New European roadmap for nanophotonics

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A new European roadmap has been published that will direct EC funding for the joint development of photonics and nanotechnologies.

The 10-year roadmap was developed by the Merging Optics and Nanotechnologies (MONA) project – a collaboration of key nanophotonics companies such as CEA LETI, Acreo AB, Aixtron, ASM-International, the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC), Optics Valley, and Schott.

Researchers have been investigating the potential of the use of nanotechnology in photonics applications for some time. Devices such as tiny MEMS (micro electromechanical systems) mirrors have been used to control the journey of light in optical systems for more than 20 years, and more recently materials such as quantum dots, which are so tiny they can hold just two electrons, have been causing a wave of excitement in the photonics research community, with the possibility of providing high-intensity and easily tuneable laser diode emissions at a variety of wavelengths.

Another area of interest has been the integration of photonics equipment such as lasers onto electronic circuit boards to provide smaller devices that are easier to control. Using techniques borrowed from the semiconductor industry, this would allow the high-volume production of low-cost, compact devices – opening up many new applications that would have been unreachable previously. This has recently been achieved with CMOS vision sensors, and it is hoped that other devices will soon follow.

‘Nanophotonics could bring new opportunities to the photonics industry,’ Laurent Fulbert, the coordinator of MONA told ‘They may offer new physical properties of materials with new functions. It could change the face of the photonics industry.’

By drawing on the expertise of key industry players, the MONA roadmap hopes to direct new research in these areas that will draw on common areas of interest between the photonics and nanotechnology industries.

The roadmap was written with three clear objectives in mind. These were: to create a consensus viewpoint on the development of research, technologies and innovation in the areas of photonics and nanotechnologies; to promote the timely world-wide exchange on scientific results, market development perspectives, and technology trends related to photonics and nanotechnologies; and to contribute to the intelligent deployment of resources at the regional, national, and European levels for the development of photonics and nanotechnologies.

The roadmap identifies the highest priority economic growth areas in this field, which should then form the basis for future EC funding frameworks. ‘We hope the MONA roadmap will be used by the EC to the set priorities of the future FP7 funding programme,’ said Fulbert.

The roadmap is freely available from the MONA website.