Advantages of Lightwave Logic Polymer Technology for Photonics Applications (Feb 2020)
LWLG's polymer technology and their substantial intellectual property (IP) offers significant advantages over competing materials and approaches. Below is a summary of the reasons I began investing in Lightwave Logic. I. WHAT IS A PHOTONICS MODULATOR?
A modulator is a device that embeds the information from one signal (the data) into another signal (the carrier), by modifying some property of the carrier signal in a way that represents the data signal. One reason to do this: the carrier signal might move more efficiently through some transmission medium, such as water, air, fiber optics or twisted wire, than would the data signal. In the case of photonics modulators, the purpose of the modulator is to encode the data onto lightwaves generated by a laser and pass the lightwaves down optical fiber. At the receiving end, the optical signal is detected and reconstituted back to the data signal. Passing signals over fiber provides for transmitting signals over great distances with minimal signal loss and distortion.
"Our Company designs its own proprietary electro-optical modulation devices. Electro-optical modulators convert data from electric signals into optical signals that can then be transmitted over high-speed fiber-optic cables. Our modulators are electro-optic, meaning they work because the optical properties of the polymers are affected by electric fields applied by means of electrodes. Modulators are key components that are used in fiber optic telecommunications, data communications, and data centers networks etc., to convey the high data flows that have been driven by applications such as pictures, video streaming, movies etc., that are being transmitted through the internet. Electro-optical modulators are expected to continue to be an essential element as the appetite and hunger for data increases every year."
In an earlier post
, I included some graphics that describe this process and how the signals look at the various stages of the transmission link. II. KEY ADVANTAGES OF LWLG'S PERKINIMINE POLYMER MODULATOR TECHNOLOGY A. Reduced Optical/RF Insertion Loss (S21)
LWLG's polymers enable significantly lower Insertion Loss (IL) than traditional materials. Insertion loss (S-parameter S21) is the amount of optical - and associated RF - loss through the device. Higher IL translates into reduced signal strength at the output, which degrades performance, namely, output bandwidth and data speeds. LWLG's modulators have exceptional IL performance compared to Si, LiNbO3 and InP materials as demonstrated in the lab results shown in the slide. ECOC 2019 Pg 17 "Lightwave Logic ... patents provide comprehensive coverage of the organic chromophores used in the company’s electro-optic polymer materials systems, and of its photonic device technology. The materials patents and filings cover the company’s molecular architectures and are based on a well-understood chemical and quantum mechanical occurrence known as aromaticity. Aromaticity provides a high degree of molecular stability and the resulting materials enable robust high-performance electro-optic devices." B. Higher Speeds
The Aromaticity mentioned above and the reduced Insertion Loss (IL) of LWLG's modulators enable much higher data rates than traditional materials. Perkinimine polymers appear to have a significant advantage over Si, InP, GaAs and LiNbO3 modulators in terms of usable bandwidth and speed. Traditional materials are running into serious limitations with respect to their frequency of operation. These limitations require complex modulations formats (susceptible to noise issues) and complex architectures to deliver data rates that are demanded by the communication industry. "Current photonic technology today is struggling to reach faster device speeds. Our modulator devices, enabled by our electro-optic polymer material systems, work at extremely high frequencies (wide bandwidths) and possess inherent advantages over current crystalline electro-optic material contained in most modulator devices such as lithium niobate (LiNbO3), indium phosphide (InP), silicon (Si), and gallium arsenide GaAs). Our advanced electro-optic polymer platform is creating a new class of modulators and associated PIC platforms that can address higher data rates in a lower cost, lower power consuming manner, with much simpler modulation techniques." ECOC 2019 Pg 16 C. Performance Stability Over Temperature "Over the last several years, our Company has made various scientific breakthroughs that have allowed for the synthesis of proprietary organic polymer materials that can withstand extremely high process temperatures of 1750C. Additionally, these materials have demonstrated photochemical stability, even after being subjected to tensor light for over 4,000 hours and exhibited little electro optic degradation even after 2,500 hours of continuous exposure to temperatures at 1100C – exceeding typical commercial operating temperatures of approximately 850C, as found in data center applications."
