Q&A: Why POET Technologies Will Have a Positive Daily Impact on the World
December 16th, 2020
The innovations developed by POET Technologies will “penetrate the day-to-day life for all of us.” So says POET’s President and General Manager Vivek Rajgarhia during Part 2 of an interview with Canadian journalist Adrian Brijbassi. Rajgarhia discusses why he believes the company is on the way to becoming a foundational part in numerous applications that positively impact the world of optical communications and data transmission.
In addition, Rajgarhia, who has spent more than three decades in the fiber-optics semiconductor industry, revealed why he was drawn to POET, a company that until late in 2020 had been in the research-and-development phase of its evolution. In November 2019, Rajgarhia joined POET in a leadership role after consulting with the company for a month. He references a “very large customer endorsement” that was a key reason why he was swayed to come aboard and help drive POET’s commercialization efforts.
Also participating in the interview were POET’s Chief Financial Officer, Thomas Mika, and its Vice-President of Product Marketing and Business Development, Edward Cornejo. The conversation follows an earlier discussion that focused on the company’s recently announced tapeout of its Multi-Product Wafer Mask Set and its technology road map that promises a breakthrough in co-packaged optics. [View Q&A Part 1]
Q: Some very large and well-known semiconductor manufacturers have not achieved what POET has done with its optical interposer. People will be skeptical a small company such as POET could accomplish what it says it has. How has POET done it and why could these other big companies not do it? And that’s not necessarily an engineering question, but perhaps a question that singles out an aspect of the company that allows the engineering team to do what it does. It could be intellectual property, or leadership, or organizational makeup.
Rajgarhia: Focus is always a big part of what we do. There are people of different disciplines who have been involved in order to provide that focus and put all this together. There is no one person, although I would say Suresh Venkatesan, our CEO, has been our leader of making sure the different aspects are in place to make it happen: the devices of the interposer, the material system, the deposition process, how we work with the foundries, and getting the right talent and skills to come into the company. There is experience, of course, that Suresh brings from his decades of semiconductor process heading up technology at Global Foundries. So, bringing all that and putting in the focus and working with the foundry partners has been a key.
But at the end of the day it is also validating the work that has been important. We have done this step by step and that’s why it has taken several years to get to this point. We have also developed and worked with lasers, which is a critical element of integration on this interposer platform. We have the know-how and design expertise, and have worked with our partners very closely to develop how the laser will get integrated into our interposer.
Thomas Mika: If I could just add one thing. The fundamental properties of the low-loss waveguides have a material impact I think on the whole ability to put the interposer together. It’s kind of fundamental to it.
Edward Cornejo: I would add one more thing too, and I think Vivek you touched on it. I’ve been in the industry for 30-plus years myself, and in all that time it has always been about process. Making a laser diode itself takes a lot of process controls and a lot of know-how, and much of that is kind of a black box. You can’t just create a recipe and it’s done. I would say the interposer is like that. It has taken time to develop all the key features.
The stuff we’re doing is not very easy. You’re talking about submicron alignments and things like that. But Suresh has a very deep background with CMOS and he’s taken that know-how into optics, and he has surrounded himself now with optics people. He’s definitely a leading process expert and I think that has a lot to do with what we’ve accomplished.
Q: During the December 8, 2020, webcast on Agoracom.com, CFO Thomas Mika said POET is going to be huge. I take it, Vivek, you agree.
Rajgarhia: When I joined POET, what hit me was that this has the potential to be what the transistor was to vacuum tubes. That may be a big statement, but it is a game-changer. The penetration of this platform is so wide. It can go into our daily lives, basically.
Q: I was going to ask, what does “huge” look like to you? I guess you’ve answered that with those words.
Rajgarhia: Yeah, ’huge’ to me is a game-changer where it will penetrate into day-to-day life for all of us. That is very impactful. We can impact the entirety of the transmission of technology and the performance of devices.
Q: It has been one year and one month since you joined POET. What is it that would attract someone with your industry experience to a company of this small size that was largely an R&D operation until very recently?
Rajgarhia: What I understood about the optical interposer platform, it didn’t take too much time to realize this could be a game-changer. But in the optical fields there are many technologies and many people working on them and you ask yourself, ‘Which one has the likelihood of success?’
That’s really the biggest question. I’ve worked with many, many interesting technologies, but they don’t see the light of the day, no pun intended. [laughing]
Here, what I saw is, ‘Hey, there is this technology and it is getting real.’
So it came down really to three things:
- The technology is workable to make a final commercial product.
- There was a very large customer endorsement and that customer has a lot of experience in fiber-optics and semiconductor technology and that gave me another level of confidence.
- And, third, of course, money is important, and the money came in with the sale of Denselight. So if you recall my appointment was around the time where the Denselight deal was consummated, and I knew we would have the finances in place.
So those three things were put together and I saw that this was a great opportunity to make an impact in the industry.
Q: POET is included in a new Global Photonic Integrated Circuit Market Report alongside some big names in the industry. What reaction do you have when you look at the report and see your company listed with the likes of Infinera and Intel?
Cornejo: I think we have a platform where we can definitely combine all kinds of the optical devices and the key electronics. So it is a very good integration platform. We are not trying to force silicon to pump out photons at the needed wavelengths. Other reputable companies have tried and failed to make silicon lasers for the wavelength band needed for this market. We’re using the best material systems yielding optimal optoelectronic performance, but still integrating it at the wafer level..
Rajgarhia: I think it’s great that we are listed with them. At the same time, what we are doing, as Ed mentioned, is a little bit different. We have the ability to do hybrid integration. To bring different technologies and material systems together on the optical interposer. So, you know, I think it is great news that we are with them, but I do believe what we are doing could be even more impactful.
Note: Author Adrian Brijbassi has previously written about POET Technologies for the Globe & Mail and has since become an investor in the company.
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