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10 February 2014

Eoin O’Reilly of Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute awarded Rank Prize for Optoelectronics

Professor Eoin O’Reilly, head of Theory, Modelling and Design at Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute and professor of physics at University College Cork, has been named as a winner of the 2014 Rank Prize for Optoelectronics.

O’Reilly received the award for his pioneering work on strained-layer laser structures, which underpin all optical fibre communications, from long-haul to local-area networks (LANs), and act as power sources for optical amplifiers (making undersea networks possible).

Eoin O'ReillyPicture: Eoin O’Reilly.

O’Reilly was honoured as one of four luminary scientists who challenged the widely accepted orthodoxy of the 1980s that semiconductor lasers should be strain-free. The scientists also predicted the benefits of incorporating one strained layer or more in the active regions of semiconductor lasers, creating an ideal band structure.

The Rank Prize Fund recognised O’Reilly’s contribution while also honouring his co-researcher at University of Surrey, Alfred Adams, and independent work by Eli Yablonovitch at Bell Communications Research and by Gordon Osbourn at Sandia National Laboratories.

The researchers’ use of strained structures has reduced threshold currents and increased efficiency and output power. It has also maximized operating frequency while decreasing linewidth and frequency chirp, and enabled a wide range of laser wavelengths to be accessed that would not otherwise be possible.

This has led to the dominant role that strained lasers now play in optoelectronic applications from DVD and Blu-ray storage to printers, and sensing and pollution monitoring at longer wavelengths.

O’Reilly’s current work is also focused on extrapolating the energy efficiencies further, with projects seeking to double the efficiency of LEDs, with the likelihood that this will be the preferred form of lighting in future.

“The Rank Prize only recognises outstanding research which is found to be of significant benefit to mankind,” comments Tyndall National Institute’s CEO Kieran Drain. “If you look around you – from your high-speed internet connection to your favourite DVD, strained lasers have been the key catalyst to a faster digital world over the past 30 years. Eoin’s blue-sky thinking has made him a pivotal member of a small group of pre-eminent researchers in this field,” he adds.

O’Reilly is the first Irish recipient of the Rank Prize. “Science needs big thinkers who constantly challenge the norm and strive to innovate and improve, making next-generation technologies possible,” comments professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Irish Government.

Originally from Dublin, O’Reilly received a First Class Honours in Theoretical Physics with Gold Medal and the Fitzgerald Medal for Physics at Trinity College, Dublin followed by a PhD from Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge in Theory of Condensed Matter.

O’Reilly worked on research on strained lasers at the University of Surrey from 1984–2001 during which time he rose to deputy leader of the Optoelectronic Devices and Materials (ODM) Group and head of the Department of Physics. He has also taught and undertaken research at Dublin City University (DCU), Fraunhofer IAF and the University of Illinois.

O’Reilly is currently principal investigator on a €1.065m SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) project on Nanoscale Physics and Engineering of Optoelectronic Materials and Devices (from November 2011 to October 2015). He is also coordinator and principal investigator on the two European Union 7th Framework Program (EU FP7) STREP Specific Targeted Research Projects ‘BIANCHO’ (a value of €531,000 to Tyndall over 3 years) and ‘DEEPEN’ (a value of €813,000 to Tyndall over 3 years).

Tags: Tyndall

Visit: www.tyndall.ie

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