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Fraunhofer ISE and Netherlands AMOLF institute work on metamaterials applications

14 Jun 2021

International “MEEt” project aiming to adapt novel materials for solar cells, LEDs, optical sensors, and production techniques.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) institute AMOLF have begun a strategic cooperation in the field of metamaterials for optical applications.

In the project "Metasurfaces for Energy Efficient Devices" (MEEt), the partners are developing metamaterials for solar cells, LEDs and optical sensors and the processes for their production. The joint project will run for three years and is funded by the Fraunhofer International Cooperation and Networking (ICON) program.

Metamaterials have been researched and developed for about 15 years and are now on the verge of their breakthrough for application in many fields. What is special about them is that by nanostructuring their surfaces or incorporating nanoparticles, they acquire new optical properties that are not accessible with normal materials.

One example is the negative refractive index. A recent development is the use of metasurfaces, which can create flat optical components such as lenses.

One of AMOLF’s key capbilities is the study of the interactions, properties and functions of complex molecular and material systems, from nanophotonic structures to multicellular organisms. In its nanophotovoltaics research area, the institute is developing new functional materials for light management within solar cells.

For example, by “trapping” light within nanostructures smaller than the light’s own wavelength, the efficiency of solar cells can be increased, thereby reducing the cost of solar power generation.

Fraunhofer ISE is the oldest and largest European solar research institute and looks back on 40 years of experience in classical silicon photovoltaics as well as novel and highly efficient photovoltaic concepts. Fraunhofer ISE researchers work on all aspects of the solar cell and have been able to achieve numerous efficiency records.

Complmentary institutes

“The MEEt project brings together the expertise of two institutes that complement each other perfectly. We are very much looking forward to the collaboration, which will open up new applications not only for the field of photovoltaics,” commented Dr. Benedikt Bläsi, Group Leader Microstructured Surfaces at Fraunhofer ISE.

In the new research project, the partners are focusing on three application fields: besides the development of highly efficient solar cells, these are LEDs and optical sensors. In the case of LEDs, for example, the efficient and directional emission of light is being targeted.

The optical sensors shall perform mathematical operations, such as for image recognition, very energy-efficiently and with little computational effort using interference effects of the incident light. Different materials serve as the basis, such as plastic-metal combinations or transparent sol-gel materials, on whose surfaces nanostructures are formed by means of nanoimprint processes.

An overarching goal of the research project is to establish a platform to support companies from other industries in the development of opto-electronic applications such as displays, VR glasses or cameras.

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