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21 January 2015

University of New Mexico researcher receives NSF CAREER award to study blue and green VCSEL arrays

Daniel Feezell, an assistant professor in the University of New Mexico’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received a $500,000 US National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, running from 1 March through February 2020, for the project ‘Short-Wavelength Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser Arrays Using Nonpolar and Semipolar GaN’.

The project’s basic thrust is to develop arrays of blue and green vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) with stable polarization of the light emission by using novel orientations of gallium nitride.

Applications of the technology could include improved high-density optical data storage and high-resolution printing, improved mobile displays and projectors, and advancements in chemical/biological sensing and atomic clocks.

An example of a possible practical application would be the addition of projection capabilities on smartphones. Such a projector could be included on the back of the phone, right next to the camera. “This would allow your phone to become a display projector, so you could view movies, pictures, or PowerPoint slides on the wall or on a screen instead of directly on your phone,” Feezell says.

Daniel FeezellPicture: UNM assistant professor Daniel Feezell.

The vertical geometry of VCSELs has several advantages over conventional edge-emitting lasers, including high beam quality, small form factor, the ability to form densely packed arrays, and lower power consumption, says Feezell. His work will focus on adding stable polarization and increasing the output power using arrays.

Feezell will also be researching how to create a green VCSEL, which has not yet been developed. Since red and blue VCSELs have already been developed, adding a green VCSEL would complete the RGB (red, green, blue) spectrum, allowing the creation of white light, which makes possible technologies such as display screens or LED light bulbs for room lighting and other applications.

Much of the work on the project will be done at UNM’s Center for High-Technology Materials, and some will be done in collaboration with the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Sandia National Laboratories.

The project will fund one graduate student, and will also include an outreach effort with Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), an Albuquerque national Indian community college and land-grant institution serving American Indian and Alaskan Native students. Outreach activities will include assessing the potential of installing energy-efficient, solid-state lighting in rural Native American communities, mentoring local teachers, and developing courses at UNM.

Feezell believes that GaN-based VCSELs hold untapped potential: “It’s still an immature field, and many of the applications are still not developed or known.”

“Getting this grant will allow me to continue my research in this area, which I’ve been working on for the last five or six years,” says Feezell, who came to UNM about three years ago from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). “Very few groups are working in this area, and the hope is that this grant will enable UNM and my research group to become leaders in the development and application of GaN-based VCSELs.”

The NSF CAREER program is geared toward helping early-career faculty get strong starts on their academic careers. The award is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the community. Such activities are intended to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

See related items:

UCSB develops first violet nonpolar vertical-cavity laser

Tags: III-nitride lasers GaN VCSEL

Visit: www.feezellgroup.com

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