Lockheed Contract Aims to Bring Photonic Chips Closer
Lockheed Martin Corp. in Eagan, MN recently received an $8 million contract to design and develop “highly integrated photonic devices for transition into current emerging tactical platforms for the Air Force.”
Optical integrated circuits would have a wide variety of technology applications, but their biggest impact would be in the field of networking devices. Right now, information can be encoded into light pulses and fired down a fiber-optic tube, but it can only be routed electronically. This means the signal has to be converted into electronic signals, processed electronically, then converted and sent out as light pulses again. Removing the need to convert those signals could speed up networking devices by a couple orders of magnitude. There is also some reason to believe that photonic circuits would be more resistant to electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks.
Under this contract, Lockheed Martin’s specific task will be to “develop key technology to overcome several of the existing constraints with respect to the integration and packaging aspects of the current generation of photonic [devices] by defining the technology path to a realizable system using an optimum combination of optical devices in a chip.” At this time, $2 million has been committed by the USAF Research Laboratory in Rome, NY (FA8750-10-C-0133).