2012 Gabor medal and prize

Professor Alwyn Seeds, London Centre for Nanotechnology and Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University College London.

For his research on and practical realisation of microwave photonic devices leading to their commercial exploitation in wireless and optical communication systems.

Alwyn Seeds’ work is at the interface of physics and engineering. He has the insight and understanding of physics to be able to foresee and implement practical engineering applications before others. He has produced a string of inventions with considerable implications for the electronics/photonics industries. Among his innovations have been semiconductor lasers incorporating the use of reverse biased quantum wells for varying the frequency of laser emission with very sharp line-width and unprecedented tuning speed and the use of quantum dot technology to enable the direct growth of telecommunications wavelength lasers on silicon substrates. This opens up the path for developments in silicon photonics with drive circuitry in the underlying silicon in close contact with light emitters.

Prior to this he developed the first actively mode-locked fibre laser with a quantum well based saturable absorber/modulator. He then utilised saturation of the excitonic absorption line in ion-implanted quantum wells to create all-optical wavelength converters and regenerators for use at transmission rates up to 40Gb/s. Nortel used these to achieve world record 10Gb/s/ per channel unregenerated transmission distances in standard single mode optical fibre.

He has acquired a world-wide reputation through his creation of the field of Microwave Photonics. He realised that future systems would integrate microwave and optical communications; optical fibres for long range communications and microwave for short range (inter-office, Wi-Fi and mobile phone) communication. His realisation and early development of devices, in which microwaves controlled optical emission and optical absorption determined microwave emission, has aroused enormous interest in industry and academia with many companies and university groups following on from his work. He co-founded the company Zinwave, now a flourishing business, to exploit his ideas.