Eli Yablonovitch

Eli Yablonovitch (born 15 December 1946) is an American physicist and engineer who, along with Sajeev John founded the field of photonic crystals in 1987.[1] He and his team were the first to create a 3-dimensional structure that exhibited a full photonic bandgap, which has been named Yablonovite. In addition to pioneering photonic crystals, he was the first to recognize that a strained quantum-well laser has a significantly reduced threshold current compared to its unstrained counterpart. This is now employed in the majority of semiconductor lasers fabricated throughout the world. His seminal paper[2] reporting inhibited spontaneous emission in photonic crystals is among the most highly cited papers in physics and engineering.

Eli Yablonovitch
Born (1946-12-15) 15 December 1946
Alma mater
Known for
Awards Benjamin Franklin Medal, Frederic Ives Medal / Jarus W. Quinn Prize, IEEE Edison Medal, Isaac Newton Medal, IEEE "William R. Cherry Award", Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize, The Rank Prize, Harvey Prize, IEEE Photonics Award, Mountbatten Medal, The R. W. Wood Prize, W. Streifer Scientific Achievement Award, Julius Springer, Adolph Lomb Medal
Scientific career
FieldsPhysics, Electrical Engineering
Doctoral advisorNicolaas Bloembergen


Yablonovitch received his B.Sc. in physics from McGill University in 1967. He went on to receive his A.M. degree in applied physics from Harvard University in 1969, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1972.[3] During his post-graduate studies, Yablonovitch worked on nonlinear optics with carbon dioxide lasers.[4]


After receiving his Ph.D., Yablonovitch worked at Bell Laboratories. He then became a professor of applied physics at Harvard in 1974. In 1979, he joined Exxon research center to work on photovoltaic research for solar energy.[4] While working at Exxon, Yablonovitch derived the 4 (n squared) factor as the theoretical limit for light trapping in photovoltaics. This is now used worldwide in almost all solar panels.[3]

Yablonovitch joined Bell Communications Research in 1984, and became its director of solid-state physics research in 1991. During his time at Bell Communications, Yablonovitch did his pioneering work on photonic crystals.[1][4]

Yablonovitch became a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA and continued to study and develop photonic crystals and photonic bandgap materials. In July 2007, he joined the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department at UC Berkeley. His research topics include silicon photonics, telecommunications, optical antennas, new applications of photovoltaics, and searching for a low-voltage replacement for the transistor. Recently he has investigated analog computing approaches to solving hard problems, such as the traveling salesman problem.

Yablonovitch has co-founded multiple companies related to his research interests. In 2000, he co-founded Ethertronics Inc. Ethertronics is a cell phone antenna manufacturer that has, to date, shipped over 1.7 billion antennas.[4]

In 2001, Yablonovitch co-founded Luxtera Inc., a semiconductor company that makes electro‑optical systems using silicon photonics, manufactured with CMOS processes. Luxtera is the first company to market foundry-based silicon photonics.[4][5]

Yablonovitch co-founded Luminescent Inc. in 2002. Luminescent provided sophisticated mathematical optimization for use in photolithography masks. Luminescent was acquired by Synopsys in 2012.[4]

In 2008, Yablonovitch founded Alta Devices Inc. Alta Devices produces thin-film gallium arsenide photovoltaic cells for solar energy. Alta Devices currently holds the efficiency world record for single junction solar cells at 29.1% and dual junction solar cells at 31.6%, both at 1 sun illumination.[3][6]

He is a Fellow of the IEEE, the OSA, and the APS.

He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London.[7]

He is a recipient of the Benjamin Franklin medal; the Frederic Ives Medal / Jarus W. Quinn Prize -- the Optical Society's highest award; the IEEE Edison Medal; the Isaac Newton Medal[4][8]; the IEEE "William R. Cherry Award" -- the IEEE's highest award in solar cells[9]; the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize; the Rank Prize; the Harvey Prize; the IEEE Photonics Award; the Mountbatten Medal of the British IET; the R. W. Wood Prize; the W. Streifer Scientific Achievement Award; the Julius Springer Prize; and the Adolph Lomb Medal.

See also

  • Alf Adams. Introduced the idea of the Strained Laser at nearly the same time as Yablonovitch.


  1. M.Kapoor (2013) Electromagnetic Band Gap Structures, page 58
  2. Yablonovitch, Eli (1987-05-18). "Inhibited Spontaneous Emission in Solid-State Physics and Electronics". Physical Review Letters. 58 (20): 2059–2062. Bibcode:1987PhRvL..58.2059Y. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.58.2059. PMID 10034639.
  3. "Eli Yablonovitch | EECS at UC Berkeley". www.eecs.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  4. Yablonovitch, Eli. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF).
  5. "FIBER OPTICS: Optical transceiver goes where copper cannot". www.laserfocusworld.com. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  6. "The Alta Story".
  7. "New Fellows 2013". Royal Society. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  8. "2015 Isaac Newton medal of the Institute of Physics". www.iop.org. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  9. "2017 IEEE PVSC-44 | Washington, DC". www.ieee-pvsc.org. Retrieved 2017-03-28.
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