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UKPiño - A Grand Endeavor

BMBF-funded RUBIN consortium sets out with ambitious goals
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Published: | By: Ira Winkler

When 14 highly specialized and market-leading companies in the field of optical and photonics technologies join forces with two research institutions in a traditional hotspot, exciting and forward-thinking developments, as well as innovative products, can be expected. This alliance has set out to do nothing less than revolutionize international markets with cutting-edge applications. To achieve this ambitious endeavor, additional seven associated partners have been recruited as multipliers or pilot customers. This potential of ideas, expertise, and resources has also been recognized by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which has provided €13 million in funding through the "RUBIN - Regional Entrepreneurial Alliances for Innovation" program starting from June 1, 2023. An additional €7 million comes from the stakeholders.

The techology

The alliance goes by the name "UKPiño" and places Ultrashort Pulse (UKP) laser technology at the center of its activities. "The fascinating aspect of this technology is that it offers a contactless processing method that is not only highly precise but also efficient and low maintenance. This enables the production of products that meet the highest quality requirements, particularly in terms of durability. The resource-efficient use of materials plays a significant role in achieving economic and ecological goals," explains Prof. Stefan Nolte, whose research group has been successfully working with UKP lasers in materials processing and was awarded the Deutschen Zukunftspreis in 2013. "In our alliance, the focus is on unlocking the 2µm wavelength range as a key component for exploring new application fields. This allows for the processing of previously inaccessible materials. High-tech materials such as silicon, ceramics, crystals, high-performance plastics, and composite materials are of great interest. Many semiconductor compounds are transparent in this spectral range, enabling the expansion of current UKP processing techniques for volume processing of glasses to this material range," explains the researcher the core idea.

As it involves a completely new technology platform, new approaches are required along the entire value chain. From applied basic research to the development of new optical components and device development for the production of supplier and end-user products, completely new paths need to be found and tested. The partners complement each other with their core competencies in optics, optical systems, system integration of high-tech laser systems and equipment, as well as application expertise.

The potential

Dr. Tino Eidam, coordinator of the alliance, outlines the concept's potential: "With UKPiño, we venture into highly dynamic fields characterized by stable and disproportionate growth rates. With this new technology, it may be possible to design silicon semiconductor structures that enable the integration of electronics and photonics on a single chip ('Silicon-Photonics'). We see further application fields in medical technology, battery manufacturing, 'Smart Wearables,' 'Additive Manufacturing,' as well as for scientific laser systems, quantum technology, and nonlinear frequency conversion into the soft X-ray range, enabling novel metrological applications, for example."


The UKPiño consortium emerged from the research group 'UKPflex,' which was funded by the Thuringian Ministry of Economics and strategically utilized funds from the state, federal government, and EU - an example of the positive effects of targeted support on sustainable technological development.

Team of UKPiño at Kick-off meeting in Gera in May, 2023.
Team of UKPiño at Kick-off meeting in Gera in May, 2023.
Image: S. Müller-Pfeiffer (POG)