Europe invests in plasmonics

NEUCHATEL, SWITZERLAND-A European consortium lead by the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM SA) has started a $3.6 million dollar project in plasmonics.

Feb 15th, 2007

NEUCHATEL, SWITZERLAND-A European consortium lead by the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM SA) has started a $3.6 million dollar project in plasmonics. The project, called PLEAS-Plasmon Enhanced Photonics, aims to bring plasmonics from the lab into the European photonics industry. The investment is coordinated by the European Union (EU) as a strategic research project through the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

The PLEAS consortium headed by CSEM also includes Osram Opto Semiconductor (Regensburg, Germany), a leader in high-performance light-emitting diode (LED) design and manufacture, and Sagem Défense Sécurité, a key player in vision-based security. The project’s academic partners include the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Zaragoza, Queens University Belfast, the Technical University of Dresden, and the Louis Pasteur University in Strasburg.

Plasmonics describes the science of photons trapped at the surface of metals and localized on the nanoscale. It has the potential to revolutionize photonic systems, as plasmons can help overcome the diffraction limits of size and performance in photonic components. For example, plasmon effects can allow arrays of holes in a metal film to transmit light with wavelengths larger than the size of the holes. At certain wavelengths the transmission is enhanced and can even be several times the area of all the holes.

Ross Stanley, project coordinator, explains the project vision of harnessing plasmonics for industry: “On one hand, the European research community is the world leader in almost every area of plasmon research; on the other hand the huge potential of plasmons had not been supported adequately by the photonics industry. In this project, we have the top plasmon experts sitting around the same table as two major players from the European photonics industry, explaining their vision of how plasmonics can revolutionize photonics. Thanks to EU funding, we have a unique opportunity to implement this vision.”

The project has two main aims, according to the industrial partners. Osram is interested in plasmonics as a way of achieving higher energy efficiency LEDs. Stanley is confident and says, “We aim to improve these devices’ efficiencies by at least 20%, so that a premium LED that is already typically 35% efficient can be improved to have an efficiency nearer 50%.” And Sagem Défense Sécurité is keen to develop higher-sensitivity photodetectors that will lead to cheaper and more powerful cameras.

CSEM was founded in 1984 as a private research and development center, specializing in microtechnology, nanotechnology, system engineering, and communications technologies.

-Bridget K. Marx

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