Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

SupramolecularlY eNgineered arCHitectures for optoelectRonics and photONICS: a multi-site initial training action

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SYNCHRONICS (SupramolecularlY eNgineered arCHitectures for optoelectRonics and photONICS: a multi-site initial training action)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2019-12-31

Photonics deals with light generation, transmission, modulation and detection and has been identified as one of the key enabling technologies (KETs) by the European Union, as expected to play a major role in the future of information and communication technology and healthcare. It relies heavily on the development of novel and better performing materials based on organic and hybrid semiconductors that allow fabrication of low cost, flexible and lightweight photonic devices such as amplifiers, switches, sensors and lasers. Despite recent advances in the field, there are still several key issues to be investigated for organic photonics to yield its full potential.

The SYNCHRONICS Network, through the trans-national and trans-disciplinary coordination and integration of 12, highly specialised and internationally-leading teams, significantly contributed to consolidate the European training efforts in the emerging area of both supramolecular nanoscience and nanophotonics.
SYNCHRONICS delivered ~538 person-months (17 ESRs overall) of unparalleled joint, multidisciplinary and intersectorial training that was carefully and intensively structured through local, network wide, and extra-network training in both scientific/technical topics, as well as complementary and managerial skills.
Training objectives / actions implemented:

(i) multi-/inter-disciplinary training in basic scientific and technical skills in photonics and supramolecular advanced functional materials,
(ii) presentation, dissemination and networking skills training
(iii) training on intellectual property protection, commercialisation and entrepreneurial skills,
(iv) organisational, managerial, and leadership skills,
(vii) enabling ESRs to start building a network of S&T multidisciplinary and multi-sectorial contacts,
(viii) fostering development of independent research interests

The main research objectives can be summarised as follows:
• Design and synthesis of advanced functional organic and hybrid materials
• Characterisation of the fundamental optical and surface properties of supramolecularly engineered materials
• Design and fabrication of photonic structures (PS)
• Position-selective high-resolution incorporation of active materials nano/meso-structures
• Amplifiers and Lasers and Switches
• Towards photonically-enhanced (bio)chips
SYNCHRONICS focussed on design and improvement of promising materials for photonics and optoelectronics spanning rotaxinated conjugated polymers and polyelectrolytes, perylene bisimide derivatives, porphyrin-based oligomers and polymers, as well as novel and promising class of hybrid and inorganic lead-halide perovskites. These materials have shown exceptional optical properties, such as amplified spontaneous emission, J-aggregate superradiant emission, and have been successfully included in several applications including 3D photonic crystals, distributed Bragg reflector-based (bio)sensors, light-emitting diodes, solar cells, optical ring resonators, Gaussian-shaped defect microcavities to achieve room-temperature (!) polariton Bose–Einstein condensation. Some of the results constituted a first and/or an international record of achievement.

SYNCHRONICS’ training and research programme achieved signifcant progress in all 8 planned WPs.
WP1 - Several new materials were designed, synthesised and delivered to partners for characterisation and incorporation in a variety of photonic structures (0D, 1D, 2D and 3D)
WP2 – Characterization of fundamental optical and surface properties: These studies focused mostly on the optimisation of active materials, with a view to integrate them in photonic structures
WP3 – Design + fabrication of photonic structures: Several protocols were developed for fabrication of photonic structures with different dimensionality (organic, hybrid or inorganic)
WP4 – High-resolution nanostructuring and incorporation of active materials/defects: novel protocols were also developed for insertion of “functional defects” into photonic structures (1D, 2D, 3D) by self-assembly or high-resolution patterning techniques
WP5 – Devices I: Amplifiers, lasers and optical switches: significant progress was made in the design, fabrication and optical characterisation of nanophotonic resonators as well as the optical properties of the supramolecular materials that rule the operation of nanoscale lasers. WP5 focused on achieving a high-quality-factor-over-modal-volume (Q/V) nanocavity with novel supramolecular material to harness the full potential of the nanoresonator and to assess the ultimate performance of such photonic devices
WP6 – Devices II: Towards photonically-enhanced (bio)chips. We incorporated supramolecularly-engineered materials (SEMs) into silicon chips integrating photonic devices for the development of a novel class of photonically enhanced biochips with advanced features
WP7 – Training, dissemination and outreach. We organised a rich programme of training and dissemination of the results
WP8 – Coordination of research and training across the whole network was implemented to enable the progress in all other WPs, as described above
"The most remarkable achievements (also in collaborations with investigators outside SYNCHRONICS, or with other EC-funded actions):

(i) porphyrin-based organic light-emitting diodes with world record external quantum efficiency in the near-infrared for a metal-free fluorescent active layer (at 850 nm)

(ii) 2D and 3D hybrid networks of gold nanoparticle as mechanoresponsive optical humidity sensors

(iii) Fabrication of high-quality 3D photonic structures (opals) enabling clear observation of ""high-energy"" photonic bands

(iv) Development of a technology platform for fabricating 0-dimensional defect structures to confine light within a full 3-D geometry, and enabling efficient investigation of polariton Bose-Einstein condensation physics at room temperature

(v) Layer-by-layer biofunctionalization of nanostructured porous silicon for high-sensitivity and high-selectivity label-free affinity biosensing

(vi) Optically switchable organic light-emitting transistors

(vii) A room-temperature organic polariton transistor

(viii) Detailed investigation of global aromaticity at the nanoscale

(ix) Elucidation of the role of microstructure in the electron-hole interaction of hybrid lead halide perovskites

(x) Development of mass-production compatible fabrication techniques for using metal halide perovskites in integrated optoelectronic circuits

(xi) Label-free photonic sensors for selective detection of atmospheric volatile organic compounds based on all-polymer distributed Bragg reflectors, a proof-of-concept device that paves the way for low-cost polymeric (and possibly lab-on-a-chip) sensors


The overall impact of Synchronics can be summarised as:

• 17 recruited researchers involved in PhD programmes (538 person-months training)
• 83 peer-reviewed scientific publications cited >1500 times (On 15/3/2020). Of these, 5 papers were published in prestigious and extremely competitive journals such as Nature Photonics, Nature Communications (2), Nature Nanotechnology and Nature Chemistry.
• 5 public and training events (international workshops and summer schools) organised.
• > 20 international conferences attended and 1 organised by SYNCHRONICS.
• Large proportion of women researchers and thus contributing to a more balanced gender equality (>40% women representation among ESRs)."
The 0D tuneable microcavity developed at IBM
The chemical structure of the conjugated porphyrin polymers and PL spectra of oligomers and polymers
Towards photonically-enhanced (bio)chips
PL spectra of the l-Pn emitter outside (red) and inside (black) the microcavity. Inset: Scheme of th
J-aggregates of a PIC dye
Scheme of a planar microcavity embedding the emissive zinc porphyrin (in blend with F8BT) as defec