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Our Co-Founder Breaks More New Ground in Nanoscale LEDs

Professor Zetian Mi's University of Michigan research team secures a $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant....

Our co-founder Professor Zetian Mi continues to break new ground in nano-LED technology research. His team at the University of Michigan recently secured a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support a project to create quantum semiconductors that operate at room temperature.

Molecular beam epitaxy machine at the University of Michigan. Image credit: Joseph Xu.

Prof. Mi's research team is focused on getting quantum materials to behave in predictable ways that enable cost-effective production of nanoscale light-emitting diodes. A process known as plasma assisted molecular beam epitaxy enables his team to build up the semiconductor one layer at a time, carefully controlling each layer, to achieve reliable, efficient nano-LED performance. Prof. Mi’s production techniques have the potential to deliver orders-of-magnitude improvements in the efficiency of nano-LEDs—including future high-performance “far-UVC” LEDs that generate ultraviolet light for next-generation air-, surface-, and water disinfection.

Why is that important? Far-UVC light has the potential to reduce the Covid-19 viral load in many locations where the disease spreads most rapidly. While traditional UVC light at wavelengths higher than 240 nanometers can neutralize germs, too much exposure may harm your skin and eyes in the same way that too much sunlight can. So, it is of limited use in locations where people gather. But far-UVC light’s shorter wavelengths, at 200-to-240 nm, do not penetrate past your body’s protective outer layer of dead skin cells or make their way through the liquid tear layer that protects your eyes. It can potentially be used in many more public locations, constantly disinfecting the air people breathe and surfaces they touch.

National Science Foundation funding of University of Michigan research enables the creation of new science, which can quickly translate into technology with commercial impact. At NS Nanotech, we have rights to use much of the patented technology previously developed in Prof. Mi’s labs, and his research helped us develop our first product, the solid-state far-UVC ShortWaveLight™ Emitter. And we expect it will continue to support our long-term effort to create the world’s first true nanoscale LEDs capable of generating far-UVC light for disinfection applications.

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