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Photonic Systems

Since ~1990, the Ames Laboratory has conducted pioneering development and studies of 3D photonic crystals (PCs), developed forefront organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and procedures for characterizing them, and conducted pioneering optically detected magnetic resonance (ODMR) studies on organic semiconductors and OLEDs. PCs, artificial periodic dielectrics or metallic structures, have revolutionized control and manipulation of photons, similar to the control of electrons in semiconduc-tors. Photon diffraction by PCs has opened new vistas to control spontaneous emission, chemical reactions, optical communications, sensing, energy-efficient lighting, displays, and, in particular, solar cells. In parallel, OLEDs and organic electronics are developing rapidly, with particular relevance for solid state lighting. These research areas are combined into four interrelated tasks that will be performed in the next three years. Besides continuing studies in each of these areas, we will use our vast expertise to enhance light emission from OLEDs, thereby combining the PC expertise with (organic) light-emitting structures. We will explore new functionalities of PCs, including lasing and non-linear effects and utilize low-cost methods to design and fabricate large-area PC and OLED structures relevant to energy-related applications. In close relation to ODMR, we will also explore organic spintronics. There will be a close synergy between theory, simulation, fabrication, and experimental studies in these interrelated tasks.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering.

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  • Tunable near-UV microcavity organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that emit in the deep blue and ultraviolet light region have been developed using a novel approach. These devices address the growing need for portable compact near-UV sources for analytical tools as well as various biomedical and forensic applications. These are among the first OLEDs that emit in the near-UV region. In this new approach, the team tuned the thickness of the spacer layer of a nanometer wide microcavity, allowing them to tailor each individual OLED in the array to the desired narrow-band emission.

  • Significant LED performance improvements have been achieved by taking advantage of novel materials.An organic light emitting diode (OLED) requires at least one transparent electrode, which is most commonly indium tin oxide (ITO). While ITO is both transparent and a good electrical conductor, its light transmission differs from the other organic material layers used in the device, leading to internal reflections which reduce efficiency. Researchers replaced ITO with a special highly conductive polymer known as PEDOT:PSS.

  • A novel electrode architecture has led to a new way to make transparent electrical contacts. Typical ways of attaching a conductor to a non-metallic material allow you to see the electrode. However, for many applications, like light emitting diode (LED) displays, smart windows and solar cells, transparency to visible light is a requirement that conflicts with electrical conductance. Thinner films are more transparent, but less conductive. The new architecture consists of specially patterned nanoscale-thick metallic ribbons, standing on edge, supported by a polymer matrix.