecom Inc, a division of Media5 Corporation, where I worked first as R & D Director, and from 2006 as Director of product line management. Then in 2008, I was promoted to General Manager and VP Worldwide Sales of Media5 Corporation with responsibility for the management of all the operations of the company including Finance, Legal, Administration, R&D, Sales, and Production. In 2012 I set up my own consulting firm in international sales and marketing development of IT and telecommunication products, which led to my appointment as Vice-President Sales & Marketing at AEPONYX Inc., a VC backed start-up based in Montreal developing optical switching technologies. Two years later, I was asked to take over as AEPONYX’s CEO.

Who are your foundry partners?


We’ve been able to use a nearby foundry called C2MI, the largest microelectronic systems research


What products are you developing?

and development centre in Canada. C2MI has a fully industrial, automated MEMS line that we’ve used to create our first prototypes and the first chips. They also have an optical packaging facility and a full PCB line so we’ve been able to finalise and complete our product offering. C2MI is ideal for prototyping and qualification for low volumes of up to 500 wafers a year for a product. As we are seeing demand for much larger volumes, we’ve been working with a larger foundry outside Canada, which we have not yet made public, although we intend to announce it in 2023. Working with these fabs to align processes has taken many years. Compared with traditional foundries which have standardised processes based on process design kits (PDKs), working with a MEMS foundry has been more difficult because in our case there are no PDKs. But we have many specialist fab


PB We have two high volume products in our pipeline. The first is our R.O.C.S. 2, a resource optical configuration system tool for use as an optical switch to go inside artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) data centres. This product provides a failover bypass functionality in the form of a low-cost, low energy optical circuit switch for applications at 400 Gbps and above. The second product is the R.O.C.S. 8, which has a slightly different application but has the same goals as R.O.C.S.2, in that it is designed to provide low latency between the graphics processing unit (GPU) and the central processing unit (CPU). Our additional products include optical chips based on silicon nitride (SiN) photonics combined with planar MEMS on

How has the company developed since then?


Our initial focus was on dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) type solutions for data


centres and access networks that involved reselling products from South Korea. Then in 2014, we met two scientists who were developing silicon photonics and MEMS


| ISSUE 32 | Q1 2023


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