Material criticality comes into its own as a research topic

Categorie(s) : Events, Innovation & Society, MINATEC, News, Research

Published : 6 December 2021

For the past three years, four Grenoble laboratories have been working together, using methods from materials science and economics to find alternatives to the critical materials in white LEDs.
Their work, funded by the UGA Idex grant, marks a departure from conventional technology research.

Scientists’ interest in the scarcity and criticality of certain materials is not new.
What is new is that they are treating them as research topics in and of themselves, and not just constraints to be factored into other research.
With CEA-Leti’s support, LMGP, Institut Néel, and applied economics lab GAEL have been investigating the rare and critical elements (gallium, indium, yttrium, and cerium) in white LEDs.

Consumers are willing to pay more
A PhD dissertation based on research at LMGP and Institut Néel pointed to zinc oxide nanowires and identified aluminoborates as a promising—and rare-earth-free—class of luminophores.
CEA-Leti, which possesses substantial know-how in LED systems, supported this research.
On the economic side, GAEL completed a study that revealed consumers would be willing to pay up to 30% more for white LEDs that are free from critical materials.
This cross-disciplinary research was financed by the UGA Idex grant through the CDP* Eco-SESA project.
The resulting PhD dissertation won a national C’Nano award.
The grant and award confirm that broader issues like how rare these minerals are, how they are mined, where they are sourced, and how well consumers accept them are just as at home in the debate as the materials’ technical properties.

*Cross Disciplinary Programs

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