Dr. Henning Schröder receives the Fraunhofer IZM Research Award 2019
The physicist adapted integrated optics processes for use with thin glass. The result of his efforts: Thin glass with optical capabilities.
From town to town and from continent to continent, fiber optic cables carry vast amounts of data at unbelievable speeds. That suddenly stops when the data arrives at its destination, be it a PC or a data center. With optical transmission not yet an option in local devices, data has to be transmitted by electrical connections. Complicated connectors need to be set to bridge the electro-optical gap. The result is ‘cyber-spaghetti’ – a situation that the photonics specialists at Fraunhofer IZM could not accept: “We need to bring optics and chips together.” With the unique thin glass technology developed by Dr. Henning Schröder, optical circuit paths can be brought into the chips themselves. No more throttling: the time is right for high-speed optical signals on circuit boards.
What is thin glass? It is a material that has become a viable and affordable option since the turn of the millennium, when it started to be produced on an industrial scale: Every display for every smartphone and every laptop is now made from it. It offers countless advantages over the polymers that are also used to integrate circuit paths. Thin glass is more reliable. It withstands soldering and humidity, and it can be cut down to the tiniest of dimensions. Thin glass also means less optical attenuation than polymers and excellent dielectric properties.
Dr. Henning Schröder explains: “Our choice of material turned out to be a masterstroke!” It is all about glass now: circuit boards, photonic modules, fiber coupling, or micro-optical benches – Schröder’s team has been employing and refining the thin glass technology everywhere for the last 15 years. When the trained physicist founded the original working group on photonics, he had only two people at his side. Today’s team includes 16 dedicated researchers, engineers, and technicians.
As part of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Fraunhofer IZM, Henning Schröder was awarded the Research Prize on 27 November 2018. The gala event held at Berlin’s Kulturbrauerei was a fittingly special backdrop for the award. After all, Schröder’s thin glass for photonic system integration is a global one-off technology.
“The Research Prize is not just a great honor for myself and my work as a researcher, but a genuine signal of recognition for the laboratory work done by my teams every single day: We started small, but today’s prize is a sure sign that photonics has well and truly arrived in electronic packaging. I need to thank the innovative minds on my team, and we are looking forward to the challenges ahead.”