2001Advanced TechnologyElectronics
Morton B. Panish photo

Morton B. Panish

  • U. S. A. / April 8, 1929
  • Physical Chemist
  • Member, The U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Engineering

A Pioneering Step in the Development of Optoelectronics through Success in Continuous Operation of Semiconductor Lasers at Room Temperature

Dr. Alferov, Dr. Hayashi and Dr. Panish have made pioneering contributions to the development of optoelectronics as we know it today with the achievement of continuous wave operation of semiconductor lasers at room temperature. They have thus paved the way for commercial use of electronic devices that play an essential role in the building of information infrastructures supporting the worldwide IT revolution.


Brief Biography

Born in New York, U. S. A.
B.S., University of Denver
Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, Michigan State University
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Member, Technical Staff, RAD division, AVCO Corp.
Member of Technical Staff, Bell Telephone Laboratories (now Bell Laboratories)
Department Head, the same laboratory
Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, the same laboratory
Retired from the same laboratory

Selected Awards and Honors

Electronics Diversion Award, Electrochemical Society
Fellow, The American Physical Society
Solid State Science and Technology Award
C&C Prize (with Hayashi), Japan
International Crystal Growth Award, American Association of Crystal Growth
Fellow, IEEE
Morris N. Liebmann Award, Institute Electric and Electronic Engineers
John Bardeen Award, The Minerals, Metals and Material Society, U. S. A.
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering

Major Works


A Low Threshold Room – Temperature Injection Laser. IEEE J. Quantum Electron, QE-5 (4). (with I. Hayashi and P. W. Foy), 1969


Double Heterostructure Injection Lasers with Room-Temperature Thresholds as lowas 2300 A/cm². Appl. Phys. Lett. 16(8). (with I. Hayashi and S. Sumski), 1970


Junction Lasers Which Operate Continuouslyat Room-Temperature. Appl. Phys. Lett. 17 ( 3). (with I. Hayashi and others), 1970


Ga As-Al Ga As Double Heterostructure Injection Lasers. J. Appl .Phys. 42(5). (with I. Hayashi and F. K. Reinhart), 1971


A Pioneering Step in the Development of Optoelectronics through Success in Continuous Operation of Semiconductor Lasers at Room Temperature

In 1970, Dr. Zh. I. Alferov, Dr. I. Hayashi and Dr. M. B. Panish achieved continuous operation of semiconductor lasers at room temperature, an operation which theretofore had been extremely difficult. Their feat paved the way for the practical uses of semiconductor lasers, a pioneering contribution to the development of the optoelectronics that are an essential component of the information infrastructures that underpin the worldwide IT revolution.

The first semiconductor laser, accomplished in liquid nitrogen in 1962, utilized a homojunction based upon a GaAs layer. However, its requirement of threshold current density, the minimum density necessary for lasing operation, was extremely high, thus permitting pulse operation only and hindering the industrial application of these semiconductor lasers. A variety of subsequent attempts were made to confine light output in an optical waveguide using striped electrodes or a heterostructure of AlGaAs and GaAs layers, but numerous technical bottlenecks yet prevented continuous operation at room temperature. A breakthrough occurred in 1970, when Dr. Alferov in Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), and Drs. Hayashi and Panish in the United States, almost simultaneously succeeded in achieving the continuous operation of semiconductor lasers. The semiconductor lasers they developed are characterized by the fact that they substantially reduced the threshold current density through the application of a double heterostructure consisting of a GaAs active layer, a thin film for radiating light, sandwiched between two AlGaAs layers.

This epoch-making development provided the basis for several subsequent research efforts and paved the way for the practical application of semiconductor lasers. These lasers were then applied to a number of new technologies, accelerating the development of the optoelectronics field that has given birth to a revolution in industrial and social structures worldwide.

Today, semiconductor lasers can be found not only in the optical fiber communications that connect us to the world via the Internet, the major driving force in the realization of the information society, but also in optical recording technologies such as compact disc players and video disc players, information processing components such as computer memory and laser printers, and media resources such as digital publications.

The continuous operation of semiconductor lasers at room temperature, attained by the three scientists using an AlGaAs double heterostructure, gave birth to an entire class of innovative technical developments. It is no exaggeration that the prosperity of the optoelectronics field as we know it today would not have been possible without their groundbreaking achievement.

