LESA Researcher First to Receive DOE Manufacturing Innovator Challenge Award

LESA Researcher First to Receive DOE Manufacturing Innovator Challenge Award

(Troy, New York) Rensselaer doctoral graduate and LESA researcher Michael Deagen (’18) is the winner of the 2019 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Manufacturing Innovator Challenge competition for crowdsourced solid-state lighting (SSL) manufacturing concepts. The Manufacturing Innovator Challenge competition is a new contest launched by the DOE last October and Deagen is the first recipient for his submission entitled, “Layer-by-Layer Stamping for Developing Next-Generation Optical Waveguides.”

The award includes a $3,000 prize and recognition during the 2019 DOE SSL R&D Workshop.

“These DOE contests are a good way to solicit new ideas, and I hope to see many creative concepts continue to emerge as a result,” Deagen says of his experience competing.

Deagen has conducted his doctoral research at the LESA Center and co-advised by Rensselaer Assistant Professor Chaitanya Ullal in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and former Rensselaer professor, Linda Schadler, who currently serves as the dean of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Vermont. Deagen also received support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) for developing low-cost manufacturing techniques for photonic crystals – structured materials whose refractive index is modulated in three dimensions at a size-scale comparable to the wavelengths of visible

light. His work, which focuses on fundamental materials challenges such as wetting and adhesion, is featured in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces and Soft Matter. Understanding the physics of these processes is key to developing low cost, high volume photonic crystal waveguide manufacturing.

In his concept paper, Deagen posits that optical waveguide materials of the future will be inspired by photonic crystals and argues that layer-by-layer stamping in a roll-to-roll process is important to construct these types of materials at low cost. The process involves coating a stamp with an ink material without a residual layer, solidifying the ink, and transferring the ink from stamp to substrate layer-by-layer. Conventional 3-D printing techniques are either unable to create structures with sufficiently high resolution or cannot create the necessary pattern across large areas within a realistic time frame for mass production.

“Layer-by-layer stamping can be converted to roll-to-roll processing and has the potential to disrupt 3-D printing over the next decade the same way photonic crystals may disrupt conventional optical waveguides,” says Deagen.

Solid-state lighting (SSL) has revolutionized the lighting industry with efficient light sources that continue to drop in cost every day. Deagen’s research aligns well with industry expectations as it provides a timely and cost-efficient way to engineer refractive indices using optical features smaller than one-millionth of a meter and demonstrates how to scale this capability to high volume production methods. When combined with the nanocomposite refractive index engineered optical materials developed by LESA researchers over the past several years, new approaches to novel, efficient and cost-effective waveguide manufacturing can be realized.

The DOE SSL R&D Workshop is being held in Dallas, Texas, January 29-31 this year and the LESA Center is hosting a booth. This annual workshop brings together experts in lighting from universities, national labs, and industry to discuss new innovations and the future of lighting.