UTSA physicists honored by peers for advances in energy-efficient lighting

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(Feb. 13, 2012) -- Researchers Gangadharan Ajith Kumar, Madhab Pokhrel and Dhiraj K. Sardar in the UTSA Laser and Biophotonics Laboratories have develop the world's most intense infrared-activated, light-emitting phosphor. The discovery will advance the underlying technology of LEDs, lasers and other electronic displays.

Photons or light emitting particles are the focus of the scientific discipline photonics. Phosphors are photons that emit colored light when excited with another color. The efficiency of phosphor light output depends on many material properties. While most phosphors excited by ultraviolet light are inefficient and lose a lot of thermal energy, excitation by infrared light makes phosphors more energy efficient and environmentally safe.

The trio created a unique phosphor that produces more intense light than any other infrared-activated phosphor on record. Kumar now is testing the discovery's application with an LED manufacturing company. Pokhrel, a UTSA Ph.D. student, is researching the material's potential to enhance silicon solar cell efficiency.

Recently, the researchers were honored by the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) with one of four Green Photonics awards. They accepted the award at the SPIE Photonics West conference in San Antonio last month.

"When I heard UTSA's name along with Harvard, Caltech and other German researchers who received SPIE's Green Photonics Award, I was really excited," said Kumar. "It was exciting to see that our research was on that level and we were all on the same stage. We hope this attracts more students to UTSA who are interested in researching photonics."

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The society serves more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth.

The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy offers coursework in semiconductor technology, solid-state physics, theoretical physics, astrophysics, computer visualization, lasers and biophotonics, cosmology and relativity. Additionally, UTSA and the Space Science Division at Southwest Research Institute jointly offer a graduate degree in space physics, giving students firsthand experience in instrument and satellite development.