2/2009

At the cutting edge of semiconductor research

Pessa 1

Professor Pessa is leaving ORC in good hands and will continue
pursuing semiconductor research even after retirement.

The Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at Tampere University of Technology is the largest university unit in Europe employing the molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) method. MBE is the most precise known fabrication method for thin film semiconductors.

Professor Markus Pessa, the founder and long-term director of ORC, is widely acclaimed both in Finland and abroad for his work in the field of semiconductor research and in developing related technology. Research conducted at ORC forms the foundation for a whole new export industry sector in the province of Pirkanmaa, employing more than 100 people. Pessa himself has written some 800 scientific articles and headed over 40 R&D projects in 2000-2009. He has also won numerous awards in recognition of his scientific accomplishments. One of Pessa's most noted achievements is his election to the United States National Academy of Engineering as a foreign associate in 2006.

Now ORC and Pessa are setting their sights on the development of high-power solar cells that hold considerable commercial potential.

Excellent results from commercializing research findings

Newly retired Pessa emphasizes the importance of transferring research results and knowledge for the benefit of society.

In Finland, the industrial production of lasers and epitaxial semiconductor wafers is concentrated in and around Tampere. ORC has contributed to the emergence and growth of five optoelectronics companies currently operating within the region. Industry is also set to benefit from the results of the 28 projects underway at ORC that focus on hitherto unresolved scientific phenomena. In addition, the centre is involved in several EU research projects and is a member of the international networks Photonics21, COST MP0803 and COST MP0805.

Pessa has established two collaboration networks to increase knowledge transfer. The Industry Club network, which has around 30 member companies, plays its part in ensuring that optoelectronics research is moving in the right direction. The Laser Competence Centre acts as a bridge between academia and industry.

First-rate staff and equipment

Pessa's professorship will become available for applicants worldwide in about 18 months' time. As ORC actively recruits international experts, 11 of the centre's 65 employees are foreign nationals. This year the centre's annual turnover will reach the record level of 6 million euros.

"Under the leadership of Professor Pessa, ORC has achieved excellent results both in its focal areas of research and in commercialising research results. We have invested over 20 million euros in research equipment, so our facilities are first rate and the centre has motivated employees who are keen to continue high-tech research and development. We have now completed many major investments and have a strong funding base", says DTech Pekka Savolainen, the new director of ORC.

The centre's latest investment is a semiconductor reactor that is the second of its kind in Europe. The reactor is used to grow thin films for lasers, solar cells and other optoelectronic components. The GEN20 equipment can grow practically any kind of flawless, multilayered nanotechnological thin-film structure consisting of III-V compound semiconductors.

Professor Pessa is leaving ORC in good hands and will continue pursuing semiconductor research even after retirement.

"I've discussed collaboration with Brussels and Suzhou University in China. If all goes according to plan, I'll be working near Shanghai six months at a time for five years. In autumn 2009, I was invited as an honorary professor to a research centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences located in Xi'an. I could devote some of the time I'll be spending in Brussels to evaluating funding applications. And perhaps some kind of cooperation can be established with TUT, too."

 

Text: Kati Vastamäki
Photo: Petri Laitinen

 

 

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