Funding Boost for Strathclyde’s World-class Physics Research

The Universities of Strathclyde, Bath, Bristol, Sheffield and their industrial partners have been given funding to develop the UK into a future hub for the manufacture of advanced semiconductor materials.

Physicists at Strathclyde have been awarded £400,000 to develop advanced manufacturing techniques for nano-engineered semiconductors, particularly Gallium Nitride. The research will be led by Professor Robert Martin and Dr Carol Trager-Cowan in the Nanoscience Division of the Department of Physics.

The award is part of a £2.65million Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) five-year grant within the area of Manufacturing Advanced Functional Materials - “Manufacturing nano-GaN”.

The news comes as Times Higher Education ranked the University’s Department of Physics as number one in the UK for physics research, based on the REF 2014 GPA Scores.

Professor Martin said: “The positive outcome of the REF exercise highlights the truly world-class quality of research being conducted within our department – and the EPSRC grant is another welcome boost at a particularly exciting time for the University.

“The grant enable nanoscale manufacturing, such as nanoimprint lithography, currently being pursued within universities to be scaled up in partnership with leading UK companies such as Plessey Semiconductors.

“The funding will also enable the design and scale-up of a new generation of medical diagnostic sensors based on nanophotonics, exploiting the unique optical and piezoelectric properties of GaN.”

Gallium Nitride (GaN) underpins the emerging global solid state lighting and power electronics industries. The impact of these materials was recently recognised by the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics to Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura, pioneers in the field.

Creating three-dimensional structures at the nanoscale provides a route to improving the quality of these materials and in turn the performance of these devices. Ultimately this will increase the energy efficiency in these and other emerging applications, such as water purification, where ultra-violet LEDs are used to prevent viruses reproducing.

Professor Martin’s group will work with advanced electron beam techniques being developed at Strathclyde, such as cathodoluminescence and electron channelling, to characterise the semiconductor nanostructures. This information will be combined with the results from the wider consortium to design highly-efficient LEDs and a range of nanoscale sensors which exploit resonant enhancement based on photonic crystals, nanobeams and nanopillars.

The work at Strathclyde is part of the Intelligent Lighting Centre (ILC) – an open invitation research centre working with companies to help them develop and test new technologies, services, business models and applications of solid state light sources and systems. The ILC forms part of the University’s £89 million Technology and Innovation Centre.

19th December 2014