The center's deputy directors are Anthony Johnson, professor of physics and professor of computer science and electrical engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Matthew Fraser, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University.
A key technology enabling the center's work is the quantum cascade laser, which is named for the way the electrons "cascade" through thin layers of material stacked within the device. Gmachl, a member of the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM), is a pioneer in creating quantum cascade lasers and is a recipient of a 2005 MacArthur "genius grant" in recognition of that work.
The major advantage of quantum cascade lasers is that they emit light in regions of the spectrum known as the mid-infrared. The ability to produce and detect these wavelengths allows scientists to "see" certain chemicals in the same way that sunlight and the human eye reveal everyday objects. "When viewed in the mid-infrared, the world is alive with chemicals like ammonia, carbon, methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and benzene," said Fraser. "The ability to detect or monitor these gases with a high degree of sensitivity provides important information about the processes that produced them."
"If you look in your house, probably the only laser you'll find is in your CD player, just as 30 years ago you would have found very few transistors in the average home," said Tim Day, chief executive officer of Dayl
Contact: Teresa Riordan