Feng named associate of Center for Advanced Study

ECE News


Story Highlights

  • Professor Milton Feng will be an associate of the Center for Advanced Study for the Fall 2009 semester.
  • With Professor Holonyak, Feng invented the first transistor laser.
  • Feng plans to further develop the understanding of the transistor laser with his time at the center.

Milton  Feng
Milton Feng

ECE Professor Milton Feng has been named an associate of the Center for Advanced Study (CAS) for the Fall 2009 semester. This is one of the most prestigious distinctions given to faculty on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Each year, faculty members are invited to submit proposals to CAS for consideration. Those selected are awarded one semester of release time to work on their proposed project.

Feng (with ECE Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr) invented and demonstrated the first transistor to simultaneously operate as a transistor and as a laser – the “transistor laser” (2004). By modifying heterojunction bipolar transistors with quantum wells and cavities, the transistor has metamorphosed into stimulated recombination and laser operation. The 60-year-old transistor now offers new electrical and optical modulation speeds and allows flexible signal mixing and processing. The transistor’s use is now expanding in optoelectronics, wireless, interconnect, and next generation photonic integrated circuits. Discover Magazine selected the transistor laser as one of the top 100 most important discoveries in 2005. The American Institute of Physics in 2006 selected the “transistor laser” as one of the top five papers  published in the 43 years history of Applied Physics Letters (also included was Holonyak’s 1962 article on the first visible LED).

Feng, who holds the Nick Holonyak Jr. Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering, will use his time in CAS to further develop the theoretical understanding of the transistor laser and its high-speed signal processing capabilities. He plans to develop transistor laser models and to design experiments that will allow his team to discover new science and to develop disruptive technology.

One key aspect of the transistor laser, and a key for its future use and benefit, is that it can perform both electron and photon information transfer. It can provide a bridge between standard electronics and state-of-the-art optoelectronics. “The next generation chip [of circuits] is going to be integrated photonics and electronics, both,” said Feng. “To achieve that, the device must have the capability of electron, hole, and photon generation. So for the integration, we are looking for a three-terminal device, which can emit light and also run electrical properties. This is the only device we know that can do that.”

Feng believes that this research may lead to a new type of information system, which makes research at this stage particularly exciting. “We think we will open up a new frontier of integrated photonics and electronics functions,” he said. “So at this stage it is pretty fruitful. We can get a couple more good ideas together, and we can get more patents filed.” Already, Feng and Holonyak have filed more than ten patent applications, and have been awarded three for this project.

Feng is a recipient of the IEEE David Sarnoff Award and the Dr. Pan Wen Yuan Foundation Award for High Speed Microelectronics. He is a Fellow of IEEE and the Optical Society of America. He is a member of Sigma Xi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Tau Beta Pi honor societies.

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