17 September 2010


UK III-V research center awarded £10m, five-year contract renewal

The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) National Centre for III-V Technologies, based at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Nanoscience and Technology in its Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, has received a renewal contract worth £10m over the next five years (from 1 July 2010) to support continued research in III-V semiconductor materials and devices by researchers throughout the UK.

III-Vs research has been taking place at the university’s facility (which benefited in 2006 from a £6.5m university-funded cleanroom) for 32 years. Nearly 800 scientific publications have resulted over the last 10 years. The facility serves all universities and scientists across the UK, enabling research in the physical, engineering and biomedical sciences. Current applied projects include studies of solar cells via QuantaSol Ltd of Kingston-upon-Thames, UK (a spin-out firm from Imperial College and the University of Sheffield), which uses strain-balanced quantum-well (QW) techniques to produce high-efficiency solar cells.

The facility is also active in the development of a more efficient production technique for quantum cascade lasers (QCLs), which are used for gas detection, pollution monitoring and oil exploration (as the technology can detect very small quantities of gases given off by oil deposits). Possible other applications in the future include their use in car exhausts to monitor pollutants and feed back to the engine to adjust fuel flow, reducing emissions and improving efficiency.

“Much of the research will result in improvements in quality of life for everyone in the future,” says professor Peter Houston, director of the EPSRC National Centre for III-V Technologies, about the work that will be enabled by the new funding.

The facility's work on high-efficiency III-V solar cells comes as the University of Sheffield launches the venture ‘Project Sunshine’, which aims to unite scientists in finding ways to harness the power of the sun and tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the world: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world’s population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change.

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