LONDON -- Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs scientists Federico Capasso and Rudolf Kazarinov will receive the Rank Prize, the world's most prestigious award in optoelectronics, at a ceremony at the Royal Society of Medicine here today.
They will be honored for their contributions to the invention of the quantum cascade (QC) laser, invented and demonstrated at Bell Labs in 1994. The award also cites former Bell Labs researcher Jerome Faist, now a professor at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, and Robert Suris, researcher and manager at the Ioffe Technical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia. Rank Prizes are given for achievements of "significant benefit to mankind."
The QC laser has been hailed as a revolutionary light source because it is the first laser in which the wavelength is determined by the thickness of the active materials rather than by their chemical composition. The wavelength can be pre-selected anywhere in the mid- and long-wavelength infrared regions. This is the broad, invisible range in which heat sensors work and where most gases and vapors leave telltale light-absorption fingerprints.
The QC laser has potential commercial applications in such areas as pollution monitoring, industrial process control, auto emission diagnostics, and medical testing. In pulsed mode, it works at room temperature and above and is hundreds of times more powerful than conventional semiconductor lasers operating at the same wavelength. QC lasers have been used to detect extremely small amounts (fewer than 100 parts per billion) of trace chemicals, opening the door to a new class of extremely sensitive, compact and portable chemical sensors.
Unlike conventional lasers, a QC laser operates like an electronic waterfall: When an electric current flows through it, electrons cascade down an energy staircase with tens of steps; every time they hit a step they emit a laser photon, or light pulse. Each electron, therefore, generates tens of photons, as many as the number of steps, rather than a single photon as in conventional semiconductor lasers. The cascade effect is responsible for the high power of QC lasers.
Capasso, head of the Bell Labs Semiconductor Physics Research department, is internationally recognized for his basic and applied research on atomically engineered, man-made, semiconductor materials and devices. His work has opened up new areas of investigation in semiconductor science, mesoscopic physics, nonlinear optics, electronics and photonics.
He joined Bell Labs in 1972 and has co-authored more than 200 papers, edited four books, given more than 100 invited talks at conferences and holds 30 U.S. patents and 45 foreign patents. He holds a Ph.D in physics from the University of Rome, Italy. He is a member of the editorial boards of Applied Physics Letters, Semiconductor Science and Technology and Il Nuovo Cimento.
Capasso has been widely honored for his pioneering research. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the John Price Wetherill Medal from the Franklin Institute, the IEEE/LEOS William Streifer Award, the Technology and Innovation Award from Industry Week Magazine, the Materials Research Society Medal, the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the LMVH "Vinci of Excellence" Prize, the Heinrich Welker Memorial Medal from Siemens, the Popular Science Award for Science and Technology, the New York Academy of Sciences Award, the IEEE David Sarnoff Award in Electronics, the Bell Labs Distinguished Member of Technical Staff and Bell Labs Fellows Awards, the Award of Excellence of the Society for Technical Communications, and the Premio Capitolium Award from the City of Rome.
Kazarinov, a researcher in the Bell Labs Photonics Circuits Research Department, is renowned for his seminal and wide-ranging theoretical contributions to the semiconductor laser field, including the concept of the double-heterostructure (DH) laser, the distributed-feedback laser and intersubband lasers. DH semiconductor lasers are widely used in lightwave communications and in compact-disk players.
He received the 1998 IEEE/LEOS Quantum Electronics Award for his pioneering work in the field of semiconductor lasers, including the DH diode laser concept, in 1963. He recently received the IEEE Quantum Electronics award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in semiconductor lasers.
Kazarinov joined Bell Labs in 1979. He has co-authored more than 150 technical papers and holds 25 U.S. patents and 30 foreign patents. He holds a Ph.D in Physics from Ioffe Institut of Technical Physics, Leningrad.
Four other scientists have received the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics for research done at Bell Labs: Linn Mollenauer and Akira Hasegawa In 1991, for their work on soliton propagation in optical fiber, and Arthur Ashkin and Joseph Dziedzic in 1992, for work on optical tweezers, using focused laser light to trap and manipulate live biological entities, like viruses.
Bell Labs is the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies, which designs, builds and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, consumer and business telephone systems and microelectronics components. Further information about Lucent Technologies is available on the worldwide web at http://www.lucent.com.
The Rank Prize Funds were established in 1972 by the late Lord Rank to encourage a greater understanding of the sciences of nutrition and optoelectronics, two areas the British film pioneer believed would be of special interest to mankind.
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