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Study to enable smarter, cheaper lighting tech

11 Jun 2013

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An innovation by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could open the door to a new generation of LED technology that promises to be cheaper to manufacture, significantly more efficient, and enables functionalities and applications far beyond illumination.

At the heart of today's LED lighting systems are chips made from GaN, a semiconductor material. For the LED to function, many external components—such as inductors, capacitors, silicon interconnects, and wires—must be installed on or integrated into the chip. The large size of the chip, with all of these necessary components, complicates the design and performance of LED lighting products. Additionally, the process of assembling these complex LED lighting systems can be slow, manually intensive, and expensive.

Researchers from the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Centre at Rensselaer have successfully integrated an LED and a power transistor on the same gallium nitride (GaN) chip. In the study led by T. Paul Chow, professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE) at Rensselaer, the researchers sought to solve this challenge by developing a chip with components all made from GaN. This type of monolithically integrated chip simplifies LED device manufacturing, with fewer assembly steps and less required automation. Additionally, LED devices made with monolithically integrated chips will have fewer parts to malfunction, higher energy efficiency and cost effectiveness, and greater lighting design flexibility.

Chow and the research team grew a GaN LED structure directly on top of a GaN high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT) structure. They used several basic techniques to interconnect the two regions, creating what they are calling the first monolithic integration of a HEMT and an LED on the same GaN-based chip. The device, grown on a sapphire substrate, demonstrated light output and light density comparable to standard GaN LED devices. Chow said the study is an important step towards the creation of a new class of optoelectronic device called a light emitting integrated circuit (LEIC).

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A cross-section of the new monolithically integrated GaN LED and HEMT.


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