Dr. Lebby delivered a presentation in June 2019 at the World Technology Mapping Forum. During the presentation, LWLG modulators were described as meeting the following Telcordia GR-468 COREi02 Requirements:
- Para. 184.108.40.206: High Temperature Operational Life (HTOL): 2000 hrs at power, driver, bias and Ta=85 degC
- Para. 220.127.116.11: Low Temperature Storage: -40 degC 72 hrs
- Para. 18.104.22.168: Mechanical Shock: MIL-STD-883 Method 2002.3
- Para. 22.214.171.124: Vibration: MIL-STD-883 Method 2007.2
- Para. 126.96.36.199: Thermal Shock: MIL-STD-883 Method 1011.9
- Para. 188.8.131.52.1: Fiber Twist: FOTP 36
- Para. 184.108.40.206.2: Fiber Side Pull: GR-326-CORE 220.127.116.11
- Para. 18.104.22.168.3: Cable Retention: FOTP 36 Tech Map Forum June 2019 Pg 54 ECOC 2019 Pg 38 ECOC 2019 Pg 45 D. Reduced Drive Voltage Requirement (Low Vpi)
LWLG's polymers provide a significantly lower modulator voltage for biasing device (Vpi). Low Vpi operation is a critically important parameter as there is a direct correlation to the amount of power required to operate the devices. Traditional LiNbO3 modulators have Vpi's up to 10V. The IP LWLG has recently been granted enable Vpi's as low as 0.5V. The lower Vpi allows the modulator to be driven directly from CMOS circuits and does not require amplification to boost the signal levels to higher voltages. The elimination of the amplifier reduces power, increases signal integrity and - consequently - provides increased optical bandwidth and faster data rates as well as price reductions.
Here is a good App Note from ixBlue
that describes what a Modulator Driver is in fairly good detail.
The modulator Driver does two things, (1) it amplifies the incoming RF signal (the datastream) to the level that is optimized for the modulator (dependent upon the Vpi of the modulator). (2) it tracks the optimum DC bias point of the modulator (modulation dependent) and maintains the bias by tracking the output in a feedback loop to address operating point drift w.r.t. temperature, signal levels, electrode capacitance, etc. So the driver needs to have a very linear high bandwidth RF amplifier, DACs/ADCs, op-amps and a processor to do all these fine functions.
The most power-hungry component in the Driver will be the RF Amp, typically using GaAs transistors. Linear amplifiers are notoriously inefficient (Class A). And - to be linear - need to be 'backed off' from their 1dB compression point (P1dB) by several dB. It is difficult (read expensive) to build a wideband RF amplifier that has linear characteristics, a flat passband and low noise. The difficulty in building a high-performance RF Amplifier is compounded as the bandwidth is increased. With LWLG's modulators approaching 100 GHz, this becomes an extremely challenging (expensive) endeavor.
If the Vpi of the modulator is low enough, the incoming signal does not require amplification, which obviates the need for this expensive, power-hungry Driver component. Most Modulator Drivers require 12V to operate and consume prodigious amounts of power. Removing the need for the driver saves a LOT of power and expense. This is true regardless of whether the modulator is intensity or phase modulated (amplitude or phase modulation). Consequently, Direct Drive (Driverless) Modulators such as LWLG is marketing are a really, really big deal to the industry. ECOC 2019 Pg 29 E. Compatibility with Traditional Materials for Hybrid Solutions (Si/InP/Etc.) "Our Company also designs its own proprietary polymer photonic integrated circuits (otherwise termed a polymer PIC). A polymer PIC is a photonic device that integrates several photonic functions on a single chip. We believe that our technology can enable the ultra-miniaturization needed to increase the number of photonic functions residing on a semiconductor chip to create a progression like what was seen in the computer integrated circuits, commonly referred to as Moore’s Law. One type of integration is to combine several instances of the same photonic functions such as a plurality of modulators to create a 4 channel polymer PIC. In this case, the number of photonic components would increase by a factor of 4. Another type is to combine different types of devices including from different technology bases such as the combination of a semiconductor laser with a polymer modulator. Our P2IC™ platform encompasses both these types of architecture." "Our electro-optic polymers can be integrated with other materials platforms because they can be applied as a thin film coating in a fabrication clean room such as may be found in semiconductor foundries. Our polymers are unique in that they are stable enough to seamlessly integrate into existing CMOS, Indium Phosphide (InP), Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), and other semiconductor manufacturing lines." ECOC 2019 Pg 34 F. Applicability to Telecom & Datacom Markets with LWLG's Modulation Protocol Flexibility (AM/FM/PM)
Here is an earlier post
where I discuss the ability of LWLG's modulators to provide different modulation formats.
