Winner: 2022 Dalton Division Horizon Prize
For a multidisciplinary approach blending chemistry, engineering and maths towards blue and white copper(I) complex light-emitting electrochemical cells.
A team of scientists from across Europe have devised a multidisciplinary approach blending chemistry, engineering and maths to create blue and white copper (l) complex light-emitting electrochemical cells.
Light-emitting electrochemical cells (LECs) are devices that generate light from an electric current through a phenomenon known as electroluminescence. LECs have a variety of applications and have the potential to undercut organic LEDs by an order of magnitude in cost.Read more
LECs using copper complexes were first created in 2005, and have been of significant interest because copper is a more sustainable alternative to commonly used iridium. However, until now, copper-based LECs emitting blue and white light have been elusive. The Cu-Lighting team successfully synthesised new copper (I) complexes to solve this problem.
The work will impact the materials design industry (inorganic chemistry and materials science) as well as thin-film lighting devices (optoelectronics) and will bring them forward towards soft-lighting applications including in decoration, labelling and medicine.
The teamSee full team
Claudia Barolo, Professor, University of Torino
Luca M. Cavinato, PhD student, Technical University of Munich
Ruben D. Costa, Professor, Technical University of Munich
Florent Di Meo, Postdoctoral Researcher, Université de Limoges
Margaux Elie, PhD student, Normandie Univ.
Julio Fernandez-Cestau, Senior Researcher, Technical University of Munich
Elisa Fresta, Postdoctoral Researcher, Technical University of Munich
Sylvain Gaillard, Associate Professor, Normandie Univ.
Claudio Garino, Associate Professor, University of Torino
Matthieu Hamel, Senior Researcher, Université Paris Saclay
Mathieu Linares, Associate Professor, Linköping University
Jean-François Lohier, Analytical Engineer, Normandie Univ.
Karsten Meyer, Professor, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität
Matthias E. Miehlich, PhD student, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität
Robert Pansu, Senior Researcher, Université Paris Saclay
Alexander Pöthig, Senior Researcher, Technical University of Munich
Jean-Luc Renaud, Professor, Normandie Univ.
Fabien Sguerra, Postdoctoral Researcher, Université Paris Saclay
Michael D. Weber, PhD student, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität
Sarah Wölfl, BSc student, Technical University of Munich
What was your role within the team?
Ruben Costa: Leading the research group on synthesis, photophysics and device fabrication.
Luca Cavinato: I am a PhD Student under the supervision of Prof. Costa. In general, my project is about the development of sustainable lighting sources. I am mainly focussing on novel electrodes, emitters and electrolytes for light-emitting electrochemical cells.
Sylvain Gaillard: My role was to lead the structural design of the copper complexes, precisely, to modulate the photophysical properties, i.e. color and brightness.
Mathieu Linares: My role was to lead the computational investigation of the metallic complexes. Precisely to understand the nature of the electronic transitions at play and to guide the design of more efficient metallic complexes.
What were the biggest challenges in this project?
Ruben Costa: To understand how we can design a crystalline powder with the desired photoluminescence features that are fully translated to thin films and finally to thin-film electroluminescent devices.
Sylvain Gaillard: The biggest challenge was to develop versatile ligands able, initially, to generate highly blue emissive copper complexes. The second biggest challenge was to furnish the rainbow colors by finely tuning the electronic properties.
What different strengths did different people bring to the team?
Mathieu Linares: This team presents a great variety of competencies in terms of synthesis, characterization, computation and device fabrication. This complementarity and the constant dialogue between partners are, I believe, at the origin of the success of this collaboration.
Why is this work so important and exciting?
Luca Cavinato: I joined the project only for the last steps, but I am happy to have been part of it. In this last stage of the project we changed approach completely toward the problem. It was the first time that I had a real and practical demonstration of how surprising the prediction of an algorithm can be. It was amazing! Overall, it was a really multidisciplinary work and it has been helpful to talk with people from such different areas of research, I enjoyed and I learned a lot.
Sylvain Gaillard: The development of low cost and environmentally friendly technology for the public is of great importance to decrease the human impact on Earth as much as possible.
Mathieu Linares: This work is important and exciting in the context of the environmental crisis where we need to develop new lighting and display technologies which can function at low voltages and are easily recyclable.
Where do you see the biggest impact of this technology/research being?
Ruben Costa: This technology will have a big impact on soft-lighting applications for decoration, photo-therapy, etc.
How do you see this work developing over the next few years?
Ruben Costa: Stability is the next challenge, followed by a big reduction of the production costs.
What is the importance of collaboration in the chemical sciences?
Sylvain Gaillard: I would say that collaboration is mandatory. Indeed, our project deals with very different fields of chemical science and getting all this knowledge in one person appears to be unrealistic.
What does good research culture look like/mean to you?
Ruben Costa: Perspectives and experiences...we must be able to listen building on comments coming from experienced and fresh researchers.
How are the chemical sciences making the world a better place?
Ruben Costa: We are a technological society that has been driven by stability, efficiency, and comfort...now the big challenge is sustainability.
Why is chemistry important?
Luca Cavinato: I studied chemistry and I love this subject. Chemistry is everywhere around us, in all the objects we see and we touch. To me, it has always been fascinating how thanks to chemistry you can start from two compounds with certain properties and end up with a new molecule with completely different characteristics. Nowadays, chemistry is a pillar of our society.
Sylvain Gaillard: Chemistry is the corner stone for the development of new organic materials. Most of the properties in the final devices are based on the molecular architectures.
Ruben Costa: Chemistry is an excellent bridge to bring together disciplines.