Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Optoelectronic devices and circuits

This research area looks at the design, modelling, fabrication and processing of new or improved active semiconductor-based devices and systems that use electrons and photons.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses design, modelling, fabrication and processing of new or improved devices and systems that use electrons and photons, including ultraviolet (UV), visible, infrared (IR), terahertz (THz) and microwave radiation.

This research area focuses on active semiconductor-based structures and example technologies include:

  • low-dimensional structures (for example quantum dots, wires and wells) to realise device platforms such as lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) including organic LEDs, photodiodes, amplifiers, modulators, detectors, photovoltaics, receivers, switches and sensors
  • novel or extended hybrid and monolithic integration strategies (for example compound semiconductors on silicon or germanium) to realise active and passive multifunctional component solutions such as combined photonic, magnetic and electronic integrated circuits.

The aims of this research area are set out below.

Our portfolio

We aim to have a portfolio that continues to take a systems approach, to foster more informed design and enable the community to continue to address challenges beyond their domains.

This typically requires interfacing with other disciplines (for example quantum technologies, communications) and is particularly important as the range of advanced materials and device fabrication technologies has grown and diversified.

This approach will allow the area to have more impact, particularly in responding to future challenges and priorities (for example emerging quantum technologies, the internet of things). It will also allow this research area to support developments in manufacturing technologies.

Equipment and cleanroom facilities

We will continue to support a strong capability in equipment and cleanroom facilities, which are instrumental to current UK success in this area.

Optoelectronic devices and circuits

We aim to have a substantial portfolio in optoelectronic devices and circuits that includes a mixture of projects and programmes ranging in scale and scope and fostering a healthy balance between support for earlier and for more established researchers.

Why we're doing it

We support a large, internationally leading UK academic community with an extensive reputation for research excellence in semiconductor related fields. Much of our funding supports critical mass investments, which have contributed to this world leading position.

UK research also benefits from external factors and investment, such as access to commercial European foundries (for example CST and IQE) and to Europpractice.

This area is also seeing significant activity from EPSRC and external large scale investment in higher technology readiness level initiatives, for example:

As a result of these investments, we expect to see significant demand for the outcomes from fundamental research. This should draw on key UK strengths, for example:

  • photonic device expertise across a range of technologies – such as advanced semiconductor laser devices
  • developments in applied and fundamental III-Vs technologies.

A specific opportunity is in smart lighting, which could become an important component in the internet of things and benefits from a strong UK research effort in organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and flexible electronics.

We recognise that, as well as being relevant to traditional information and communication technologies (ICT) sectors such as communications and electronics, this area is relevant to non-ICT sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, energy, defence and construction.

This reflects the ability of semiconductor technologies to play a major role in overcoming today’s societal challenges. We anticipate direct medium term impact from this research community on, for example, emerging quantum technologies and the internet of things.

The contribution this research area can make to EPSRC cross-ICT priorities, is, however, insufficient to justify the proportion of the EPSRC portfolio it currently accounts for. Its contribution is strong but can be delivered by a smaller, still substantial level of support.

The bulk of the portfolio also consists of large, long grants which have contributed to the UK’s international standing in this research area. But we need to ensure this approach does not compromise the long term health of the area by limiting expertise to a few major research efforts or narrowing opportunities available to the next generation of research leaders.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for optoelectronic devices and circuits.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 3 January 2023

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.