Long-haul Networks (>10km) are predominantly moving to the use of coherent detection (phase modulation formats) to improve economics and performance. Below are a couple of articles that talk about AM vs PM modulation formats and their applicability to either datacenter (short haul) or telecom (long haul) networks. Merits of Coherent Detection Optical Transmission Coherent vs. Direct Detection in Metro Data Center Interconnectivity G. Simple, Low-Cost Fabrication Requirements
LWLG's fabrication processes do not require complex, expensive tooling to manufacture their polymer modulators and other integrated devices. Fabrication can easily be performed using standard processes that are compatible with other materials. "Our electro-optic polymers can be integrated with other materials platforms because they can be applied as a thin film coating in a fabrication clean room such as may be found in semiconductor foundries. Our polymers are unique in that they are stable enough to seamlessly integrate into existing CMOS, Indium Phosphide (InP), Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), and other semiconductor manufacturing lines." ECOC 2019 Pg 32 III. COMPANY MANAGEMENT AND TECHNICAL ADVISORS A. Company Management Lightwave Logic Management Team
Dr. Michael Lebby and Dr. Frederick Leonberger are both well-known and highly respected leaders in the photonics industry. The other members of the team including Karen Liu have notable accomplishments and have held prestigious positions in prominent firms and universities. The technical prowess of the assembled team is remarkable, especially considering the size of the company. Dr. Michael Lebby - CEO of Lightwave Logic
Joined Lightwave Logic as a member of the Board of Directors in 2015. In May 2018, Dr. Lebby assumed the role of CEO, Lightwave Logic Inc (LWLG:OTCQB). Lightwave Logic is a leading technological company commercializing Electro-Optical polymers.
Dr. Lebby (born 1961, London, UK) is an Anglo-American entrepreneur and entrepreneur in the fields of optoelectronics/photonics electronics and semiconductors. Dr. Lebby’s career started with the British Government in 1977 in telecommunications and he did research at their research labs (RSRE Malvern) in the early 1980s. Dr. Lebby worked at AT&T’s research labs: Bell Labs (1985-1989) in photonics, and subsequently drove the development (and co-authored the first patent) of the oxide VCSEL diode laser at Motorola in the 1990s (which is now used in laser mice, 3D sensing/FaceID in mobile phones, optical interconnects; where volumes of the laser are over 1B units today). From 2005-2010 he led the USA trade association in optoelectronics (OIDA) and represented the optoelectronics and photonics industry on Capitol Hill.
Dr. Lebby has run technical start-ups and commercialized optoelectronic and photonics technology into volume manufacturing. Dr. Lebby has also had roles as a Venture Capitalist specializing in Optical Communications. He is currently a technical expert to the European Commission. He is a Fellow member of IEEE and OSA, and has been voted PIC (Photonic Integrated Circuit) business leader of the year by the PIC International Conference in 2018.
Dr. Lebby holds over 450 issued international patents in photonics and electronics, that have been derived from over 220 issued USPTO utility patents, mostly in the field of optoelectronics, photonics and semiconductors. He has been cited by the USPTO to be in the most prolific 75 inventors in USA from 1988-1997.
Dr. Lebby is passionate about photonics and has focused his efforts over the last 30 years to drive new photonics manufacturing programs in USA and Europe as well as industry-based photonics technology roadmaps. Dr. Frederick Leonberger - Director of Lightwave Logic Frederick Leonberger Biography Frederick Leonberger Resume
04/12/19 The Optical Society Names Fred Leonberger the 2019 David Richardson Medal Recipient B. Advisory Board "In March 2019 we created an Advisory Board comprised of three world-class leaders in the photonics industry: Dr. Craig Ciesla, Dr. Christoph S. Harder, and Mr. Andreas Umbach. The Advisory Board will work closely with our Company leadership to enhance our Company’s product positioning and promote our polymer modulator made on our proprietary Faster by Design™ polymer P2IC™ platform. The mission of the Advisory Board will initially be to increase our Company’s outreach into the datacenter interconnect market and later to support expansion into other billion-dollar markets. The Advisory Board members have each been chosen for their combination of deep technical expertise, breadth of experience and industry relationships in the fields of fiber optics communications, polymer and semiconductor materials. Each of the Advisory Board members has experience at both innovators like Lightwave Logic and large industry leaders of the type most likely to adopt game-changing polymer-based products. In addition, they possess operational experience with semiconductor and polymer businesses."
