Detecting viruses using integrated photonic devices

Integrated photonics can play an important role in developing fast, light and low cost-devices for the detection of viruses. This was the conclusion of the webinar on Biosensors for Virus Detection, organized by the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) on March 26th. The webinar can still be viewed after registration. Collaboration and standardization of PIC manufacturing and packaging are the key to speed up the development of these technologies and keep their costs down.

Photonic biosensing

Several speakers at the webinar presented biosensing projects that are currently under development. Arne Leinse of LioniX International introduced a biophotonic sensor system that uses label-free refractive index sensing to detect molecules, for example viral RNA. The PIC houses tuneable asymmetrical Mach-Zehnder interferometers (aMZI’s). A material-selective nanocoating developed by Surfix ensures that the bioreceptors that catch the molecules to be analyzed are only present on the waveguides of the chip. The presence of the molecules can then be detected by a change in the sensor’s output signal. The development of a handheld product with a disposable photonic chip for medical screening is at an advanced stage. The final piece of the puzzle is adopting the biochemistry to virus detection, for which LioniX and Surfix are joined by Qurin Diagnostics. PIC packaging will then make the system suitable for mass production. PHIX is responsible for the chip bonding, the wire bonding to the electronic read-out circuit board and the glop-topping for protection of the optical components.

photonic biosensor

Integrated photonic biosensor (photo courtesy of LioniX International)

The European PIC ecosystem

PIX4life and PIXAPP are open-access manufacturing platforms that accelerate the innovation and manufacturing of PIC based products. PIX4life facilitates the design, prototyping and volume production of photonic integrated circuits. For example, clients can participate in regularly scheduled multi-project wafer (MPW) production runs, sharing the costs with other prototype projects.
All the speakers of the webinar stressed that a PIC by itself is not a platform. Packaging and assembly with other elements is crucial. These processes are traditionally the most time-consuming and expensive stages in PIC development, so making these steps more efficient will drive the industry forward very effectively. The EU pilot line PIXAPP, of which PHIX is a member, strives to achieve just that. PIXAPP represents photonic packaging foundries in Europe as a central point of contact. They create strategies for high volume PIC manufacturing and bring clarity and alignment to the photonics assembly ecosystem. One of the strategies is increasing the level of standardization in packaging. By defining standards about how the building blocks of a PIC package are connected to each other, the design and manufacturing cost of customized packages can be greatly reduced. This philosophy is also at the heart of PHIX’s approach to photonic chip assembly. If you have questions about the design and packaging of your PIC, we’re happy to help.

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