The field of luminescent materials has been and will stay important for science and society with countless applications in healthcare, security, information- and display technology, lighting and many more. Luminescent materials are without a doubt a key enabling technology in optics and photonics. Its current growth is driven by industrial needs for new or improved phosphors for white and IR LEDs, new types of displays with better color purity, new afterglow phosphors for small animal imaging, or denser scintillators for security and medical imaging applications with improved sensitivity and spatial resolution. Developments are also driven by new synthesis approaches enabling for example highly efficient core multi-shell quantum dots. New fundamental insights in the absolute energy of ground- and excited states of rare earth and transition metal ions have made deliberate design of new materials possible, and provide better control of charge- and energy transfer processes between ions.
But something is missing. Its my vision that the future opportunities lie in the area of renewable energy, if only we could develop the right luminescent materials. My search for such materials can lead to an important role for luminescent materials in the energy transition from fossil fuels to CO2 neutral sustainable energy sources like solar energy. My holy grail is not only to give proof-of-principle of new materials or new phenomena, but also take the challenging additional step beyond proof-of-principle, toward application in real devices. Research focuses on three types of materials: (i) luminescent solar concentrator materials for building integrated PV, (ii) down-conversion materials for solar cells, (iii) and spectral conversion materials for enhanced growth of algae or plants.
Erik van der Kolk