• Length:
    7 Weeks
  • Effort:
    7–9 hours per week
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A background in silicon photonics, fiber optics, or III-V semiconductors is recommended, but not required. Proficiency in linear algebra and calculus will enhance understanding of design concepts.

About this course

Skip About this course
Photonics Integrated Circuits (PICs) are analogs to the computer microprocessor chip, poised to partner light-manipulating optical devices and transistor-based electronics for a vast array of modern applications in cloud computing, high-speed mobile wireless, smart sensing, augmented imaging, and quantum communications. PIC circuits create, guide, sort, and read information as signals of light, routed through a dizzying maze of hundreds of devices packed in an area about a millimeter on its side.

How can you design a circuit brimming with so much device density and interconnectedness, all by yourself? How can you do this design reliably, time and time again? How do you ensure your circuit is consistent with the design of others, so that you can both interpret each other’s chip architectures and applications?

Welcome to fabless photonics, the new paradigm for designing high-fidelity PICs.   

This course introduces you to PIC design using a standardized Process Design Kit (PDK) library as your builders’ rulebook, and Electronic Photonic Design Automation (EPDA) software as your architecture tools. You’ll be guided through a step-by-step sequence giving you mastery to
  • model silicon photonic devices;
  • simulate a PIC;
  • layout the PIC chip; and
  • Design Rule Check (DRC) to revise layout into a final blueprint for PIC fabrication.
The course concludes with the creation of a verified “tape-out” design blueprint, ready for potential submission to a Multi-Project Wafer run at the AIM Photonics Institute—the world’s leading 300mm fabrication facility for high performance silicon PICs.

The course is structured around the design of a basic transceiver, and starts off with an overview of fabless PIC design followed by a review of passive photonic devices  (waveguides, bends, splitters/combiners, interferometers). You’re then walked through the process of designing the transceiver chip with a focus on two active devices (electro-optic modulator, photodetector). The course highlights device compact models as the PDK methodology for flexible simulation and layout of PIC chip designs, and rigorously trains you in EPDA industry-standard software from Synopsys, Lumerical, Mentor Graphics, and the freeware KLayout.

To earn a verified certificate for this course, you must agree to the terms and conditions of the End-User License Agreements for the EPDA software and the Education PDK, as accessed via an online cloud weblink.

Completion of the course shows your professional engineer-level design aptitude in fabless integrated photonics, for leading edge industrial applications poised to transform modern manufacturing and the global economy in the next two decades.

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • An in-depth exposure to the AIM Photonics Education PDK and its design guides.
  • Proficiency in EPDA software and how to assess your future design software needs.
  • How to model photonic devices, and create compact models for them.
  • How to simulate, layout, and DRC-check a PIC.
  • How to create modular building blocks and address performance trade-offs in fabless circuit design.

Meet your instructors

Stefan Preble
Professor, Kate Gleason College of Engineering
Rochester Institute of Technology
Jaime Cardenas
Assistant Professor of Optics
University of Rochester
Alan Kost
Assistant Professor of Optics
University of Arizona
Lionel Kimerling
Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Frequently asked questions

Is there a textbook for this course?
There is no textbook assigned for this course. However, the textbook Silicon Photonics Design: From Devices to Systems (by Lukas Chrostowski and Michael Hochberg) is a helpful reference for supplementing and fortifying your understanding of many key concepts introduced here.

How do I access the EPDA software and Education PDK electronic library?
The EPDA software and Education PDK are securely stored on an online cloud service, outside of the MITx course site. Only verified students, who have registered for a course certificate, will be allowed to access this external website via a secure login. Students will not be allowed to upload anything to this cloud service, nor will they be allowed to download anything from it. To complete secure login access, verified students must agree each time they log in to End-User License terms and conditions for responsible conduct to work with the EPDA software and the Education PDK.

If I only want to audit the course, can I still access the EPDA software and Education PDK electronic library?
Auditors are not allowed to access the external online cloud service, they will not be able to work with the EPDA software design tools or the Education PDK library.

As a verified student, will my final design tape-out file really be ready—in principle—to submit to an AIM Photonics fabrication run?
Yes, successful completion of this course requires verified students to submit a final design tape-out electronic file that could—in principle—be submitted to an AIM Photonics Institute fabrication run, the very next day. The certificate you earn for this course is awarded for successful completion of a design project, comprised of a tape-out electronic file and a written report.

Is there any opportunity for me to participate with my final design tape-out in an AIM Photonics fabrication run?
For verified students who have successfully completed this course, the best tape-out designs submitted on the online cloud service will be selected for submission to an AIM Photonics Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) fabrication run. Please inquire of the course lecturers and course manager if you’ll like to learn more.

When will I receive my certificate?
Upon completion of the course, submitted design projects will be scrupulously reviewed and graded over a several-week period, after which you’ll be awarded your certificate.
Image courtesy M.L. Fanto & S.F. Preble, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). AIM Photonics Academy education chips (designed by Rochester Institute of Technology, Boston University and University of Rochester)

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners from one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. EdX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.