08 Feb 2008
A project involving Europe's leading photonics companies and institutions has produced a roadmap that will shape future research funding in nanophotonics.
With contributions from more than 300 experts in the field, the 161-page document is designed to serve as an informed input for future research funding by the European Commission (EC) under its 7th Framework Programme.
The "European Roadmap for Photonics and Nanotechnologies" is the culmination of a two-year effort co-ordinated by the MONA (Merging Optics and Nanotechnologies) project. The document analyses seven key markets for photonics products – ranging from flat-panel displays through to imaging and optical interconnects – to work out which nanophotonics technologies will have greatest impact on future market growth.
Quantum dot structures feature particularly strongly, and are expected to have a major impact in almost all of the photonics markets studied in the roadmap. One key recommendation is that quantum dots based on III-V materials should be developed for photovoltaics applications.
"The photovoltaics market is growing," says the report. "Quantum dot technology offers greater flexibility in the management of bandgap, current and strain to achieve higher conversion efficiencies." MONA believes that Europe is well placed to address this opportunity, with strong R&D in the field as well as the presence of leading materials and equipment suppliers.
Imaging, lighting and data storage are three more applications where quantum dots could have an impact, says the roadmap. And quantum dots and wires in silicon will also be important for optical interconnects, UV sensors and multi-junction solar cells.
The report also calls for intensified R&D in lighting applications, where technologies such as quantum dots, photonic crystals and nanostructured materials are expected to offer efficiency improvements in both inorganic and organic LEDs. This is seen as important strategic area for European research, with both Osram of Germany and Philips of the Netherlands playing on the world stage.
Imaging is another field where Europe can already boast a strong research base and global market presence. For visible imaging, the roadmap highlights the need for nanostructured lenses, most likely based on plasmonic devices, to produce CMOS image sensors with ever smaller pixel sizes. And infrared imaging specialists such as Sofradir and CEDIP are hoping to use quantum dot structures in a new generation of detectors that will replace existing quantum-well infrared photodiodes (QWIPs).
Other important areas earmarked for future research funding include microstructured fibres for telecom and sensor applications, organic nanostructures for displays and photovoltaics, and photonic integration for telecom and optical interconnects. Carbon nanotubes also feature as an important nanomaterial for future field-emission displays.• Full details of the MONA project and the technology roadmap are available here.