Higher-Density Laser Spectrophotometer Chip

Development of the world’s first micro-transfer-printed (mTP) silicon-photonics-based laser.

Size comparison of Rockley’s new mTP laser array (Graphic credit: Business Wire)

Rockley Photonics, a global leader in photonics-based health monitoring and communications solutions, announced that it has developed what it believes to be the world’s first micro-Transfer-Printed (mTP) silicon-photonics-based laser for commercial applications. This groundbreaking achievement is expected to allow Rockley to further increase the density and reduce the size of its high-density spectrophotometer chips — which are already the world’s smallest for broadband infrared wavelength laser spectrometry (covering 1000 nanometers of the spectrum)and are smaller in area than LED-based solutions currently used in wearables.

This advancement could potentially have a significant impact across a wide range of applications, including the design of exceptionally small wearable devices for detecting and measuring multiple biomarkers. New silicon-photonics-based biosensing chips using mTP technology are expected to be available in the first half of 2024. The new chip technology should not impact the upcoming launch of Rockley’s Bioptx™ biosensing band nor any current-generation products that Rockley and its customers are developing, reports BusinessWire.

With this breakthrough in the mTP of silicon-photonics-based lasers, Rockley has dramatically increased the laser density of its photonics integrated circuits (PICs) for biosensing, creating what it believes to be the world’s highest-density broad-wavelength laser spectrophotometer chip, surpassing its own previous achievements. Moreover, the mTP process is expected to reduce manufacturing costs and enable thinner, smaller footprints and higher-density chip designs. These attributes are powerful benefits for use in consumer and MedTech devices and could facilitate the integration of Rockley’s biosensing technology into future tiny wearables.

Leveraging the mTP process, the new PIC technology will integrate a laser-generating “membrane” with a thickness of only 4 microns. The potential applications for this higher-density and smaller-footprint chip technology extend beyond biosensing and health monitoring into other areas, such as ultra-small wearables, clothing, or XR/VR/AR headsets, and glasses.

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This mTP breakthrough is the direct result of Rockley’s multi-year partnership with the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork in Ireland, X-Celeprint Limited, and the Irish Photonics Integration Centre (IPIC), with funding support from the Irish government’s Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF). The project started five years ago with a focus on developing a custom mTP process for Rockley’s silicon photonics platform and has involved a multidisciplinary team of world-class engineers and researchers. This technology, along with many other Rockley innovations, is backed by a robust multidisciplinary patent portfolio of over 200 issued patents and 295 pending patents in total.

“Applying the micro-transfer printing process to the production of integrated lasers is a huge breakthrough that we believe will have a tremendous impact on wearable biosensing and on the photonics industry as a whole,” said Dr. Andrew Rickman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Rockley. “We arguably have some of the most sophisticated photonics technology in the world, and this unprecedented level of miniaturization raises the bar even further. By creating biosensing chips that are smaller, lower-cost, and more efficient, we can continually improve our wearable biosensing products and deliver novel, relevant, and more powerful ways to monitor our health.”

“I believe that this next-gen, heterogeneous integration platform will lead to several significant technological advancements, including higher densities of lasers, increasingly smaller chip sizes, and ultra-high-volume manufacturing,” said Aaron Zilkie, Chief Technology Officer of photonics at Rockley. “The team has been working on this project for years, and we are extremely excited to have reached this important milestone. We are grateful for the close collaboration we’ve had with our research partners and for the funding support from the Irish government and its Science Foundation Ireland and Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.”

About Rockley Photonics

A global leader in photonics-based health monitoring and communications solutions, Rockley Photonics is developing a comprehensive range of photonic integrated circuits and associated modules, sensors, and full-stack solutions. From next-generation sensing platforms specifically designed for mobile health monitoring and machine vision to high-speed, high-volume solutions for data communications, Rockley is laying the foundation for a new generation of applications across multiple industries. Rockley believes that photonics will eventually become as pervasive as micro-electronics, and it has developed a platform with the power and flexibility needed to address both mass markets and a wide variety of vertical applications.

Formed in 2013, Rockley is uniquely positioned to support hyper-scale manufacturing and address a multitude of high-volume markets. Rockley has partnered with numerous tier-1 customers across a diverse range of industries to deliver complex optical systems required to bring transformational products to market.

Sam Draper
December 28, 2022

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