VCSEL Technology For Next Generation 3D Sensing Applications


Part 1 discussed the market and application drivers for VCSEL based LiDAR in rising new functions like AoT ™ (Autonomy of Issues), AR/VR (Augmented/Digital Actuality) and good glasses. These functions would require VCSELs will to evolve in a number of dimensions. Prices and capability will develop into more and more necessary as VCSEL array sizes enhance (~1 mm² in good telephones to 30 mm² for automotive). Attaining excessive system yields throughout considerably extra emitters and bigger floor areas is difficult. Electro-optical effectivity (W/A) and energy density (W/ mm²) efficiency wants to enhance. Greater wavelengths are useful (presently, excessive energy VCSELs function within the 8XX-9XX nm areas that are much less eye-safe relative to the 12XX-15XX nm vary). The flexibility to activate sure parts of the VCSEL to help Area of Curiosity (ROI) imaging is turning into more and more necessary (addressability). LiDAR-on-a-chip is the last word state of nirvana, the place the totally different LiDAR capabilities (photon emission, detection, focusing, filtering, management, information acquisition and information evaluation are built-in at a semiconductor wafer degree on a single photonic-electronic chip). Lastly, some prospects consider consider that environmentally pleasant manufacturing with excessive ranges of waste recycling and a low carbon footprint will develop into vital transferring ahead.

This text (Half 2) discusses how contributors within the provide chain are responding to those wants.


It Begins With the Substrate Materials

Presently, industrial VCSELs use 6” Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) wafers because the substrate materials. This is smart since GaAs has the optimum band hole vitality and different properties that permit it to generate photons effectively on the 8XX-9XX nm wavelengths. Traditionally, such VCSELs used 4” substrates for information communication functions. GaAs is brittle and topic to wafer bowing, making it difficult to make use of bigger substrate diameters. These challenges have been overcome, enabling a transition to six” substrates as VCSEL-based sensing penetrated good telephone functions. With new functions, prices and capability wants will drive the transition to bigger wafer sizes.

Umicore (primarily based in Belgium) provides 6” and eight” Germanium (Ge) substrates for numerous functions starting from area photo voltaic cells to LEDs and µLED shows (Disclosure: I’m an advisor to Umicore). They consider that Ge substrates are a pure option to help the transition to bigger wafers for VCSELs utilized in LiDAR and 3D sensing. Determine 2 compares key materials properties for silicon, Ge and GaAs.

Ge is an elemental semiconductor versus a compound semiconductor alloy like GaAs. This enables for a zero defect (dislocations) substrate materials. The upper fracture toughness permits bigger wafer sizes with decrease ranges of wafer bow. Wafer thickness may be lowered by way of selective etching for higher thermal switch, enabling greater VCSEL powers and reliability. GaAs remains to be the energetic lasing materials and deposited onto the Ge substrate utilizing lattice-matched hetero-epitaxy.

Umicore lately published a paper proposing the usage of giant diameter Ge substrates as the following revolution in VCSEL manufacturing. Previous to this, the corporate labored with IQE (globally, the most important service provider epitaxy development service supplier and a vital a part of the VCSEL provide chain as mentioned under) to construct and characterize 940 nm VCSELs utilizing epitaxial development of GaAs materials on 6” Ge substrates. The work showed excellent performance parity with VCSELs grown on traditional GaAs 6” substrates.

Migration to eight” diameter substrates is the following step. Area photo voltaic cells initially used 4” and 6” substrates and the transfer to eight” substrates is imminent. Preliminary outcomes on 8” Germanium substrates that have been evaluated for performance, purity and manufacturing scalability are promising. The shift to bigger wafer sizes follows the time-honored maxim of the semiconductor trade: proceed rising wafer dimension as new functions demand greater efficiency, decrease price and elevated manufacturing capability. Primarily based on inner evaluation, Umicore estimates a 5X discount in VCSEL price as soon as the transition to eight” Ge substrates happens. Aside from price advantages, transferring to Ge permits CMOS foundry compatibility, enabling high-volume, low-cost integration with driver electronics. That is already occurring for the µ-LED show market.

