Prof Russell Dupuis
Prof Russell Dupuis
Materials Today Innovation Award Winner Prof Russell Dupuis (center) with the Editors-in-Chief of Materials Today, Prof Jun Lou (left) and Prof Gleb Yushin (right).
Materials Today Innovation Award Winner Prof Russell Dupuis (center) with the Editors-in-Chief of Materials Today, Prof Jun Lou (left) and Prof Gleb Yushin (right).

The Materials Today Innovation Award recognizes leaders within the field of materials science who have brought the field to the fore and made advancements through cutting-edge research and thought-leading insight. The award seeks to recognise candidates that have contributed “monumental” work, which has opened a new, significant field of research and resulted in impactful, practical applications. 

This year, the 2019 Materials Today Innovation Award recognizes the impact of the development of high-quality growth methods for III-V compound semiconductor materials. Over the last forty years, metalorganic chemical vapor deposition or MOCVD has facilitated a new generation of modern electronic and optoelectronic devices based on III-V compound semiconductor heterostructures.

Today, virtually all high-brightness light-emitting diodes (LEDs), laser diodes, solar cells, and high-speed optoelectronic devices are based on III-V compound semiconductor materials and heterostructures. Everyone who uses the Internet – around 3.7 billion people worldwide – or turns on an LED is doing so thanks to MOCVD. These technologies rely on MOCVD to produce the highest quality III-V compound semiconductor devices.

The 2019 Materials Today Innovation Award* therefore recognizes the work of Russell Dupuis in developing this growth method for the production of III-V compound semiconductor materials, heterostructures, and devices. Dupuis was the first to conceive of and demonstrate MOCVD for the production of high-quality III-V compound semiconductor materials, heterostructures, and devices. 

“The Materials Today Innovation Award recognizes Dupuis’ early work on MOCVD, which has been instrumental in the development and successful commercialization of injection lasers, room-temperature quantum-well diode lasers, and – most importantly – light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that dramatically improve the energy efficiency of lighting from automotive lighting, traffic signals, and digital displays to general illumination,” comments Gleb Yushin, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Editor-in-Chief of Materials Today. “The adoption of energy-efficient LED lights results in huge electricity savings and, ultimately, reduced consumption of oil, gas, and coal, contributing to the mitigation of climate change. LED technology has also enabled high-quality LCD displays in TVs, computer monitors, laptops, and cell phones.”

“I became interested in semiconductor devices when I was in my senior year as an Electrical Engineering undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” explains Dupuis. “I took a course with Nick Holonyak, Jr. who made the first visible semiconductor LEDs and laser diodes in 1962 while at General Electric. He also produced the first III-V compound semiconductor ternary and quaternary semiconductor alloy films and devices. It was my interaction with him – and his excellent teaching – that led me to this area of research.”

The advantage of MOCVD lies in its ability to deposit very thin and precise layers of high-quality material with extremely sharp – or abrupt – interfaces on a substrate. This accuracy leads to high-performance and highly efficient devices. Until Dupuis’ pioneering work in 1977 while at Rockwell International, most researchers dismissed the usefulness of MOCVD. But his demonstration of layered structures with precise junctions grown using an MOCVD reactor that he had built himself changed that.

“It was a big surprise to me that my first attempts using MOCVD to make a III-V solar cell worked so well and that the first laser structure I grew operated as a laser diode at 300 K,” he recalls. “I am most proud of the work I did at this period in collaboration with Holonyak, especially the demonstration and development of the first room-temperature quantum-well laser diodes.”

This type of laser diode is still the highest-performance coherent light sources ever developed and has come to dominate the entire field of coherent optical light sources. Moreover, thanks to Dupuis’ groundwork with MOCVD, there are now over 1000 commercial systems in operation around the globe, producing these and other types of devices for the world’s leading electronics companies including Hewlett-Packard Optoelectronics (now Lumileds), Cree, Osram, Nichia, Samsung, as well as many others.

Not only has MOCVD made the production of high-quality III-V compound semiconductor compounds and devices possible, it has done so with the benefit of reduced power requirements and commensurate energy savings. The advent of MOCVD has, therefore, contributed to ongoing efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electronics production.

The explosion in the use of LED lighting is, in addition, driving reductions in end-use energy consumption. According to The Climate Group, lighting is responsible for 19% of global electricity usage and 6% of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the energy used in lighting by 40% globally would be equivalent to eliminating half the emissions from electricity and heat production across the whole of the EU. By 2027, according to US Department of Energy, widespread use of LED lighting could save 348 TWh of electricity – or the total annual output of 44 large power plants – and more than $30 billion. Low-power, high-efficiency LEDs are also bringing artificial light to remote, undeveloped parts of the world for the first time.

The development of MOCVD represents one of the most significant advances in semiconductor technology in the last 40 years and its impact continues to be felt.

The award was announced at the Materials Today/Cell Press reception at MRS Fall 2019
The award was announced at the Materials Today/Cell Press reception at MRS Fall 2019

Russell Dupuis received his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1973. After working at Texas Instruments, Rockwell International, AT&T Bell Laboratories at Murray Hill, and the University of Texas at Austin, he has been at the Georgia Institute of Technology since 2003, where he holds the Steve W. Chaddwick Chair in Electro-Optics and is Director of the Center for Compound Semiconductors.

*The Materials Today Innovation Award is presented annually to a researcher who has advanced the field of materials science through cutting-edge research and novel insight, resulting in impactful, practical applications. In 2018, the Award was given to Stanley Whittingham in honor of his contribution to the development of lithium-ion batteries.