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Electrical engineer awarded £350,000 IET A F Harvey Engineering Research Prize

Electrical Engineer Jelena Vuckovic has been awarded the prestigious IET A F Harvey Engineering Research Prize to develop an on-chip integrated pulsed laser, which will revolutionise photonic technology and the applications that require these lasers, such as medicine, optical communications, quantum computing and self-driving cars.  

Jelena Vuckovic from Stanford University is the winner of the £350,000 prize. She was chosen from high-calibre candidates from across the world as a result of her research and proposed development of miniature Titanium:sapphire (Ti:sapph) lasers.

Currently Ti:sapph lasers are bulky, expensive, table-top lasers, which can be limiting to applications such as LIDAR and microscopy. Jelena and her team are aiming to create a miniature version, which would have a total volume smaller than a cubic centimetre. This would have a major impact on photonic technology and society, by decreasing the cost and footprint of such lasers.

The new miniature lasers could also be applied to and used in several applications, such as miniaturized and inexpensive sensors in self-driving cars, which would make such LIDAR systems accessible to everyone; to pump quantum light sources for secure quantum communications where eavesdropping can be detected; and as compact sources for brain microscopy and imaging.

Jelena said: “I am tremendously honoured to receive the A F Harvey Prize from the IET, and to be selected among the shortlisted group of very distinguished scientists. This prize will be used to support my lab’s work on the implementation of miniaturized and inexpensive ultrafast lasers – the greatest challenge of integrated photonics, which could revolutionize many applications, from self-driving cars, to neuroscience and to quantum technologies.”

Sir John O’Reilly, Chair of the IET’s Selection Committee for the Prize, said: “Professor Jelena Vuckovic's pioneering work on inverse photonic design is transforming our approach to the design and realisation of new high-performance integrated systems - with wide-ranging applications in communications, lidar, quantum systems and the like. She and her team at Stanford have developed inverse methods that cut the design time dramatically, thereby opening new vistas and radically different approaches to realisation of elements not previously conceived. Finally, we see in prospect photonics realising its untapped potential, helping us to 'engineer a better world'.”

The IET’s A F Harvey Research Prize, worth £350,000, is named after Dr A F Harvey who bequeathed a generous sum of money to the IET for a trust fund to be set up in his name for the furtherance of scientific research into the fields of Radar and Microwaves; Lasers and Optoelectronics; Medical Engineering.

Jelena will present a prize lecture on her research at IET London: Savoy Place on 16 March 2020. To find out more, please visit www.theiet.org/harvey.