Yakshita Malhotra honored for micro-LED research that could define the future of automotive displays
ECE PhD student Yakshita Malhotra received an Academic Award from The Metropolitan Detroit Chapter of Society for Information Displays for her research on micro-LEDs. Her research involves fabrication of micro-LEDs composed of nanowires that are approximately 10,000 times smaller than standard phone display pixels and could significantly advance automotive displays.
“Moving to micro-LEDs will enable much higher resolutions, which is important for augmented reality displays,” Malhotra said. “In the context of automotives, these will be applicable as ‘Head Up Displays,’ and they will be a nice aid for drivers and could help reduce distracted driving, because you wouldn’t need to look at your phone for navigation.”
Head Up Displays (HUDs) can help drivers interpret the surrounding physical environment in real time, which could improve both the safety and comfort of driving. For instance, HUDs can appear integrated with the windshield, so the information directly overlaps the real-life environment. Icons can overlap the road in front of the driver, telling them where to go and warning them if a slowdown is ahead.
“HUDs have aspects that are similar to other consumer displays, like TVs and laptops,” Malhotra said. “But because they are in a car, there are all these size restrictions and specific circuit requirements. Micro-LEDs are so small, they’ll free up a lot more space for more complex electronics.”
It’s not just about consumer electronics anymore.
Yakshita Malhotra, ECE PhD student
Malhotra, who is advised by Prof. Zetian Mi, was part of the team that succeeded in creating red micro-LEDs that are nearly three orders of magnitude smaller in surface area than previously reported devices while exhibiting external quantum efficiency of ~1.2%. Specifically, she helped plan the parameters, and then she grew the nanowire crystals using the MBE system in Mi’s lab.
“Large LEDs have a very high efficiency, but when we go to smaller sizes, their efficiency decreases by a lot due to material and fabrication processing limitations,” Malhotra said. “Our goal is to overcome those issues and make it efficient enough to become a commercial product.”
This team was also the first to achieve high-performance, highly stable green micro-LEDs with dimensions less than 1 micrometer on silicon, which can support ultrahigh-resolution full-color displays and other applications.
The next step is to integrate red, blue, and green LEDs on a single chip, which is essential for large-scale integration of next-generation electronic and optoelectronic devices. This could significantly advance the design and implementation of HUDs, as well as other augmented and virtual reality automotive displays.
“I hadn’t really considered how my research would apply to vehicles before, so it’s been pretty interesting to learn how important displays are in vehicles now,” Malhotra said. “It’s not just about consumer electronics anymore.”