About Sandia Capabilities Programs Contacting Us News Center Search Home navigation panel
News Releases

back to News Releases Sandia National Laboratories

April 16, 2002

Technologies for solid-state lighting also benefit national security

Mercedes LED
MERCEDES LED — This is a photo of a Mercedes with LEDs imbedded in the back of the side mirror for additional signaling. (Photo provided by Lumileds Lighting.)
Download 300dpi JPEG image, ‘LEDpic4.jpg’, 1MB (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Much of the technology being developed for solid-state lighting (SSL) involves the growth of higher quality gallium nitride (GaN) and aluminum gallium nitride (AlGaN) materials. This same technology will benefit a number of important national security applications.

“Fundamental understanding of GaN materials physics and growth chemistry underlies not only SSL, but a whole host of technologies vital to national security interests,” says Jerry Simmons, the program manager for all of Sandia’s SSL activities.

High-power electronics play an important role in synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Electronics made from gallium nitride enable the heavy, bulky traveling wave tubes and gimbaled antennas to be replaced by solid-state amplifiers and arrayed antennas, resulting in dramatic reductions in size and weight. This in turn allows SARs to be placed on smaller unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can fly longer and farther and present a smaller target to an enemy. Several Sandia centers are working together to develop this gallium nitride high power electronics technology. Gallium nitride is also important for solar-blind detectors of missile launches.

Even more closely related to solid-state lighting is an approach to detection of chemical and biological warfare agents. When illuminated with deep ultraviolet (UV) light, bacteria, including anthrax, will fluoresce — re-emit light at a somewhat longer wavelength. This emitted light can be used to detect anthrax.

However, the sources of UV-light currently are heavy table-top-sized instruments. The technologies Sandia is using to further solid-state lighting are also being used to develop deep UV LEDs and laser diodes. In February the solid-state lighting team, along with a bio-detection system team at Sandia headed by Phil Hargis and Randy Schmitt and collaborators at Uniroyal Optoelectronics, Ohio State University, and Murray State University, were awarded a $4.5 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop UV LEDs and lasers, and demonstrate their use in a compact prototype anthrax detector.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia Media Contact: Chris Burroughs, coburro@sandia.gov, (505) 844-0948

Sandia Technical Contact: Jerry Simmons, jsimmon@sandia.gov , (505) 844-8402

Back to top of page || Questions and Comments || Acknowledgment and Disclaimer