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Roadmap advocates quantum-dot research

Europe's major photonics players have drawn up a roadmap recommending that the European Commission funds research into some key III-V technologies in its 7th Framework program.

A two-year effort from Europe s leading photonics companies and institutions has produced a roadmap for photonics and nanotechnology research.

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 (download the .pdf file for free here), which is the culmination of a two-year effort by the MONA (Merging Optics and Nanotechnologies) project, features both III-V and II-VI compound semiconductor technologies extensively.

Quantum dot structures feature particularly strongly, and are seen as key "nanomaterials" likely to have a significant impact in a wide range of applications highlighted in the roadmap as being of major economic importance in Europe.

For example, the roadmap recommends that III-V quantum dots are developed for photovoltaics applications, where they could provide a significant improvement to the efficiency of high-end solar cells.

Quantum dots have already shown promise in photovoltaics, offering greater flexibility in bandgap, current and strain management. However, more research is needed to better control the size uniformity of the dots, which will be crucial for reliable, repeatable cell manufacturing.

Pushing the current limits of the conventional Stranski-Krastanow quantum-dot growth technique is touted as one of the major avenues for research, along with the development of novel growth methods.

Imaging, lighting and data storage applications are three more applications where quantum dots could have an impact, says the roadmap.

Quantum well infrared photodiodes (QWIPs) based on III-Vs have already had a major an impact in the imaging industry, and in Sofradir and CEDIP, Europe is home to two of the leading companies in the field. According to the MONA roadmap, these companies want to use quantum dots in future detector designs, but, again, there are problems with size control and symmetry that require research to solve.

In lighting, where Osram and Philips are Europe s global players, nanostructured II-VI compounds such as ZnO hold promise. But, again, there is a question mark over accurate size distribution, a key requisite for volume production.

• For full details of the MONA project and the technology roadmap, which includes major contributions from epitaxy tool specialist Aixtron, the Alcatel-Thales III-V Laboratory, and the European Photonics Industry Consortium among others, click here.

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