IV. LWLG INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PORTFOLIO
Below is a listing of the patent applications and granted patents assigned to Lightwave Logic. From the topics of the IP, we can clearly see that Lightwave is focusing on the following areas of priority:
- Decreasing the operating voltage required to drive the modulators (very low Vpi)
- Reducing the optical insertion loss (S21) and subsequent RF loss through the modulators
- Using other traditional materials (Si, InP, etc.) in conjunction with polymers
- Enabling the use of polymers in the manufacture of integrated devices, i.e., transceivers with both Tx and Rx paths
- Developing novel packaging solutions for polymer-based photonics components
The company is building a formidable IP portfolio. I am most pleased to see the emphasis on integrated devices with the inclusion of traditional materials. This enables LWLG to include lasers, wavelength multiplexers, photo-detectors and frequency discriminators all in the same device. These integrated devices are not limited to only amplitude modulation (AM) as other approaches like POET's Interposer
, but are able to provide frequency and phase modulation (FM/PM) as well, enabling entry into both long haul and short haul networks.
Polymers (in particular LWLG's perkinimine polymers) appear to have significantly higher bandwidth than competing materials. Opportunistically combining the polymers with other materials provides LWLG the distinct advantage of building integrated devices with superior capabilities as compared to other competitors in the marketplace for years to come. A. Patent Applications
20190353843 FABRICATION PROCESS OF POLYMER BASED PHOTONIC APPARATUS AND THE APPARTUS
20190278036 EMBEDDED HERMETIC CAPSULE AND METHOD
20190237930 HERMETIC CAPSULE AND METHOD
20190204506 PROTECTION LAYERS FOR POLYMER MODULATORS/WAVEGUIDES
20190148913 GUIDE TRANSITION DEVICE WITH DIGITAL GRATING DEFLECTORS AND METHOD
20190079243 GUIDE TRANSITION DEVICE AND METHOD
20180259798 DIRECT-DRIVE POLYMER MODULATOR METHODS OF FABRICATING AND MATERIALS THEREFOR
20150048285 Nonlinear Optic Materials, and Uses Thereof in Nonlinear Optical Applications
20140121376 TRICYCLIC SPACER SYSTEMS FOR NONLINEAR OPTICAL DEVICES
20130345425 HETEROCYCLICAL CHROMOPHORE ARCHITECTURES
20120267583 NONLINEAR OPTIC MATERIALS AND USES THEREOF IN NONLINEAR OPTICAL APPLICATIONS
20110178301 HETEROCYCLICAL CHROMOPHORE ARCHITECTURES
20110112295 TRICYCLIC SPACER SYSTEMS FOR NONLINEAR OPTICAL DEVICES B. Granted Patents (per company statement, LWLG holds 45+ patents)
10527786 Polymer modulator and laser integrated on a common platform and method
10520673 Protection layers for polymer modulators/waveguides
10511146 Guide transition device with digital grating deflectors and method
10509164 Guide transition device and method
10162111 Multi-fiber/port hermetic capsule sealed by metallization and method V. LWLG CHALLENGES
A small company with disruptive technology faces significant challenges in getting broad industry acceptance/adoption. I made the following post
back in early April 2019, and I believe it is still relevant today.
Here are a few headwinds a small company with disrupting tech faces:
1. The telecom/datacom industries are notoriously risk averse
2. Those industries have a built-in not-invented-here (NIH) avoidance syndrome
2a. Even if senior management is motivated to pursue a disruptive tech, lower-tier engineering management can see the tech as a threat to job security and stymie adoption
3. The testing to meet the myriad specifications and environmental qualifications with multiple devices takes a lot of time. Testing a single representative device is typically not deemed sufficient.
4. The large companies will try very hard to monopolize the disruptive tech by insisting on exclusive agreements
5. They will laboriously analyze the IP from the small company to see if there is any way to work around the small co's patent protection
6. They will make a series of low-ball offers to gauge the level of desperation the small company has to satisfy long-term shareholders and principals
7. They will make every attempt to starve the small company of cash
8. In the event a deal is struck, then there are many delays/steps in the design process:
- Kick-off meetings
- Draft requirements
- Draft qualification documents
- Capital allocation meetings/approvals
- Initial design phase
- Preliminary Design Reviews
- Critical Design Phase
- Critical Design Reviews
- Final Design Phase
- Special Tooling Requirements and leadtime
- Production Readiness Reviews
- Low-Rate Initial Production Run (LRIP)
- LRIP Reviews/Assessments
- Full Production and Implementation
While all of this sounds daunting, there is cause to be optimistic.
1. IMHO, LWLG has compelling, truly disruptive technology
2. They appear to me to have excellent patent protection
3. ML and team have been around the block in this arena. They are not naive to how big co's will attempt to manipulate and leverage
4. The tech appears to be licensable
5. The timeline to adoption appears to be contracting as data rates increase
A good article about disruptive tech adoption timelines is here
An informative graph from the article.