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Alferov, Zhores

semiconductor lasers kroemer laser

(1930– ) Russian physicist: devised improved transistors, and semiconductor lasers.

Alferov and Herbert Kroemer (1928– ) were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2000, together with . Alferov was born in Belorussia in 1930, graduating from the Electrotechnical Institute in Leningrad in 1952. Kroemer obtained his doctorate in theoretical physics from Göttingen in the same year, and five years later he was employed by RCA in New Jersey. Both men were interested in semiconductor heterostructures. These used sandwiches (stacked layers) of different semiconductors, such as arsenides, giving a smaller band gap than in conventional semiconductors. Kroemer showed that the reduced band gap makes for a smaller energy barrier for electrons in transistors made of these materials, allowing higher gain and speed. Then in 1963 both he and Alferov independently suggested building semiconductor lasers using heterostructures. Alferov designed, patented and built the first such laser able to work at room temperature, by using gallium arsenide and aluminium arsenide. Thereafter commercial applications took off rapidly, and it became a key element of the current information revolution. The lasers are used in CD players, laser printers and fibre optic communications.

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