An Application Specific Photonic Integrated Circuit (ASPIC) is an optical chip designed for a dedicated purpose. Similar to electronics, ASPICs allows a variety of solutions, all based on a small set of components.

Application Specific Photonic Integrated Circuits
Unlike integrated electronics where silicon is the dominant material, ASPICs have been fabricated on different material platforms having each of them providing advantages and limitations depending on the functions to be integrated. For instance, Silica has desirable properties for passive components like Arrayed Waveguide Gratings (AWGs) while GaAs or InP allow direct integration of active components, i.e. lights sources, detectors and others. Although the fabrication process is similar to integrated electronics, there is no dominant device like the transistor. The range of photonic functions include low loss interconnect waveguides, power splitters, optical amplifiers, optical modulators, filters, lasers, detectors, etc.

The versatile ability to replace traditional assemblies of multiple discrete optical or micro-optical components by a single small sized chip, make ASPICs highly favorable for next generation optical systems for benefits in cost reduction, functionality aggregation and standardization of specifications and processes. Certainly this broad applicable versatility requires the need for standardization to preserve compatibility between the development platforms allowing to integrate the best of worlds to provide the best possible solution available. In that respect valuable lessons in platform material selection for ASPICs are repeatedly discussed which ultimately will determine the success of the ASPICs industry. For instance, several successes have been achieved in both InP, SOI and TriPleX based systems. As cost and performance may currently prove silicon-based devices preferable, it is certainly the capability of having both passive and active functions combined that proves InP more worthwhile depending on the required system functionality. Moreover, the integration of both electronic circuits with photonics circuits, i.e. hybrid systems, will most likely lead to more applicable development platforms yet to be invented.

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