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Illinois researchers produce
two most important scientific papers
Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
|Nick Holonyak Jr., a John Bardeen Chair Professor of Electrical
and Computer Engineering and Physics, right, has written
two of the five most important papers published in
he 43-year history of the journal Applied Physics
Letters. Milton Feng, the Holonyak Chair Professor
of Electrical and Computer Engineering, left, co-authored
one of the featured papers with his Illinois colleague.
— Two of the five most important papers published in the 43-year
history of the journal Applied Physics Letters were written by researchers
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Nick Holonyak Jr., a John Bardeen Chair Professor of Electrical and
Computer Engineering and Physics at Illinois, was an author of both
papers, which span the development of the light-emitting diode to the
invention of the transistor laser.
As the American Institute of Physics celebrates its 75th anniversary
this year, editors of the organization’s research journals were
asked to select the five most significant papers published in each journal.
In the case of Applied Physics Letters, thousands of papers were considered
– not only for scientific content, but also for the impact a paper
had, or might have, on industry or the general public.
The first of Holonyak’s chosen papers appeared in the journal’s
Dec. 1, 1962, issue and reported the first semiconductor laser in the
visible spectrum and the first visible light-emitting diode, which formed
the basis for today’s high brightness light-emitting diodes.
“This may be the most important piece of work I’ve ever
done,” said Holonyak, who was employed at the General Electric
Co. in Syracuse, New York, at the time. Holonyak’s technician,
Sam (Severio) Bevacqua, was the paper’s only co-author.
The second paper selected by the journal appeared in the Sept. 26, 2005,
issue and reported the first room-temperature operation of a transistor
laser. “I consider this a very important development and maybe
– time will tell – a great development,” Holonyak
In addition to Holonyak, the paper’s co-authors were electrical
and computer engineering professor Milton Feng, and postdoctoral
research associate Gabriel Walter and graduate research assistant Richard
Chan (now at BAE Systems).
The Illinois researchers first reported the demonstration of a light-emitting,
heterojunction bipolar transistor in the journal’s Jan. 5, 2004,
issue. They described the first laser operation of the light-emitting
transistor in the Nov. 15, 2004, issue, but at that time the transistor
laser had to be chilled with liquid nitrogen to minus 73 degrees Celsius.
By demonstrating room-temperature operation, the researchers moved the
transistor laser much closer to practical applications.
“Room-temperature transistor lasers could facilitate faster signal
processing, large capacity seamless communications, and higher performance
electrical and optical integrated circuits,” said Feng, the Holonyak
Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois.
Feng has received worldwide recognition for his research on heterojunction
bipolar transistors. He has produced the world’s fastest bipolar
transistor, a device that operates at a frequency of more than 700 gigahertz.
The transistor laser combines the functionality of both a transistor
and a laser by converting electrical input signals into two output signals,
one electrical and one optical.
“By incorporating quantum wells into the active region, we have
enhanced the electrical and optical properties, making possible stimulated
emission and transistor laser operation,” said Holonyak, who also
is a professor in the university’s Center
for Advanced Study, one of the highest forms of campus recognition.
“What we have here is a new form of transistor and a new form
The transistor laser also raises the possibility of replacing wiring
between components at the chip- or board-level with optical interconnects,
offering more flexibility and capability in true electronic-integrated
“Fifty-eight years after (John) Bardeen and (Walter) Brattain
invented the transistor, we have hit upon something new that is surprisingly
fundamental and rich in possibilities,” Holonyak said. “I
am happy to have had a hand in this.”
To reach Nick Holonyak, call 217-333-4149.
To reach Milton Feng, call 217-333-8080; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.