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Ultrabright thin-film technology development receives ERC grant

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Paul Heremans, fellow and director of the Large Area Electronics at imec, has received a grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to develop ultrabright, thin-film light sources and lasers. The award includes €2.5 million ($2.8 million) for a five-year project to develop the technology, which has a wide variety of applications, such as disease detection, optical interconnects, augmented reality displays, and 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 autonomous cars, integrated spectrometry for disease detection, ultrafast optical data transfers in chips or datacenters, and so on,” Heremans said, “and all of those [have] a lot less constraints when it comes to shapes, materials, and budget.”

Paul Heremans will spend the next five years researching ultrabright thin-film light sources, with the help of a grant from the European Research Council. Courtesy of imec.

Paul Heremans will spend the next five years researching ultrabright thin-film light sources, with the help of a grant from the European Research Council. Courtesy of imec.

Because of the flexible manufacturing process for thin-film light sources, such as OLEDs, they 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 — 300× lower than that of III-V LEDs.

The main objective of Heremans’ research is 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.

ERC is a pan-European fund that stimulates forward-looking research and scientific excellence in Europe. The ERC Advanced Grants are specifically directed at researchers who have achieved significant results during the last 10 years.

“This grant is a wonderful recognition of our sustained investment in high-quality and long-term research,” said Jo De Boeck, chief strategy officer at imec. “[Heremans’] project will contribute to innovative applications in a host of domains, such as infotainment, mobility, and health care — the economic and social impact of which we can hardly overstate.”

Heremans also received an ERS Advanced Grant in 2012 for his research into crystalline organic semiconductors.

May/Jun 2019
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