Nitrides for the 21st century

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


Our research has the potential to save millions of lives, save energy, save carbon emissions and enable totally secure communications. It is based on gallium nitride, which is probably the most important new semiconductor since silicon. Unlike silicon, gallium nitride emits brilliant light when a small electric current is passed through it. We can produce light of any colour (for example blue, green, yellow, red) by adding more and more indium to gallium nitride. On the other hand, if we add aluminium to gallium nitride we can produce ultra-violet light. Gallium nitride based light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes are already in widespread use, for example as LED traffic lights and as Blu-ray laser diodes for the latest DVD players. If we coat a blue LED with a yellow-emitting phosphor then a cool white light is produced, and such white LEDs are used as front bicycle lights, flashlights, backlighting for mobile phones, etc,The aim of this Platform Grant is to underpin our research in a number of key areas. Gallium nitride produces light so efficiently that if we could use white gallium nitride based LEDs for home and office lighting we could save 15% of all electricity used, reduce carbon emissions from power stations by 15% and close eight large power stations. However, high-power white LEDs are too expensive for home and office lighting, and the quality of the white light is too poor to be acceptable. Gallium nitride based LEDs are currently grown on two-inch diameter sapphire wafers. We are developing their growth on six-inch silicon wafers. If successful, this will reduce the cost of each LED by a factor of ten, which will make white LEDs cheap enough for home and office lighting. Some challenging new science in required for this, but we are world leading in this research. We are also planning to produce high quality white light, like natural sunlight, by developing new green and red phosphors, and we will tailor the wavelength of our LEDs to maximise the excitation of these new phosphors. We also plan to eliminate phosphors totally, which will further improve the efficiency, and produce white light by mixing blue, green, yellow and red LEDs. Currently green and yellow LEDs have relatively poor efficiency, for reasons which are not totally clear, and we plan to solve this problem. Solving both the problems of cost and quality will yield low-cost high-efficiency high-quality lighting for our homes and offices, with the substantial energy and carbon savings referred to above.Deep ultra-violet radiation stops bacteria and viruses from reproducing and hence essentially kills them. Aluminium gallium nitride LEDs at present emit in the deep-UV, but their efficiency is too low to be useful. We propose to make highly-efficient LEDs emitting in the deep-UV. These could be used to purify drinking water in the developing world. Over one billion people in the world do not have access to drinkable water, and drinking impure water kills more people in the world than AIDS. Our research could lead to literally millions of lives being saved. The LEDs operate at typically 4 Volts and so can be powered by solar cells, ideal for the developing world. Additionally such deep-UV LEDs could be used in a flashlight to shine on hospital walls, floors and bedding to kill superbugs.We plan to develop a novel gallium nitride based light source called a single photon emitter, which emits a single photon on demand. This would be used for sending totally secure messages. For example a mobile phone, with a single photon emitter, could send a message to a cash machine for you to obtain money, with no possibility of anyone obtaining your bank details, PIN number, etc. Our research therefore promises substantial benefits to the health, wealth, wellbeing and security of our society.


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Badcock TJ (2010) Electronic structure of a-plane GaN/AlGaN quantum wells in Physica Status Solidi

Description The continuity of funding has enabled us to make significant advances in the following areas:
1. Understanding of the reduction in efficiency of GaN based LEDs at high drive currents.
2. Obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the role of field controlling layers in InGaN LEDs.
3. We have undertaken a program of research on GaN based structures in which the electric field which limits the efficiency is reduced.
4. Obtained more detailed understanding of the light generation processes in polar and non polar InGaN quantum wells.
Exploitation Route The results of our work are available to the UK manufacturers of LEDS enabling them to be more competitive in this demanding market.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy

Description Beyond blue
Amount £464,496 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M010627/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2020
Description Lighting the Future
Amount £6,330,270 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I012591/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2010 
End 11/2015
Description Study of semi-polar and non-polar nitride based structures for opto-electronic device applications
Amount £385,382 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J001627/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2011 
End 07/2014
Description Collaboration with Tyndall Insitute 
Organisation University College Cork
Department Tyndall National Institute
Country Ireland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Input to theory work done at Tyndall Institute
Collaborator Contribution Theoretical input to program
Impact Significant number of papers
Start Year 2009
Description Light for life 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Active engagement in making the general public aware of the consequences of our research.

We have been asked to give repeat performances, most notably at the event "jodrell Live", which attacts many thousands of visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
Description Sci Bar talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk to organisation which aims to inform public of latest scientific research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015