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Posted: December 14, 2007
Light from crystals wins German Future Prize 2007
(Nanowerk News) OSRAM Opto Semiconductors has carried out pioneering work in the development of thin-film LEDs – supported by Fraunhofer researchers from Jena. Together with Dr. Andreas Bräuer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, Dr. Klaus Streubel and Dr. Stefan Illek of OSRAM Opto Semiconductors have won the German Future Prize 2007, the technology and innovation award bestowed by the German President, for their joint development of LED-based illumination modules.
For the past 40 years, light-emitting diodes have been successfully employed wherever small amounts of light are needed. Present-day applications include car indicators, reversing and brake lights. However, the efficiency and luminosity of LEDs have never yet been sufficient to achieve a major breakthrough. Now, thanks to new technologies for chip manufacturing, structural design (OSTAR) and beam shaping, developed by scientists at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors with the support of optics specialists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, the light output of the low-price, energy-saving LEDs has been vastly improved. In Berlin at December 6th, German President Horst Köhler presented the team of OSRAM and Fraunhofer researchers with the prestigious German research award, worth €250,000 (approx. $360,000), in recognition of their achievement.
The new high-output LED modules are based on perfect synergy between solid-state physics and optics. The semiconductor components were built by OSRAM, while researchers in Jena took care of the optics. “We are delighted to have received this prize. It is the result of extremely successful cooperation between research scientists from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and from industry”, remarks Institute director Prof. Andreas Tünnermann.
OSRAM started developing thin-film LEDs in 1999. The company took a major step forwards when it devised chip technology that permits the extraction of light in a single half sphere. A novel platform for the thin-film LEDs ensures efficient temperature management and allows all colors of LEDs to be combined. To use the light emitted by the LED chip as fully as possible, a special optic for the respective application is required and was accordingly designed and implemented by the Fraunhofer researchers. It consists of two parts: a primary and a secondary lens. The primary lens collects the light emitted by the LED close to the chip and combines it to form a beam. The secondary lens homogenizes the light beam.
LED modules of this kind are already in use in various products, such as battery-powered digital projectors. The number of applications is steadily growing. Besides miniature projectors there will soon be LED-based rear-projection TV, infrared LED light sources for purposes such as pedestrian monitoring systems in cars, and the “OSTAR Lighting” LED module for general illumination. OSTAR modules will be made standard equipment in car headlamps as of 2008.
The success was possible by co-working of teams of scientists and suppliers at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors and at Fraunhofer IOF. The work was also supported by the German federal ministry of education and research.
The German Future Prize, the German President’s award for technology and innovation, has been awarded annually since 1997 for outstanding achievements in the area of research and development. Every year, four teams are selected for their technical, engineering or scientific innovations. Fraunhofer researchers have so far been nominated four times for the coveted award. Dr. Andreas Bräuer is now the third nominee to be crowned with success.