Photonics at Amsterdam Science Park

From solar power to microscopy, phone cameras to fibre-optics, biosensors to semiconductors: discoveries and innovations in photonics have shaped our daily lives in many ways. The vast number of applications across several industries means that the European Commission has named photonics among its key enabling technologies of the 21st century. At Amsterdam Science Park, research and industry are constantly working together on new solutions in the field, ever increasing speed, capacity, accuracy and affordability.

Industries using photonics: from healthcare to agriculture

Focusing on generating, guiding, transporting and detecting light waves and light particles, photonics offers new solutions where conventional technologies are becoming too slow, too inaccurate or too limited in terms of capacity. Its benefits are put to use in sectors including health and life sciences, tech, sustainability and environment, manufacturing, agrifood and security. For example, advanced photonic sensors, imaging and tools such as optical tweezers have the potential to effect giant leaps in healthcare. Photovoltaics harness solar energy – at the Science Park, AMOLF is running a large-scale programme dedicated to next-generation solar cells. And optical sensors measure fine particular matter and can be applied in precision agriculture, food safety checks and many other fields. Lasers and 3D displays push the envelope in manufacturing.

Areas of specialisation in photonics research

At Amsterdam Science Park, several research groups are dedicated to different themes within photonics.

The Molecular Photonics group at the University of Amsterdam’s Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences focuses on the dynamics of supramolecular and biomolecular systems, on photo processes in nanostructures, and on photochemical processes. Much of their research is attracting international recognition.

The Photonic Materials Group is a research group at the Center for Nanophotonics at AMOLF. The group works on quantum cathodoluminescence microscopy, light management in photovoltaics and optical meta materials. They have developed instruments including the Angle-Resolved Cathodoluminescence (ARCIS) microscope, which has successfully been brought to market in a commercial redesign, and have research contracts with a variety of companies including ThermoFisher, SCIL Imprint Solutions and Philips Research. This history of knowledge transfer to companies is fully in line with the collaborative spirit of the Science Park, where researchers come together with businesses to drive innovation across sectors and fields of expertise.  And the group’s work on developing solar cells in particular has strongly benefitted from international collaborations, forged in part at the Science Park.

Business innovation in photonics

Photonics is at the heart of photovoltaics (generating electric power by converting solar energy from solar cells), which is a global market worth more than €100 billion annually.

The Science Park’s collaborative spirit connects its leading academic lights with innovative startups and business leaders, so that knowledge can be shared across different sectors to develop market-ready photonics solutions. Rapid Photonics, for example, is a startup originating at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam; its office and production facility are now located at Amsterdam Science Park. Working within the area of integrated photonics, which concerns integration in chips, the company aims to revolutionise the development and application of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) by enabling lightning-fast production of hybrid PICs.

Co-creation at the Science Park

These and other game-changing innovations are being worked on daily at Amsterdam Science Park. Discover other focus areas and learn how co-creation opportunities take scientific findings from idea through concept to completion.

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