Multi-Gigabit, Scalable & Energy Efficient on-board Digital Processors Employing Multi-core, Vertical, Embedded Opto-electronic Engines (MERLIN)

New multi-beam Tera-scale capacity satellites will require a disruptive approach to address digital on-board processors that rely on electronics which consume space, power and cost and reach their capacity saturation. The disruptive solution must combine scalability, technical feasibility, power-efficiency and cost-effectiveness. MERLIN aims to provide this solution realizing multi-gigabit optical inter-connectivity with a unique combination of low-power and high-bandwidth multimode (MM) GaAs VCSEL/PDs, low power, radiation-hardened BiCMOS drivers and radiation-hardened multi-core fibers (MCFs). MERLIN will integrate these technologies on a space grade photonic integration capable to provide ruggedized transceiver modules with a record-high 150Gb/s throughput and 6mW/ Gb/s energy consumption which is a 3-fold improvement against state-of-the-art (SOTA) US-based products. MERLIN will fabricate the first >15GHz MCF-matched 850nm VCSELs operating at -40 to +100 oC and will drive energy consumption down to <200 fJ/bit (0.2 mW/Gb/s). MERLIN will demonstrate the first >30 GHz MM MCF-PDs with >0.6A/W responsivity. MERLIN will couple MCF-VCSELs/PDs to the first 6-core radiation-hard MM-MCF to offer the capability for single-feedthrough robust and hermetic module packaging. Fibers will be distributed through a monolithic fan-out avoiding the use and procurement of expensive connectors. MERLIN will develop the first 25 Gb/s 6-channel, driver/TIA ICs with record-low <2pJ/bit energy consumption in a 5-fold decrease against SOTA products. ICs will be fabricated with IHP 0.25µm SiGe BiCMOS process which is under ESA qualification. MERLIN will fabricate an opto-electronic 6x25 Gb/s capable ADC/DAC module using MCF optical interfaces and will test it in a full-scale optical interconnect breadboard demonstrator. Finally, MERLIN will perform space assessment tests on all the components to align development towards a European space qualifiable system.

Partner organizations

  • OFS (Private, Denmark)
  • Philips Technologie (Private, Germany)
  • Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) (Private, Finland)
  • Thales Group (Private, France)
  • Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics (IHP) (Research Institute, Germany)
Start date 01/10/2013
End date The project is closed: 30/09/2016

Funded by

  • European Commission (FP7) (Public, Belgium)
  • Gooch & Housego (Torquay, UK)

  • Philips Photonics (Ulm, Germany)

  • IHP (Frankfurt am Oder, Germany)

  • VTT (Oulu, Finland)

  • OFS (Brondby, Denmark)

  • Thales Alenia Space (Toulouse, France)

Published: Thu 26 Mar 2020.