Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering
Director of MIRTHE (NSF-ERC)
Ph.D., Technical University of Vienna, Austria, 1995
M.Sc., Physics, University of Innsbruck, Austria, 1991
Room: B326 Engineering Quadrangle
Research Areas and Interests
- Biological/Biomedical Engineering
- Mid-Infrared Photonics, Lasers, and Sensors
- Nanoscale Materials/Devices for Sensing and Energy Applications
- Photonic Systems, Non-linear Optics, Quantum Optics
My research group is working on the development of new quantum devices, especially lasers, and their optimization for sensor systems and their applications in environment and health.
Our special focus is currently on Quantum Cascade (QC) lasers, a novel type of semiconductor injection laser based on electronic intersubband transitions in the conduction band of a coupled quantum well heterostructure. Quantum wells are slivers of one type of semiconductor material, just a few atomic layers thick, interleaved with another type of semiconductor (the barriers). Many performance features of the lasers, such as their power, modulation capabilities, or emission wavelength in the mid- to far-infrared, are designed into the device by choice of the thicknesses of the quantum wells and barriers. With some 500 to 1000 quantum wells and barriers in a single laser, there are endless opportunities for creativity!
Our current projects include the development of high-temperature, high-power, high-efficiency QC lasers. Widely tunable, monolithic, and external cavity QC lasers are being developed for optical sensors in environmental, medical, and security applications. While my group is focused mainly on the development of the lasers, we maintain strong collaborations with many expert spectroscopists who are building sensor systems in academia, government, and industrial labs.
My group's working style is collaborative and open. Group members expect to work hard and to have a lot of fun, too! Device modeling on the computer, device fabrication in the PRISM cleanroom facilities, and optical device characterization in our labs each take up about 30 percent of the work week. The remaining 10 percent or so is reserved for tasks such as scientific writing or attending conferences. I am also the director of MIRTHE, the NSF-sponsored Engineering Research Center for Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment. A group of 6 universities and approximately 40 faculty, 120 students, and 40 industry and practitioner organizations, MIRTHE members collaborate to develop the next-generation sensor platforms for chemical trace gas sensing using mid-infrared spectroscopy. For more information check out our web-page: www.mirthecenter.org.
Honors and Awards
- Graduate Student Mentoring Award, Princeton University (2009)
- Austrian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding member abroad (2008)
- MacArthur Fellow (2005)
- Runner-up Salzburger of the year 2005, Austria
- Popular Science Magazine's list of Brilliant 10 (2004)
- The Snell Premium award of the IEE, UK, August (2003)
- MIT's Technology Review magazine TR100, (2002)
- IEEE/LEOS Distinguished Lecturer 02-03, (2002)