Illinois ECE professor to receive IEEE?s highest honor
Laura Schmitt, Electrical & Computer Engineering
- University of Illinois Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Nick Holonyak Jr. has been named the recipient of the 2003 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Medal of Honor.
- Holonyak is honored “for a career of pioneering contributions to semiconductors, including the growth of semiconductor alloys and heterojunctions, and to visible light-emitting diodes and injection lasers.”
Urbana, IL - University of Illinois Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Nick Holonyak Jr. has been named the recipient of the 2003 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Medal of Honor. Holonyak is honored “for a career of pioneering contributions to semiconductors, including the growth of semiconductor alloys and heterojunctions, and to visible light-emitting diodes and injection lasers.”
Holonyak said that winning the Medal of Honor is especially appreciated because the IEEE has been a part of his life since his student days. “I recall Bill Everitt telling me and my fellow students at Illinois that it was vital to have a professional home,” Holonyak said. “For me that home and place of learning has been in and around the IRE-IEEE device electronics people. Nothing else could have served me better, or helped me more, or given me better colleagues.”
Before joining the ECE faculty in 1963, Holonyak (BSEE ’50, MSEE ’51, PhD ’54) 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 LED and visible-spectrum laser, the first III-V alloy devices, and the basic silicon device used in household light dimmer switches.
As a faculty member, Holonyak and his students have pioneered the study of quantum-well and superlattice lasers. Holonyak’s group demonstrated the first quantum-well laser, enabling the implementation of fiber-optics systems around the world. Virtually all types of semiconductor lasers today use quantum wells, enabling practical lasers for fiber-optic communications and the Internet, CDs, DVDs, medical diagnosis, surgery, ophthamology, and many other applications.
In the early 1980s, his group introduced impurity-induced layer disordering (IILD), 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 (VCSELs), 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.
Holonyak, who has had 60 PhD students—seven of whom have been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering—is the fourth U of I faculty member and third ECE alumnus to win the Medal of Honor, IEEE’s highest award. Other faculty member recipients include John Bardeen, William Everitt, and Paul Lauterbur; ECE alumni winners include Jack Kilby (BSEE ’47) and Al Cho (PhD ’68). He will receive the award at IEEE’s annual honors ceremony in June 2003. The IEEE is the world’s largest technical society with more than 377,000 members worldwide.
The ECE Department hosted a reception Wednesday, December 4, 2002, at 4:00 p.m. in 159 Everitt Lab (1406 W. Green Street, Urbana) to congratulate Holonyak.