Published: July 22, 2001

Former CU-Boulder professor of electrical engineering and Nobel laureate Herbert Kroemer will return to the Boulder campus next month to receive an honorary degree at August commencement and present a public lecture on his groundbreaking research in semiconductors, which helped to launch the modern Information Age.

The lecture, titled "Heterostructures for Everything?" will be presented Friday, Aug. 10, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the Math 100 Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Kroemer, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics with Jack Kilby and Zhores Alferov, was recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy for developing the semiconductor heterostructures that are used in high-speed and opto-electronics.

Heterostructures are heterogeneous semiconductor structures, built in such a way that the interface between the different materials plays an essential role in the device's action. The energy gap variations act as quasi-electric forces on the electrons and holes in the structure, even in the absence of an externally applied electric field.

Kroemer's conceptual work on heterostructures began in the early 1950s as he was looking for a way to improve transistor speed and performance. A decade later, he applied the same principles to the development of lasers and light-emitting diodes, showing that they could achieve continuous operation at room temperature -- something thought impossible at the time.

The technological application for his work was not then known, but his conclusions ultimately became important in the development of satellite links, cellular phones, compact disk players and the diode laser, a transmitter for the optical fiber links that carry most of today's long-distance communications.

Kroemer received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1952 from the University of Gottingen, Germany, before working in the telecommunications research laboratory of the German Postal Service. He went on to work at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center at Princeton and at Varian Associates in Palo Alto, Calif., before joining the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science in 1968.

He was a professor of electrical engineering at CU-Boulder from 1968 to 1976, before the University of California at Santa Barbara recruited him for a faculty position there.

"Those of us who knew Herb when he was at CU were very excited when he won the Nobel Prize, and we are doubly excited to have him return to campus this summer," said Professor Frank Barnes, who was chair of electrical engineering during Kroemer's tenure at CU.

"Herb is always working on problems that are both practical and years ahead of their time. His work on heterojunction transistors just before leaving CU started an avalanche of work leading to the fastest transistors of today."

For more information, call (303) 492-1137.