Illinois professor to receive global energy prize
James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
- Nick Holonyak Jr.has been selected as a 2003 recipient of the Global Energy Prize from Russia.
- He shares the $900,000 prize with Gennady Mesiats of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Yan Douglas Smith of Titan Pulse Sciences Division.
- The award recognizes Holonyak for his "contribution to the development of power silicon electronics and invention of the first semiconducting light-emitting diodes in a visible part of the spectrum."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nick Holonyak Jr., a John Bardeen Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been selected as a 2003 recipient of the Global Energy Prize from Russia. He shares the $900,000 prize with Gennady Mesiats of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Yan Douglas Smith of Titan Pulse Sciences Division.
The award recognizes Holonyak for his "contribution to the development of power silicon electronics and invention of the first semiconducting light-emitting diodes in a visible part of the spectrum." This work helped to create efficient, energy-saving technologies.
The son of Slavic immigrants who settled in Southern Illinois, Holonyak earned his bachelor’s degree in 1950, his master’s in 1951, and his doctorate in 1954, all in electrical engineering from Illinois. Holonyak was the first graduate student of two-time Nobel laureate John Bardeen, an Illinois professor who invented the transistor. An early researcher in semiconductor electronics, Holonyak gained eminence through his numerous inventions and contributions to advances in semiconductor materials and devices.
Before joining the Illinois faculty in 1963, Holonyak worked for Bell Telephone Labs, where he helped develop silicon-diffused transistor technology. Several years later, while at General Electric, he invented the first practical light-emitting diode and the first semiconductor laser to operate in the visible spectrum. He also developed the first electronic devices in III-V compound semiconductor alloys (III and V referring to places in the periodic table of the elements), and is the inventor of the basic silicon device used in household light-dimmer switches.
At Illinois, Holonyak and his students demonstrated the first quantum-well laser, creating a practical laser for fiber-optic communications, compact disc players, medical diagnosis, surgery, ophthalmology and many other applications.
In the early 1980s, his group introduced impurity-induced layer disordering, which converts layers of a semiconductor structure into an alloy that has important electronic properties. In one use, this discovery solved the problem of a laser’s low reliability. Such lasers exhibit enhanced performance and durability, making them ideal for DVD players and other optical storage equipment.
During the last decade, Holonyak and his students invented a process that enables the formation of high-quality oxide layers on any aluminum-bearing III-V compound semiconductor. The oxide process has had a major impact on vertical-cavity surface emitting lasers, making them practical for such applications as optical and data communications. His more recent research focuses on coupling quantum-dot lasers to quantum-well lasers.
Among Holonyak’s many awards are the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honor (2003), the Frederic Ives Medal of the Optical Society of America (2001), the Japan Prize (1995), the National Academy of Sciences’ Award for the Industrial Application of Science (1993), the Optical Society’s Charles Hard Townes Award (1992) and the U.S. National Medal of Science (1990). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the IEEE, the Optical Society of America and is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Seven of his 60 doctoral students are members of the National Academy of Engineering.