Professor Markku Sopanen is working on tailoring materials for use in LEDs and lasers
Markku Sopanen D.Sc. (Tech) was appointed as Professor of the Department of Micro- and Nanosciences on 1 October 2014. His work focuses on optoelectronics.
Thanks to the way in which they combine expertise in materials technology with unique apparatus, there is a high demand for the LED and laser components produced by the researchers at the Optoelectronics Unit, both in Finland and elsewhere in the world.
Optoelectronics can be applied in almost every part of our daily lives. Indeed, LED lighting is here to stay, with products such as CD and DVD players, Blu-ray, and LED screens all based on semi-conductor technology. An example of one of the newest applications for optoelectronics is the laser projector.
“The first MOVP device, which manufactures the semi-conductors needed in lasers and LEDs, was installed in the Unit in 1993. It was the first of its kind in Finland, with three devices eventually being installed in conjunction with the Micronova clean room facility.”
One example of the cooperative projects worked on seeks to use UV LED light to purify the waste water produced by pharmaceutical production. Only just the other day a lot of media attention was sparked by the tear fluid measuring “terminator” contact lenses developed in partnership with a visiting professor from the University of Washington, USA. The energy supply for the lenses was produced wirelessly using LED lights.
“The use of LED lighting and especially gallium nitride-based materials has become much more widespread in recent times. So much so, in fact, that gallium nitride is now one of the most important material compounds.”
Research into the use of this special compound is also being carried out in the field of power electronics. It is one of only a few materials that can be used to produce not only high-powered but also extremely fast components that can withstand demanding conditions.
Adapting materials for use on the basketball court
Sopanen is fascinated by the opportunities to develop materials afforded by optoelectronics.
“As part of my studies, I took some courses in applied physics, and it was then that I got really interested in optoelectronics and the engineering way of thinking and working that you follow in order to produce layered semi-conductors. It’s really fascinating to be able to adapt materials to all kinds of different purposes.”
In addition to his scientific research, sport is also a source of inspiration for Markku. Having caught the basketball bug as a young boy, Sopanen was still playing in the Finnish 5th division up until three years ago. Now, however, he’s swapped his game shirt for a place in the stands and is an active follower of basketball and other sports too.
“The work team gets together to play floorball every week. When colleagues play sport together and hang out in the changing room, it frees everyone up in a completely different way to, for example, when they interact at work in the lab.”