Herbert Kroemer: 2000 - Physics

Herbert Kroemer
Herbert Kroemer

Year & Category

2000 Nobel Prize in Physics (jointly with the Russian Zhores I. Alferov; they shared the divided Prize with the American Jack S. Kilby who was honoured "for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit")

Prize motivation

"For developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and opto-electronics"

At the time of the award he worked at

University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

About his research

Barcode readers and brake lights
As early as 1957 Kroemer published the theoretical basis for a new kind of transistor based on semiconductor heterostructures (semiconductors consisting of different ultrathin layers of material). Electrons can move particularly easily at the interfaces between these semiconductor layers. Today the extremely fast transistors that Herbert Kroemer’s made possible primarily benefit telecommunication satellites and the base stations of mobile telephones. After his early breakthrough Herbert Kroemer continued working hard on semiconductor heterostructures. In 1963 he published the basic design principles for a semiconductor laser with heterostructures in an American scientific journal. At the same time, but independently of Kroemer, a scientist from Belarus, Zhores Alferov, published a comparable paper. Alferov was also the first to succeed in realising such a laser in 1970. Today the laser technology that Alferov and Kroemer initiated has countless applications – for example, in DVD players, barcode readers, brake lights and traffic lights.

Pioneering university research
Herbert Kroemer also advanced semiconductor technology significantly at the institutional level: in 1976 he persuaded the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB) to launch an ambitious research programme into compound semiconductors. Today, the UCSB’s research in the field of compound semiconductors enjoys an international reputation.