Technical University of Denmark: Stronger collaboration between photonics and electronics

In the future, research combining electrotechnology and photonics will play a crucial role in the (further) development of the Internet of Things, technical medical equipment, new computer chips, and a wide range of autonomous systems. The development in these areas is expected to increasingly involve quantum technology as a basis for designing new sensors and components.

To ensure DTU a position of strength in this area, the competences within electronics, photonics, acoustics, and autonomous systems have been joined under one organizational unit: DTU Electro.

“So much of today’s research driving our society towards a more digital and sustainable future is based on the interaction between electrons and photons. I see huge potential in creating an ecosystem with ample opportunity to create synergies between researchers and students from the entire value chain of photonics and electronics,” says Head of Department Lars-Ulrik Aaen Andersen.

A number of the colleagues who have been brought together in the new department have previously collaborated on both teaching and research—and the Head of Department has seen a generally positive reaction to the news of the reorganization from everyone involved.

Developing technology for people
Many of the student projects and research projects at Electro will take place in close collaboration with industry partners. Lars-Ulrik Aaen Andersen views this as a great advantage when working with the development of technology for people.

“Pretty much all the research we do has an industrial goal to some extent. And the goal is almost always to develop a device or new software that can be used, for example, to monitor oxygen depletion in our oceans, ensure better well-being for patients, or improve the safety of self-driving vehicles.”

This ambition to create concrete solutions is exactly why the Head of Department expects the department’s employees to have a continued focus on the possibilities of patenting ideas and establishing spin-outs.

“Spin-out companies are important because they provide a new career path for our young researchers who may not be interested in a career at the University but are interested in working for the new spinout. And the technology will benefit society.”

The spin-out Nordic Firefly is just one example of how good ideas that were born across the academic competences now brought together at DTU Electro have resulted in technology benefitting people. Nordic Firefly has developed an electronic device that stores energy from solar cells in batteries when the sun is shining and uses the stored energy to power LED lights in, e.g., street lights when it is dark outside.

Increased focus on teaching
The new department will have a bigger focus on teaching than previously, especially compared to the old department DTU Fotonik. In total, nine of DTU’s study programmes will be taught at DTU Electro. “In this way, we will function more like a typical DTU department with a greater focus on teaching. Right now, the students won’t notice much of a difference. But obviously, we will use the opportunity to adjust some things where necessary, to make sure that the students will have the relevant teachers,” says the Head of Department.