EMPIR project provides essential support to the European photonics community

Photodiode sensor chip (Image: Courtesy of JV)

An important European Technology Platform calls for new photonics technology that is currently in development by EMPIR project

The project

Photonics, the science of generating and controlling particles of light, is one of the European Commission’s Key Enabling Technologies. With its wide-ranging presence in communications and health, lighting and photovoltaics, and everyday products like mobile phones, photonics is a rapidly advancing technology that offers key competitive advantages to manufacturing industries across Europe.

Despite its unique qualities, the technology still faces challenges associated with the measurement uncertainty of optical power, and so EMPIR project ‘Self-calibrating photodiodes for the radiometric linkage to fundamental constants’ (18SIB10, chipS·CALe) has been developing new techniques for obtaining accurate optical power readings.

The project has primarily been focusing on the production of a self-calibrating ‘NMI-on-a-chip’ silicon photodiode sensor. Silicon photodiodes alone have certain advantageous, intrinsic quantum properties that allow for improved traceability of optical power measurements. Through the development of their new sensors, project researchers are combining silicon photodiode properties with various self-calibrating technologies, removing the need to move instruments to the lab for calibration.

This new type of sensor will enable the measurement of optical power to a greater accuracy than ever before, improving sensor traceability and efficiency within the photonics industry.

Photonics21: Developing a roadmap for the future of European Photonics

Under the Commission’s Horizon Europe Programme, there is a now a European Partnership for Photonics – behind which is ‘Photonics21’. This technology platform is working to establish Europe as a global leader in the development of photonics technologies. In recent years, Photonics21 published a ‘Strategic Roadmap Paper’ for 2021-2027 to outline their specific strategies for growing and advancing the European photonics industry. The report specifically refers to a need for ‘maintenance-free, self-calibrating sensors’ like those being developed by project ‘chipS·CALe’.

Jarle Gran (JV, Norway), the project coordinator, comments further:

“It is encouraging to see that high level organisations, like Photonics21, requests general technology based on the same philosophy as we develop in the chipS·CALe project. I believe it is the future way of providing traceability in a wide range of applications.”

Theoretically, the project’s novel sensors have the potential to enable calibration procedures to be carried out without any user invention. These ‘smart’ photonics sensors could revolutionise artificial intelligence systems used across security and IT sectors. In the near future, these sensors could potentially even support significant improvements within our agricultural and food industries, by allowing food ‘sell-by’ dates to be individualised and improving the monitoring of water quality & soil health.

To find out more about the strategy outlined by Photonics21, please see the full paper: Europe’s age of light! How photonics will power growth and innovation: Strategic Roadmap 2021-2027.  

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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