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Photonics central to latest EU funding plan

19 Aug 2010

Core and disruptive photonics technologies are in line for more than EUR115 million support under the European Union's information communication technology (ICT) program for 2011-2012.

The European Union (EU) is to support the development of core and disruptive photonics technologies with more than €115 million in project funding under the latest information communication technologies (ICT) research program.

That figure doesn’t include another €50 million to be awarded to developing organic electronics, which includes some photonics technologies such as organic LEDs (OLEDs).

Improved energy efficiency, international co-operation and developing technologies for an ageing population are the key themes underpinning the ICT’s Work Programme 2011-2012, part of the EU’s wider Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The program defines the priorities for calls for proposals that will result in research projects to be launched in the period 2011-2012. These projects are focused on the medium- to long-term, and are expected to begin having an impact on commercial markets in around 5-10 years, on average, says the EU.

The focus on energy-efficient technologies is a theme that runs throughout the ICT plan, extending into both core and disruptive photonics technology development. One key area to benefit within core photonics, which has an indicative budget of €79 million, will be optical data communications. Here the goal is to develop a scalable technology to enable cost-effective deployment of networks featuring 100 Gb/s single-channel rates and 100 Tb/s systems.

High-speed, energy-efficient telecoms
Developing a high-speed internet is a key priority for the EU, with Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes reportedly suggesting that it might create as many as one million jobs within the region. Kroes is also reported as saying that the fragmentation and complexity of the existing European IT market is a key problem that needs to be overcome.

Photonics technologies are central to the drive for faster, more energy-efficient IT networks, and the latest ICT funding plan will also support optical interconnects, with the aim of developing terabit-scale optical data links for short-range communication. One of the key aims here is to deliver much more energy-efficient links for data-center applications. With communications networks believed to account for around 3 per cent of Europe’s electricity bill, the impact of “green” photonics technologies in this area could be significant.

But with the lighting and displays sector accounting for around 20 per cent of electricity consumption, this is an application sector that could have an even bigger impact on energy use. Singled out by the ICT report for improving energy efficiencies, the technological priorities here include improving the efficacy of high-brightness warm-white LED light engines to more than 130 lm/W, with a color rendering index of at least 90.

Also prioritized is the development of green semiconductor emitters peaking at around 540 nm, and novel approaches to white-light production, for example by developing new phosphors. LED suppliers and manufacturers are expected to be involved in these developments.

Another key topic within core photonics is biophotonics, with an emphasis on the use of technologies for early, fast and reliable medical diagnoses. Here, the EU is favoring a multi-disciplinary approach to research involving end users and pre-clinical validation studies.

For imaging technologies, the focus is on single-photon detection at a video-rate read-out speed, as well as smart pixels with sub-picosecond temporal resolution. For sensors, funding will be aimed at compact, cost-effective and widely tunable photonic sources to detect hazardous chemicals. “[The] emphasis is on advanced technology such as novel quantum cascade lasers and terahertz sources,” reports the ICT document.

The final priority area within core photonics is that of integration platforms, to enable production of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that are scalable to future generations and present a credible route to industrial manufacturing in Europe.

Disruptive photonic technologies
Longer-term priorities that fall under the “disruptive” category include technologies at the proof-of-principle stage, offering the potential for breakthrough advances in functionality, size or cost. Target areas here include plasmonics, photonic crystals and meta-materials, with suggested applications in extreme high-power laser systems, cheaper high-performance laser sources, or high-performance PICs.

The 2011-2012 ICT program has identified €20 million with which to support disruptive photonics and, together with another €18 million available through associated funding schemes, the total indicated support for photonics technologies (excluding technologies covered in the organic electronics area) is €117 million.

Organic photovoltaics (OPV) and OLEDs fall under the organic electronics category, with targets including OPV modules operating at 8-10 percent efficiency with a cost of €0.7/W (peak); and OLEDs offering more than 100 lm/W efficacy combined with a brightness of 5000 cd/m2.

The indicative budget for organic electronics, including the photonics applications mentioned, is €50 million.

SPECTROGON ABEaling UGBristol Instruments, Inc.Schaefter und Kirchhoff GmbHAVANTES BVSynopsys, Optical Solutions GroupInfraTec GmbH
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