MC2 researcher gets major grant from The Swedish Research Council

​Åsa Haglund, professor at the Photonics Laboratory at MC2, has been awarded a consolidator grant from The Swedish Research Council (VR). She is funded with 10,4 million SEK for the years 2019-2024. "I had to restrain myself from jumping for joy. It is really a dream come true", says Åsa Haglund.
Picture of Åsa Haglund.She tells us that she was sitting on the train to Stockholm when she got the announcement.
"It feels fantastic! Doing the transition from a young researcher to an established professor is a very important step in one’s academic career, but also a big challenge. This generous consolidator grant will be the key enabler to make this happen", Åsa Haglund continues.

The grant is funding her project "Ultraviolet and blue microcavity lasers", and will strengthen Åsa Haglund's group and help them establish a creative research environment. 
"We can now have a long-term perspective that you seldom get with normal grants. We will dare to invest in more high-risk, high-gain research that hopefully will pay off in the end."

The project aims to develop the very first electrically driven ultraviolet microcavity laser. Åsa Haglund and her colleagues will make blue microcavity lasers useful for real-world applications by trying to bring the power conversion efficiency above the single digit range.
"When these devices are realized, they will be of great use for a myriad of applications such as solid-state lighting, water purification, photolithography, biomedical applications, enhancing health-promoting substances in plants, gas sensing, fluorescence-based sensing and UV curing", she explains and continues:
"The project will get a flying start with two recent breakthroughs by our group; measures against optical anti-guiding and a selective etch technique. The latter will also be a key enabler in many other areas besides microcavity lasers where airgaps or substrate removal is crucial, such as for high-efficiency UV-LEDs."

The grant will also fund a post-doc and a PhD student; an important strengthening of the research group. 
"We have many challenges ahead of us, but we will do our best to turn our dream of microcavity lasers emitting in the blue and ultraviolet into reality", says Åsa Haglund.

She has long Chalmers experience, and got her PhD degree already in 2005, working for Professor Anders Larsson, then head of the Photonics Laboratory, where she has stayed since then.
"I focused on improving the performance of infrared-emitting vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs). The method we developed to boost the single-mode output power in these devices caught a lot of attention and is now used by many VCSEL companies across the world." 

Åsa Haglund is one of the most talented and successful young researchers at MC2. In 2012 she was able to start her own group when she was awarded with a young researcher grant from The Swedish Research Council. The group focused on developing microcavity lasers in GaN-based materials to achieve emission in the blue.
"We could strongly benefit from the device knowledge we have acquired over the years on VCSELs. At the same time we had to start from scratch, since many of the concepts used for infrared VCSELs in GaAs-based materials can’t be translated to blue-emitting GaN-based devices", says Åsa Haglund.

As a researcher it is important to have good networks with other researchers to interact with and share knowledge and experience with. She recalls when she first visited a GaN-based conference:
"Out of 900 participants, I only recognized one person. It has taken a few years to build up a network in a community I was completely unknown to. Now we have strong collaborations with some of the best material’s groups in the world. This, together with the dedication from our skilled group members, puts us in a unique position to make state-of-the-art devices. Something I am very thankful for."

The purpose of a consolidator grant is to give the most prominent junior researchers the opportunity to consolidate their research and broaden their activities as independent researchers. Three researchers at Chalmers received funding in this round. Beside Åsa Haglund, also Christoph Langhammer and Ermin Malic at the Department of Physics were awarded. The total grant amount for 2019-2024 is almost 221,5 million SEK. Chalmers gets 33,4 million SEK. 306 researcher from all over Sweden applied for a grant. Only 20 were successful; seven women and 13 men.

Text: Michael Nystås
Photo: Henrik Sandsjö

Read more about the consolidator grants and the decision >>>

Published: Thu 06 Dec 2018. Modified: Thu 28 Feb 2019