Teem Raises Component Steam

French components startup Teem Photonics is hoping to splash big in the U.S. tomorrow with an announcement of a $31 million round of financing from Baker Capital Corp. and Weiss Peck & Greer Venture Partners LP.

The size of the deal reflects Teem Photonics’s achievements in developing optical integrated circuits that incorporate both active and passive devices. It claims that it’s gone further than anybody else in this field and that its products will lead to big reductions in the cost of equipment targeting metro networks.

Teem uses a proprietary ion-exchange process to make waveguides (the optical equivalent of tiny electrical circuits) in wafers of silica (a pure form of glass). It does this by masking the wafer and immersing it in molten chemicals.

If the silica is doped with erbium, a rare earth metal, Teem can make active devices, like amplifiers that require electrical power to work. If the silica isn’t doped, then Teem can make passive devices, like multiplexers that split light into different colors without needing any electrical power.

Right now, Teem has to make active and passive devices on separate chips and then glue them together, after carefully aligning them. “But the goal is to integrate everything on a single wafer,” says Denis Barbier, an executive vice president at Teem. “That will be the next step.”

Teem has already developed some revolutionary components using its techniques. In particular, it’s made eight “erbium doped waveguide amplifiers” (EDWAs) on a single chip, which it bonds to a 1-by-8 passive splitter. The EDWAs only deliver a small boost in light power -- 7 dBm (5 milliwatts) and 12 dBm (16 milliwatts), depending on the model -- but that’s sufficient for many metro applications, according to David Heatley, Teem’s North American vice president. They cost a fraction of much more powerful EDFAs (erbium doped fiber amplifiers). “We’re not going for that market,” Heatley adds.

In the long run, Teem plans to make a complete gain block -- incorporating amplifiers, pumps, taps and other devices -- on a single chip. The target price for a single widget of this type is between $3,000 and $4,000, according to Barbier. That might drop to around $1,000 once the market takes off. An EDFA equivalent could easily cost 10 times as much, he adds.

-- Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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