Super science

A small laboratory in Lithuania has pushed the frontier of quantum electronics and applied physics thanks to German and Lithuanian EUREKA partners. The results of Optical Diagnostics were shared with the scientific community and will help companies manufacture cutting-edge electronic products like energy-saving light bulbs. Called "the Jerusalem of the North" by Napoleon for its Jewish influence and the beauty of its old town, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania is quietly pushing the frontiers of quantum electronics. Japanese scientists, German industrialists,and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Zhores Alferov are among those who have headed to Vilnius University to see a device that will help companies around the world develop materials used in the latest electronics products like energy-saving lighting.

The prototype HOLO-3 build on EUREKA project Optical Diagnostics can test all kinds of semiconductor materials for electronics and optoelectronics. Whereas previously for electronic gadgets like mobile phones, semiconductors inside were made mainly from silicon, nowadays all sorts of smart "inorganic" materials are being developed from combinations of chemicals. "Manufacturers want to make technology cheaper and more flexible, and the more sophisticated the semiconductors they develop, the more advanced the testing of them needs to be," explains Kestutis Jarasiunas, the professor that coordinated the project at Vilnius' Institute of Applied Research. While previous testing used commercial techniques as well electrical ones that require contacts, the EUREKA partners developed a way to use non-destructive, laser-based  holographic technology to monitor the fast electrical properties of different materials using solely optical means.

‘We’re a small laboratory but through this partnership we’ve made a huge step.’

Researchers needed to be able to look at a semiconductor nanostructure - a tiny sandwich of different materials no thicker than a 1000th of the thickness of a human hair. Previous techniques involved lighting up the structure with a laser or electron beam to create particles with electric charges. Scientists would then measure the light emission from it. The EUREKA team's new techniques involved using one or two laser beams to change its electric and optical properties and sending another laser beam at it in order to see what changes occurred   - how long the electrical charges live and how fast they move away from the stimulated area.

The partnership was very profitable for all parties involved and brought together various competences without which the project could not have achieved its outstanding results. The Vilnius laboratory refined its spatio-temporal characterisation process using lasers from Ekspla, also based in Vilnius, and tested it on all kinds of advanced semiconductor structures made by the German company Aixtron, enhancing the quality of its products. Based in North Rhine-Westphalia, Aixtron is the leading supplier in the world in its field, which has helped bring the innovation to the attention of companies and scientists from around the world and increased the visibility of Professor's Jarasiunas' laboratory. The researchers have published a number of papers on the holographic techniques and have carried out testing using the prototype at Vilnius and now Ekspla is in talks to make the diagnostic device for companies. "We’re a small laboratory but through this partnership we’ve made a huge step in creating a device that is user-friendly, reliable and capable of analysing the various latest materials for electronics,” says Jarasiunas

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