Wannes Peferoen is the Senior Vice President of the Electro-optics Supplies Enterprise Unit at Umicore. He highlights inexperienced manufacturing and environmental friendliness as one other vital benefit of Ge substrates. The flexibility to recycle Ge from all kinds of complicated waste streams permits Umicore to supply over 50% of its Ge wants by way of recycling. The opposite 50% makes use of major sources with a low carbon footprint and GWP (World Warming Potential). This, together with the truth that sharpening and thinning residue may be recycled results in inexperienced and secure manufacturing processes as in comparison with Arsenic wealthy GaAs processing. Ge substrates develop into a lovely resolution as functions and volumes proliferate, and the trade ecosystem seems to develop into extra environmentally pleasant and sustainable.


Subsequent Is the Epitaxial Progress (Epi)

VCSEL designers create the precise construction of semiconductor supplies and dopants, together with layer thicknesses and compositions required to generate photons on the acceptable wavelengths and energy on the emitting aspects of the VCSEL. At 8XX-9XX nm wavelengths, this entails complicated semiconductors like GaAs and AlGaAs, which may be grown on GaAs or Ge substrates. The expansion is achieved on reactors that use a mixture of vacuum, stress and temperature. Many VCSEL producers have inner capabilities to service this want, though there are specialised service provider foundries specializing in epitaxial development providers for a number of prospects. IQE (primarily based in Wales, UK) is among the largest suppliers of such providers on the earth in the present day, and a number one provider of VCSEL Epi wafers for functions starting from smart-phones to 3D facial recognition. This quantity manufacturing heritage has enabled them to refine and optimize the method, enhance development high quality and scale back prices. They’ve put in vital capability to satisfy present wants, and have deliberate for enlargement as new functions like automotive LiDAR emerge.

Present VCSEL epi development is completed on 4 or 6” GaAs wafers. There could be an choice sooner or later to transition to eight” Ge substrates if demand will increase considerably. The company is investing significant research to prepare for this eventuality, and has already demonstrated efficiency parity between VCSELs grown on each GaAs and Ge substrates. Associated work has centered on extending the wavelength range to the 1200-1550 nm region. In response to Andrew Johnson, Technical Director at IQE, Ge substrates are higher suited to longer wavelength operation (which require thicker grating constructions) as a result of its lattice properties create decrease residual pressure within the epitaxial stack. This, together with the upper fracture toughness of Ge relative to GaAs results in greater manufacturing yields. Greater output energy by way of use of multi-junction VCSELs and chip addressability inside an emitter array are different necessary issues for his or her prospects. IQE collaborates with them carefully on the epitaxial development course of to allow these capabilities.


Lastly, VCSEL Suppliers Course of the Wafer, Bundle, Check and Ship the Ultimate Machine

VCSEL suppliers personal the product design and ship it to prospects to deal with a various vary of functions. Dominant suppliers embody Lumentum and II-VI (which purchased Finisar in 2019). Trumpf, AMS (which acquired Princeton Optronics, Vixar and Osram) and Broadcom are the opposite giant VCSEL suppliers.


Lumentum controls ~ 50% of the worldwide VCSEL market (estimated at ~$1B in the present day). They declare to have bought ~ 1B VCSELs so far, a big share of that are for smart-phone LiDAR functions. Automotive LiDAR, AR/VR, industrial sensing, superior biometrics, entry management and wearable units are future functions of curiosity. Lumentum dietary supplements its inner Epi functionality by way of use of service provider suppliers like IQE (see above). Submit Epi wafer processing for six” GaAs primarily based VCSELs is achieved with exterior suppliers like Win Semiconductor in Taiwan. The flexibility to do its personal Epi in-house permits it to develop and management mental property, and advance the VCSEL efficiency at a speedy tempo.

