European nanoelectronics industry proposes to invest 100 B€ for innovation

Highlighting the need for Europe to substantially increase its research       and innovation efforts in nanoelectronics in order to maintain its       worldwide competitiveness, the document outlines a proposal by companies       and institutes within Europe’s nanoelectronics ecosystem to invest 100       billion € up to the year 2020 on an ambitious research and innovation       programme, planned and implemented in close cooperation with the       European Union and the Member States.

Nanoelectronics is not only strategically important to Europe in its       own right, it is also a key enabling technology to help solve all of the       societal challenges identified in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme,” said       Enrico Villa, Chairman of CATRENE. “This important new positioning       paper, which has been put together and endorsed by all the major actors       in the European nanoelectronics ecosystem, including large industrial       companies, SMEs, research organisations and academic institutes, is       intended to open up discussions on how Europe-wide research and       innovation in nanoelectronics can be coordinated to maximise its       applicability and economic value.”

Europe’s semiconductor industry and research institutes remain at the       heart of Europe’s knowledge-based economy, contributing an estimated 30       billion € to Europe’s annual revenues. Its semiconductor companies have       dominant global positions in key application areas, such as transport       and security, as well as in equipment and materials for worldwide       semiconductor manufacturing. Nanoelectronics is not only opening up new       opportunities to exploit Europe’s strengths in equipment and materials       for worldwide digital microchip production, it also offers opportunities       to expand European semiconductor manufacturing on 150mm, 200mm and 300mm       wafers to produce the highly specialised nano-scale devices required to       interface digital chips to real-world application environments. Creating       these new devices will be critical to maintaining Europe’s world-leading       position in industry segments such as automotive, aerospace, medical,       industrial, and telecommunications.

Urgent strategy actions recommended in the positioning paper to secure       the future of Europe’s nanoelectronics ecosystem include extension of       the European Union’s dedicated budgets for Key Enabling Technologies to       reflect their common dependence on nanoelectronics; simplified       notification and enlarged eligibility for public funding in       nanoelectronics, and greater focus on European Union funding for       regional initiatives to support the proposed programme.

“Despite today’s climate of austerity, investing in technologies that       will sustain Europe throughout the 21st century and solve       important societal challenges such as energy efficiency, security and       the aging population, makes economic sense,” explained Mr Villa. “We       firmly believe that with the right investment and Europe-wide programme       coordination, the European nanoelectronics ecosystem can increase       Europe’s worldwide revenues by over 200 billion € per year and create an       additional 250,000 direct and induced jobs in Europe.”

Innovation for the future of Europe: Nanoelectronics beyond 2020’ is       available for download on the AENEAS       and CATRENE       websites.

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Researchers seek way to make solar cell ultrathin, flexible

Tue, 10/09/2012 – 10:32am

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas are developing nanotechnology that could lead to a new platform for solar cells, one that could drive the development of lighter, flexible, and more versatile solar-powered technology than is currently available.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $390,000 grant to Anton Malko and Yuri Gartstein, both in the Department of Physics, and Yves Chabal in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to further explore their research on the feasibility of ultrathin-film photovoltaic devices, which convert light from the sun into electric power.

“Traditional silicon solar cells that are commercially available are made from silicon that is a couple of hundred microns thick,” Malko says. “Our goal is to reduce that by a hundred times, down to about one micron thick, while at the same time maintaining efficiency.”

While the scale of the research objects is tiny, their impact could be substantial.

“Solar cells that are 100 microns thick are rigid and fragile,” Malko says. “At the thickness we are investigating, devices would not only be lighter, but they also become flexible. There is a large market and application niche for flexible solar cells, such as on clothing or backpacks for hikers, or in situations where you need portable sources to power electronics.”

The UT Dallas approach to building solar cells involves the use of nanosized crystal particles called quantum dots, which absorb light much better than silicon. The energy they absorb is then transferred into silicon and converted into an electric signal.

The researchers construct their experimental photovoltaic structures layer by layer, starting with an ultrathin layer of silicon, a so-called nanomembrane about one-tenth of a micron thick. On top of that, with the aid of special molecular “linkers,” layers of accurately positioned quantum dots are added.

“This is not yet an engineering project, it’s a research project,” Gartstein says. “We believe we are asking interesting scientific questions and researching concepts that might eventually lead to devices.”

Initial findings from the research were published in ACS Nano.

“The key point of our research is to characterize the way energy is transferred from the quantum dots through the layers to the silicon, as well as to determine how we might exploit those properties and optimize the arrangement of the quantum dots, the thickness of the layers and other aspects of the structure,” Malko says.

The cross-disciplinary research involves not only proficiency in experimental and theoretical physics, which Malko and Gartstein provide. Materials science and nanotechnology expertise is also crucial. A key member of the team is Oliver Seitz, a postdoctoral researcher in Chabal’s laboratory, who carried out the delicate and precisely controlled process of actually building the test structures.

“This project, conceived and initiated by Anton Malko, has been exciting at all stages of research,” says Chabal, holder of the Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics. “It has engaged my group into an exciting application relying on the chemical control of surfaces we have been developing.”

Gartstein adds, “This is one of those cases where the word ‘synergy’ truly applies. As a theorist, I can come up with some ideas and do some calculations, but I cannot build these things. In materials science, Seitz actually implements our joint ideas to make the physical samples. Then in Malko’s lab, ultrafast laser spectroscopy is used to physically measure the relevant processes and properties. Hue Minh Nguyen, a physics graduate student, contributed tremendously to this effort.

“It’s been a great pleasure to work together in this atmosphere of a true collaboration,” he says.

Source: University of Texas at Dallas