Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University sees the light with laser industry tie-up

Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University has sealed an industry partnership to drive the advancement of new laser technologies.
Professor John Travers uses a laser at Heriot-Watt University.Professor John Travers uses a laser at Heriot-Watt University.
Professor John Travers uses a laser at Heriot-Watt University.

In a five-year collaboration partly funded by ASML, a major supplier to the semiconductor industry, the university’s research into fundamental physics will be accelerated, creating a direct route from lab to market for laser innovations.

A Heriot-Watt team led by professor John Travers has already delivered several ideas that have been patented.

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The new tie-up is seen as demonstrating the university’s expertise in attracting industry collaborations and overseas investment into its academic research.

ASML, which is based in the Netherlands, uses light to print tiny patterns onto silicon, resulting in the mass production of semiconductor chips. Precision is key to the printing technique, with optical metrology also using light to establish the exact measurements required.

Travers said: “The type of optical components used in recent research previously sat in the domain of fundamental physics research. Working in close cooperation with ASML is rapidly moving our work in the direction of the industrialisation of this technology, where we are addressing specific engineering challenges, and applying the technique to create real-world impact.

“My research into fundamental physics can be used by ASML in an industry setting. So often in academia, the focus is on advancing the science and impressing our peers. However, through this industrial partnership, we are addressing specific real-world engineering challenges, with industry and academia learning from each other.”

David Richardson, chief entrepreneurial executive at Heriot-Watt, added: “The work of professor Travers and his team is hugely important to the advancement of light source and sensor technology.”

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