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Optical systems are at the heart of many innovations: satellite systems for climate monitoring, medical devices for diagnostics and health monitoring and metrology systems for the semiconductor industry. These are some examples of the broad variety of applications served by optics. Although optical system design is a rather old discipline, there are still many topics to be researched: freeform optics is one of the areas of interest during the last years. These novel surface shapes enable compacter and better performing systems in all of above mentioned areas. However, with the new surfaces also new types of aberrations have to be defined leading to better insights on how to best utilize the advantages of the freeform surfaces.
Next to macroscopic surfaces more and more nano-structures surfaces find their entry into optical systems. So called meta-surfaces are a new research topic within TNO which promise to find their application in novel sensor types. Being able to control spectrum and polarization on nano-scale could enable significant shrinkage of devices making them fit for wearable use.
As lead scientist with in the ERP 3D Nano we established a variety of new tools for mainly the semiconductor industry. Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) in different modalities enables us to visualize structures and defects at the single digit nm level. Results achieved in this program are worldwide recognized and has led to close cooperation with leading semiconductor manufactures in The Netherlands and outside. Furthermore a joined development with the TU Eindhoven has been setup to foster new academic research in this area.
The Early Research Program ‘Exposense’ brings together the Exposome (the lifelong exposure to everything) with sensor research to give personalized advice on exposure and health. An innovative optics based sensor which can detect chemical composition of particulate matter (PM) is a first of its kind! This sensor in combination with TNO’s data infrastructure and modelling capabilities is leading to a unique system which first is being tested in occupational, work related settings. Next target will be the general environment.
Finding new talent in the area of optical system design is difficult. Connecting between Dutch and German industry and academia to foster the education and development of optical system design could be a path to improve the situation. TNO, ASML and the TU Delft on the Dutch side and Zeiss, Fraunhofer institute IOF and the Friedrich Schiller university on the German side have formed a network with the goal to enhance education in “imaging optics”. All parties will profit from this initiative and also TNO should be able to easier acquire new and well educated talent in optical design.