Celebrate Princeton Invention: Claire Gmachl

Claire Gmachl

Electrical engineering professor Claire Gmachl directs the Mid-infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment Center, which unites researchers from six universities with more than 30 industry partners to develop innovative applications and sensor systems based on quantum cascade laser technology. (Photo: Volker Steger)

Name: Claire Gmachl, professor of electrical engineering

Invention: Highly power-efficient quantum cascade lasers and quantum cascade laser-based sensor applications 

What it does: Quantum cascade lasers, which emit light in the mid-infrared region of the spectrum, are ideal for use in environmental sensing and medical diagnostic applications. Among the most recent inventions of Gmachl and her team are a new design strategy to increase quantum cascade laser efficiency; a non-invasive sensor to detect carbon dioxide in the human fingertip, which has clinical applications in assessing health status; and a sensor to measure trace gases contributing to poor air quality, which has recently undergone test deployments in Beijing, China, and Cape Coast, Ghana.

Gmachl directs the Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) Center, a six-university, multimillion-dollar research center funded by the National Science Foundation. In collaboration with industry partners, MIRTHE researchers are harnessing the unique capabilities of quantum cascade lasers for novel applications and sensor systems.

Gmachl's research group currently consists of postdoctoral research associates Anna Michel and William Charles; graduate students Ekua Bentil, Richard Cendejas, Matthew Escarra, Xue Huang, Peter Qiang Liu, Yu Yao, Arjun Vijayakumar and Peter Dixon; and undergraduate students Ryan Corey and Tina Chen.

Commercialization status: Many MIRTHE technologies are being developed in collaboration with MIRTHE's industrial and practitioner consortium, which currently counts more the 35 members, about 75 percent of which are start-ups and small businesses.

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