5 August 2010


DoD awards ASU $2.34m to research antimonide superlattices for IR photodetectors and lasers

A team of researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) is to receive support from the US Department of Defense (DoD) to aid development of the next generation of lasers and infrared photodetectors (for use in sensing and imaging for defense and commercial applications).

The work will be funded by an Army Research Office grant through the DoD’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, which supports science and engineering involving research and technology development considered vital to national interests. In mid-July, as a result of the fiscal 2010 competition conducted under the MURI program (which drew more than 150 full proposals), the DoD announced plans to make 32 awards (totaling $227m over five years) to a total of 67 academic institutions.

As part of the only project selected this year in the area of laser and photodetector materials research, ASU researchers have been awarded $2.34m (out of a total grant of $6.25m over five years) involving collaborating with colleagues at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina. This is the third MURI program grant awarded to ASU researchers in the past several years in semiconductor optoelectronics and photonics.

ASU’s Yong-Hang Zhang, David J. Smith and Shane Johnson will combine expertise in electrical engineering, materials science and physics. Zhang is a professor and Johnson is a senior research scientist in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering (one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering). Smith is an ASU Regents' Professor in the Department of Physics in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The researchers will focus on deepening knowledge of the basic properties of materials used to construct lasers and infrared photodetectors, studying the origins of defects in the materials and exploring ways to reduce them. Understanding how defects form at the nanometer scale should enable improvements in the materials, opening the path to advances in semiconductors, infrared photodetectors and imaging systems, Johnson says.

Zhang, Smith and Johnson aim to strive to better understand and improve the physical and structural properties of antimonide-based compound semiconductor materials, which have the potential to produce very high-performance infrared photodetectors and lasers.

Specifically, they will study superlattice systems, consisting of two or more semiconductor materials in alternating layers several nanometers thick which — combined with an antimonide material system — can give "additional degrees of freedom when selecting for color and performance in infrared photodetectors and lasers", says Johnson. 

Zhang has previously (while at Hughes Research Laboratories) performed pioneering work on superlattices for infrared laser applications. He has been collaborating with Johnson and Smith on this research since he joined ASU in 1996. Smith also has decades of experience studying structural properties of semiconductor superlattices.

Search: Antimonide IR photodetectors Lasers