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1 April 2019

Imec receives €2.5m ERC Advanced Grant to develop ultra-bright thin-film light sources and lasers

The European Research Council has awarded a €2.5m ERC Advanced Grant to Paul Heremans, fellow and director of Large Area Electronics at nanoelectronics research centre imec of Leuven, Belgium and a professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), for a five-year project to develop ultra-bright thin-film light sources and lasers – a technology with a wide variety of applications, such as optical interconnects, augmented reality (AR) displays and light detection & ranging (LiDAR) sensors.

“If our efforts to increase the light intensity of flexible thin-film light sources succeed, we can look forward to a wealth of promising applications in numerous domains such as bright outdoor displays, augmented reality glasses, LiDAR sensors for example for autonomous cars, integrated spectrometry for disease detection, ultrafast optical data transfers in chips or datacenters, and so on,” says Heremans. “And all those with a lot less constraints when it comes to shapes, materials and budget.”

Because of their flexible manufacturing process, thin-film light sources such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) can be made to measure for many applications, sizes and shapes. Moreover, they can be processed directly to different substrates such as glass, print boards and foils – both individually and in massive arrays.

However, for many applications, the light intensity of thin-film light sources is too low, namely 300 times lower than that of III-V LEDs. The main objective of the research project is therefore to break through the barriers that limit the light intensity of thin-film light sources, and to develop an electrically pumped laser based on this breakthrough.

The European Research Council (ERC) is a pan-European fund that aims to stimulate forward-looking research and scientific excellence in Europe. The ERC Advanced Grants are directed specifically at researchers that have achieved significant results during the last 10 years. Heremans has been at imec since 1990. His current positions include program director of Thin-Film Electronics. He previously received an ERC Advanced Grant in 2012 for his research into crystalline organic semiconductors.

Other factors that the ERC considers include the groundbreaking nature, potential impact and scientific approach of the research project. “Paul’s project will contribute to innovative applications in a host of domains, such as infotainment, mobility and healthcare – the economic and social impact of which we can hardly overstate,” comments imec’s chief strategy officer Jo De Boeck.

Tags: IMEC

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