Published: Sept. 14, 2021 By

CU Boulder is a founding partner of a major National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center (STC): the Center for Integration of Modern Optoelectronic Materials on Demand (IMOD). The center represents a research partnership spanning 11 universities led by the University of Washington.

The center’s research into optoelectronics — devices and materials that sense, transmit, display or otherwise utilize light — will be based on recent advances in quantum dots and halide perovskites.

Starting in October, NSF will invest $25 million across five years to fund IMOD’s collaborative research into the science underlying new optoelectronic technology and applications, including semiconductor materials, quantum optics, display screens, clean energy, sensing technology and the manufacturing processes that will build them at scale.

Denise Bale, Seth Marder and Michael Toney close ups
From left to right: Denise Bale, Seth Marder and Michael Toney

The center will be led by Alvin L. and Verla R. Kwiram Endowed Professor of Chemistry David Ginger of the University of Washington. Faculty from CU Boulder, including Senior Research Associate Denise Bale, Professor Seth Marder and Professor Michael Toney, are founding members.

Bale will serve as IMOD’s managing director, and will work closely with Ginger and Marder on management, staffing and center operations in support of research and integrative activities.

Bale said several of the center investigators have had previous collaborations.

“I was excited when David and Seth approached me about the opportunity to serve as the IMOD managing director,” she said. “The IMOD team is a dream to work with and I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute.”

Marder, who will serve as deputy director, was part of the team that submitted the initial proposal to the NSF. He will assist Ginger and Bale in strategic planning and operations.

“CU Boulder — and more generally the IMOD Science and Technology Center — has strength in materials synthesis and characterization specifically of high-quality optoelectronic materials that can be processed at low temperature,” Marder said. “This ability is important for both controlling the structure very precisely and potentially for lower cost manufacturing down the road.”

IMOD Partner Institutions
  • University of Washington (lead)
  • City College of New York
  • Columbia University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Lehigh University
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of Maryland, College Park

Marder emphasized the broader impacts of NSF Science and Technology Centers.

“STCs have a very important education and workforce training component, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion mandates,” he said. “CU Boulder faculty and staff will play important roles in helping to craft and implement efforts to make educational materials not only available to center members, but to the broader community. We will be working with a variety of minority serving institutions to help broaden participation in STEM disciplines and will be working with various companies to help facilitate the transfer of technology to the industrial sector.”

Marder and Ginger approached Toney early on to get his help in developing and refining the center's goals in relation to synthesis and characterization. He said he would be responsible for detailed characterization of the processes involved in the molecularly precise synthesis as well as the resulting materials.

“We will be developing a modular chamber that can be used across multiple characterization methods, which is needed to understand and ultimately control the synthesis,” he added.

Associate Dean for Research Massimo Ruzzene said he was excited to see the research that came out of this new set of partnerships.

“This center speaks to the strength of CU Boulder’s interdisciplinary engineering research faculty, and specifically highlights our growing prominence in the field of materials science and engineering,” said Ruzzene. “It is a direct result of institutional investment in the exciting area of material science, and has the potential to make big waves in optoelectronic materials research, with far-reaching impacts across a wide range of industries and technologies.”

The center also further develops CU Boulder’s ongoing collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, which will serve as an external partner, particularly through collaboration with Director Joseph Berry of US-MAP Consortium at NREL. Berry is also a RASEI Fellow.