Dow Corning and IBM Scientists Develop New Materials for Board-Level Photonics

  Dow Corning and IBM Scientists Develop New Materials for Board-Level

  *Scientists developed a new flexible polymer material made of
    high-performance silicone to create optical waveguides on printed circuit
    boards that can withstand extreme operating heat and humidity with no
    measurable degradation in performance.
  *The materials can be fabricated into waveguides using conventional
    manufacturing techniques available today.
  *Board-level waveguides will help pave the way for the low-cost integration
    of photonics in energy-efficient supercomputers and data centers.

SPIE Photonics West 2013

Business Wire

SAN FRANCISCO -- February 4, 2013

Today at the Photonics West conference, Dow Corning and IBM scientists
unveiled a major step in photonics, using a new type of polymer material to
transmit light instead of electrical signals within supercomputers and data
centers. This new silicone-based material offers better physical properties,
including robustness and flexibility, making it ideal for applications in Big
Data and for the development of future exascale computers, which are capable
of performing a billion billion computations per second.

With exabytes of structured and unstructured data growing annually at 60
percent, scientists have been researching a range of technological
advancements to drastically reduce the energy required to move all that data
from the processor to the printed circuit board within a computer. Optical
interconnect technology offers bandwidth and power efficiency advantages
compared to established electrical signaling.

“Polymer waveguides provide an integrated means to route optical signals
similar to how copper lines route electrical signals,” explains Dr. Bert Jan
Offrein, manager of the Photonics Research Group at IBM Research. “Our design
is highly flexible, resistant to high temperatures and has strong adhesion
properties – these waveguides were designed with no compromises.”

In a collaboration with Dow Corning, the scientists for the first time
fabricated thin sheets of optical waveguide that show no curling and can bend
to a 1 mm radius and is stable at extreme operating conditions including 85
percent humidity and 85°C. This new polymer, based on silicone materials,
offers an optimized combination of properties for integration in established
electrical printed circuit board technology. In addition, the material can be
fabricated into waveguides using conventional manufacturing techniques
available today.

“Dow Corning’s breakthrough polymer waveguide silicone has positioned us at
the forefront of a new era in robust, data-rich computing, especially as we
continue to collaborate with outstanding industry leaders like IBM,” said Eric
Peeters, vice president, Dow Corning Electronic Solutions. “Optical waveguides
made from Dow Corning's silicone polymer technology offer customers
revolutionary new options for transmitting data substantially faster, and with
lower heat and energy consumption. We are confident that silicone-based
board-level interconnects will quickly supersede conventional electronic
signal distribution to deliver the amazing speeds needed for tomorrow’s

A presentation (entitled Stable and Easily Processable Optical Silicones for
Low-Loss Polymer Waveguides) given here by Brandon Swatowski, application
engineer for Dow Corning Electronics Solutions, reported that fabrication of
full waveguide builds can be completed in less than 45 minutes, and enable a
high degree of process flexibility. Silicone polymer material, which is
dispensed as a liquid, processes more quickly than competitive waveguide
materials such as glass and does not require a controlled atmosphere chamber.

Swatowski’s presentation went on to say that waveguide builds based on the
silicone polymer showed excellent adhesion to polyimide substrates. It also
discussed how optical characterization of the new polymer waveguides silicones
showed losses as low as 0.03 dB/cm, with environmental stability extending
past 2,000 hours exposure to high humidity and temperature, and good
performance sustained over 500 thermal cycles between -40°C and 120°C.

For a copy of Swatowski’s paper please visit:

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