David Cheskis, Product Director for 3D Sensing at Lumentum, laid out the roadmap for the corporate’s VCSEL product line. The main target is to repeatedly enhance high quality, efficiency and scale of present product platforms. Options are added as new functions and necessities develop. One instance of that is the event of 940 nm multi-junction VCSEL arrays to extend optical output energy (vital for automotive LiDAR which requires ranges upward of 200 m versus good telephones which require efficiency to ~10 m). The trick is to embed a number of emitting aspects (electrically linked in collection) inside a single VCSEL system. Lumentum claims that their five junction VCSELs are electrically efficient (optical energy of > 4W/A), energy density 1.5 kW/mm² of die space at 25°C, 8 ns pulse width and 0.01% responsibility cycle), see Determine 3. Such a low responsibility cycle will not be relevant to lengthy vary automotive LiDAR (sometimes responsibility cycles of at the least 0.1% are required). In response to Mr. Cheskis, this efficiency is maintained at responsibility cycles as excessive as 0.3%.

One other instance is enabling matrix and column degree addressability suitable with detector readout circuits. That is necessary for focusing laser and computing sources in areas of curiosity (ROI) that matter. Lumentum has developed designs of metallic interconnect layers inside multi-junction VCSEL architectures to make this potential. Integration of the semiconductor with driver electronics and micro-optics is one other improvement thrust. Optics integration is necessary from a beam shaping/management perspective and achieved by way of a wafer-level bottom etching course of. When it comes to integration, Lumentum both provides the VCSEL chip to prospects (with or with out micro-optics) or full modules with built-in optics and drive electronics. It recently announced a 10W peak power VCSEL module for short range LiDAR applications.


II-VI is dominant VCSEL provider, and has shipped a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of units for shopper functions over the previous few years. The corporate is vertically built-in when it comes to VCSEL design and manufacturing. This enables for strict management of the end-to-end course of, leading to greater high quality and yields, and a cost-efficient worth chain with out margin stacking. As VCSEL sizes get bigger (for instance, with automotive LiDAR functions), the corporate believes it may possibly leverage its expertise, vertical integration and high quality management benefits to realize comparable high quality and yield metrics.

Giant investments have been made in its 6” GaAs primarily based VCSEL manufacturing platform to deal with shopper functions. In response to Gerald Dahlmann, Director, Strategic Advertising and marketing, Shopper Electronics at II-VI, “The trade scaled up from 4-inch to 6-inch, when 3D sensing in shopper electronics elevated the demand for VCSEL actual property by greater than an order of magnitude inside a brief time period. It might take an identical step enhance in demand to justify a transition to 8-inch wafers.”

In response to Mr. Dahlmann, the corporate is continually pushing the boundaries of the know-how to enhance efficiency. It lately launched multi-junction VCSEL constructions to extend the facility density (W/mm²) and effectivity (W/A). Enhancements in epitaxy designs to reduce losses and self-heating have enabled excessive energy conversion effectivity. With this structure, a number of energetic areas are vertically stacked onto one another and linked in collection. Determine 3 exhibits the construction and efficiency of the optimized multi-junction VCSEL:

Mr. Dahlmann signifies that rising the variety of junctions (5) and pulse width (3 ns), and decreasing the responsibility cycle (0.1%) delivers > 1 kW/mm² peak energy with a chip dimension of 0.8 mm². Wavelength shifts with temperature are low, sometimes < 0.1 nm/°C. In instances the place extra wavelength precision is required, energetic temperature stabilization through Peltier thermoelectric coolers (a enterprise that II-VI is dominant in) could have to be built-in.

Present VCSEL merchandise equipped by II-VI have a level of addressability. Implementing greater ranges of addressability requires a back-side emitting structure or further conductive layers to permit crossing of metallic traces. These are underneath improvement. Different areas of improvement embody integration of the VCSEL with driver electronics to enhance the efficiency and create lighter and extra compact modules. Finally, the corporate envisions integration of a number of constructing blocks of a LiDAR onto the identical chip – mild sources and modulators on the transmit facet and photodetectors and de-modulators on the obtain facet. A number of know-how platforms inside its portfolio allow this together with indium-phosphide photonic built-in circuits (PICs), and demodulators and detectors for coherent FMCW LiDAR.


The efficiency, price and capability calls for for VCSELs will enhance with new functions that handle security and productiveness functions. Extending the VCSEL wavelength is disruptive, and sure higher performed with Ge as a substitute of GaAs substrates. The transfer from 6” to eight” substrates will happen as demand ramps, according to the experiences within the area photo voltaic cell and LED companies, and general semiconductor trade norms. The true query is when, not if. Keep tuned.



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