For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to bestow upon Dr. Alferov, Dr. Hayashi and Dr. Panish the 2001 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology.


Abstract of the Lecture


I am a descendant of the East European Jews who migrated to the United States around 1900. These people and most Jews who lived in the west had a centuries old culture that strongly stressed the study of their ancient religious texts. The scholars who studied those texts were usually the most respected people in the community. The “emancipation” of the Jews in Western Europe in the 19th century and the large scale migration of East European Jews to the U.S. around 1900 resulted in many of them acculturating to the surrounding culture to a large degree. However, their modified culture remained coherent, and the respect that they had for religious scholarship became respect and support for secular scholarship such as the study of medicine, science, law and other intellectual disciplines.

My grandparents were immigrants in the migration of around 1900. They carried the cultural traditions of their people. My parents were born in New York, and because their families were poor, had to work instead of going to college. Nevertheless, they were self – educated and well read. I benefited from the cultural heritage of respect, support and encouragement for scholarly studies. It is also part of my heritage that it is important for a person to try to contribute to society in some way. For me contributing to science and technology would be the way to do that. I believe that the culture that I was exposed to as a child and supported by as a young man was by far the major determinant of my life’s path.

As the result of my father’s interest in science and his efforts to interest me, as well as experiences in high school, I decided to study chemistry. Undergraduate studies were at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and at Denver University. Graduate studies were at Michigan State University. I ended up with a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry with a strong emphasis on physics.

I was employed doing basic research at AVCO corp. and Oak Ridge National Labs for the first ten years after graduation. I then joined the research area at Bell Labs, which provided a stimulating intellectual environment in which to conduct research. Scientific research always benefits from the stimulation of a community such as that provided by the Labs. Among many other projects, I worked on developing an injection laser that could operate continuously at room temperature. These efforts, undertaken with my colleague Izuo Hayashi, were successful. My publications on this, and many other projects always gave me satisfaction because I believed that I was doing something to advance mankind’s knowledge.

The mode of collaboration that Hayashi, a physicist, and I, a chemist, established became a common one for people working in semiconductor device research. After Hayashi departed for Japan I established similar collaborations and continued in that mode very productively for the next 20 years.

After retirement I expanded my scientific horizons by accepting invitations from the National Research Council to join several committees that monitored the work of NASA on all science programs. These are unpaid appointments that permit one to contribute to science in a way that is quite different from research, but nevertheless, rewarding. In addition I have been very active as a member of the Committee on Human Rights of the U.S. National Academies.

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Semiconductor Laser - Continuous Operation and Progress for the Future -

Monday, November 12, 2001
Kyoto International Conference Center
Coordinator & Moderator
Kenichi Iga, Member of the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee; Executive Director, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Inamori Foundation
Kyoto Prefectural Government, Kyoto City Government, NHK
With the cooperation
IEICE/Electronic Society, The Japan Society of Applied Physics, IEEE/LEOS Japan Chapter, Optoelectronic Industry and Technology Development Association, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science


Opening Kenichi Iga
Address Toyomi Inamori, Managing Director, The Inamori Foundation
Address Yasuharu Suematsu, Chairman of the Kyoto Prize Committee; Director General, National Institute of Informatics
Laureate Lecture Izuo Hayashi - Laureate in Advanced Technology
"Succeeding in CW Oscillation of Semiconductor Lasers and Overcoming the Difficulties in Realization of Its Practical Usage"
Laureate Lecture Morton B. Panish - Laureate in Advanced Technology
"X - Ray Characterization of Superlattices, and Devices Exploiting Intersubband Transitions in Quantum Wells"
Laureate Lecture Zhores Ivanovich Alferov - Laureate in Advanced Technology
"Double Heterostructure Lasers: Past, Present and Future"
Panel Discussion Co - Moderators:
Michiharu Nakamura, Chairman of the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee; Corporate Officer, President, Research and Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.
Kenichi Iga
Zhores Ivanovich Alferov
Izuo Hayashi
Morton B. Panish
Yasuharu Suematsu
Isamu Akasaki, Professor, High-Tech Research Center, Meijo University
Tetsuhiko Ikegami, Member of the Kyoto Prize Committee; President, the University of Aizu
Closing Kenichi Iga