MONTREAL– All Canadian universities will soon be able to go through the same design, fabrication and testing cycles as other research facilities around the world in microelectronics and advanced photonics, thanks to an initiative called the National Microelectronics and Photonics Testing Collaboratory.


total of 23 Canadian universities are participating in the collaboratory, which was created by the Canadian Microelectronics Corporation (CMC) based at Queen’s University.

The four labs involved are located at the University of Toronto for digital systems, McGill University for mixed signal systems, Queen’s University for photonic systems and the University of Manitoba for RF systems.

The advanced photonic systems test lab at Queen’s will make state-of-the-art measurement equipment available for characterizing optical and electronic signals, characterizing optical and opto-electronic components, evaluating the impact that components have on system performance and evaluating transmission impairments and techniques for reducing the impact on system performance.

“”We need enhanced testing capabilities, which require remote testing, which is costly. Hence the shared testing facilities,”” John Cartledge, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Queen’s. Cartledge discussed the collaboratory at the first joint RISQ (Réseau d’information scientifique du Québec) and CANARIE conference this week.

CANARIE, Canada’s advanced Internet development organization, is a not-for-profit corporation that facilitates the development and use of next-generation research networks and the applications and services that run on them.

The rationale for photonic systems test labs is that the application of photonic technology has expanded over a wide range of systems and small and medium-size companies are successfully developing their own photonic technologies. In addition, the test labs will play a key role in supporting and promoting research in components and systems within Canadian universities and in enhancing the training of highly skilled personnel. They could also enhance the opportunities for Canadian universities to attract faculty and graduate students, Cartledge noted.

On the impact side, the test capability provided by the labs will enhance the opportunity for university researchers to effectively interact with industrial and government colleagues in similar areas, he added. These include electronic circuits for photonic systems, opto-electronic components, passive and active optical components and optical transmitters and receivers.

A pilot program in remote testing was conducted in 2000-2001 at the test labs at McGill, University of Manitoba and University of Toronto for clients that included Simon Fraser University (communications processor), University of Edinburgh (digital test chips) and several other clients linked to CMC.

Some of the user-related challenges that were discovered in the remote tests included the different abilities of beginner and expert users, the broad spectrum of training materials involved and the question of user acceptance.

Network related challenges included network latency such as collision avoidance on probes and manipulators, quality of service, application development and reliability.

There were a number of lessons learned from pilot projects, according to Cartledge, notably that people are as important as the equipment, particularly the lab engineer who is a key component.

“”Training is costly with heavy up-front costs, but the payoff is a long-term dividend,”” he said. “”Equipment must also be kept up to world-class levels to entice researchers to use the facilities and to encourage the lab owners to push the envelope of what can be done at the lab.””


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