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Photonics has quickly moved into mainstream electronic designs, especially in markets with heavy bandwidth demands including antenna and RF systems, bio-photonics, and environmental sensing systems. Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling, and detecting photons and particles of light to advance manufacturing robotics, medical imaging, defense technologies, image processing, next generation displays, communications, and much more.
Drew Weninger is a member of the US navy and a graduate student at MIT in the Electronic Materials Group (EMAT) studying advanced packaging solutions for integrated electronic and photonic devices. His program at MIT was looking for a collaboration with Cadence, due to their interest in the simulation side of photonics, so an advisor recommended he take an internship here. Drew stated, “Especially with photonics packaging, we were interested in what the state of the art is and what Cadence is doing because Cadence is at the forefront.”
Over the course of his internship, Drew mainly worked with Virtuoso and Clarity 3D software and found the experience was a positive one as the functionalities were quite similar to a program he was already familiar with. He said, “I have enjoyed Virtuoso. I found it easy to learn and rapid adoption kits at Cadence have been super useful. They walk you step by step through the process of how to use a tool.” He went on to say that his research group would look to him to teach others in the group. Fortunately, the way that it’s set up is going to make it easy. Another aspect of Virtuoso that Drew enjoyed were the keyboard shortcuts and finds himself in other programs “wishing they were as accessible and easy to use as in Virtuoso."
There was a lot of coordinated overlap between Drew’s research at MIT and his projects while at Cadence. His primary project was an RF Widget demonstrator which utilizes all the same techniques and devices that he needs for his own research. Drew gets to simultaneously work on his internship projects, while learning the skills needed for his research, which is something Gill, his project manager, wanted him to take away from this internship. He is very grateful to Gill for setting it up that way as it has really improved his practical applications. “To walk away with those tangible simulation files for my research has been huge for me.”
At MIT, Drew’s primary point of research is photonic couplers using Virtuoso, hoping to figure out a way to simulate sending a light signal from one chip to another within a package. There are several ways that light is transmitted from one chip to another (Vincent coupling, free-space coupling, mirrors, lenses, etc.) and it can get very complicated to make each one in all the different layers. Drew likened the device he is trying to create to a black box that would allow light to come into one chip and out another chip, no matter the transmission process, significantly improving the function. Drew said that working on this process is “something I feel like I’ve been able to contribute to Cadence and something I will be able to take with me, learning how it’s done with industry leaders at Cadence.”
In the future, Drew hopes to continue his collaboration with Cadence as he navigates the decision to further his career in industry, academia, or the military. He believes that “photonics is definitely the future of integrated circuits” and developing these photonic couplers is a big step towards the next generation, in terms of continuing Moore’s Law and the trajectory of what Drew sees as the future of electrical and optical devices. He said that working at Cadence has been an incredible experience because it definitely is an industry leader, and the individuals at Cadence are among the smartest he has worked with throughout his academic and professional career. He especially appreciated how any question he had was able to be answered thoroughly and immediately. He said that he can see how all the hardworking people at Cadence have made it the industry leader it is today.