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DE-SC0016618: Investigation of Superluminescent Diodes for Smart Lighting Systems

Award Status: Inactive
  • Institution: University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
  • DUNS: 868853094
  • PM: Fitzsimmons, Timothy
  • Most Recent Award Date: 07/27/2018
  • Number of Support Periods: 2
  • PI: Feezell, Daniel
  • Current Budget Period: 08/15/2017 - 08/14/2019
  • Current Project Period: 08/15/2016 - 08/14/2019
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A
 

Public Abstract

The solid-state lighting ecosystem has evolved very rapidly over the last few years, with significant improvements in the technical performance of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the commoditization of LED-based lighting fixtures. As the performance of conventional lighting products begins to saturate, there is growing market interest in “Lighting as a Service” applications that will leverage advanced systems to impart new functionalities to lighting and improve energy efficiency, human health, and productivity. These “Smart Lighting” systems will include high-performance light sources, specialized sensors, and dynamic controls to deliver high quality, energy efficient, color tunable lighting with customized spatial light delivery and integrated visible light communication capability. To achieve these capabilities, smart lighting systems will place greater demands on the performance of light sources. Highly efficient sources with additional functionalities compared to conventional LEDs, such as small form factor, high speed operation, and spatially coherent output beams, will be required.

While laser diodes have been proposed as potential sources for smart lighting systems, they also exhibit several properties that pose challenges, such as temporal coherence, extremely high spatial coherence, and ultra-narrow linewidths. These properties lead to concerns with illumination quality related to light speckle and potential issues with eye safety.  To address these issues, this project will investigate an alternative device architecture for smart lighting systems known as a superluminescent diode (SLD).  SLDs are similar in form to ridge laser diodes and share many of the same characteristics, such as stimulated emission operation, spatially coherent output, small form factor, and the potential for high-speed operation. However, the operating principle for SLDs is distinct from laser diodes in that SLDs lack a strong cavity feedback mechanism, resulting in spatially coherent but temporally incoherent light output. Thus, SLDs may address the issues with laser diodes for lighting, while simultaneously maintaining some of the desirable characteristics of both laser diodes and LEDs.

The objectives of this proposal are to design, grow, and fabricate blue (450 nm) SLDs on two different crystal orientations (polar c-plane and nonpolar m-plane) of free-standing GaN substrates, and to evaluate their potential as sources in smart lighting systems through basic device characterization and detailed investigations of their efficiency droop and modulation bandwidth. The primary scientific aims of this work are to understand the fundamental role of optical gain in the superluminescent (non-lasing) regime on efficiency droop and modulation bandwidth in III-nitride emitters and to understand the effects of higher optical gain on SLD performance by comparing polar c-plane and nonpolar m-plane SLDs. The University of New Mexico (UNM) will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies to design, fabricate, grow, and characterize the SLDs. UNM will perform the design and epitaxial growth, while SNL will focus on the fabrication and device characterization. The novelty of the proposed work includes the first comprehensive theoretical and experimental investigations of efficiency droop and the first investigation of modulation bandwidth in GaN-based emitters operating in the superluminescent regime. Moreover, the comparison of c-plane and m-plane SLDs will enable the first analysis of the effects of higher optical gain on the device performance. The development of high-performance GaN-based SLDs may enable efficiency gains and improved functionality in next-generation smart lighting systems. These systems are expected to broadly impact energy efficiency, human health, and productivity.



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