Setting The Bar High

Even before they enroll, the students who come to Lehigh to study with Nelson Tansu know what will be expected of them.

Tansu, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, directs the Metalorganic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) and Nanophotonics Group in Lehigh’s Center for Optical Technologies (COT). His mission is to harness light from semiconductor nanostructures to achieve advances in energy, communications, biosensors and coherent sources.

Tansu says his group aims to solve some of the most important challenges in engineering by applying the fundamentals of physics – a process that requires rigorous research and academic training in multidisciplinary topics.

His students publish highly cited articles in Applied Physics Letters, the Journal of Applied Physics, Langmuir and other leading refereed journals. Their work has been reported in Compound Semiconductor, Laser Focus World and other publications.

In 2009, Illuminating Ideas: Innovations in Solid-State Lighting, a publication of the U.S. Department of Energy, said Tansu’s group had achieved one of the solid-state lighting technology highlights of the year by developing staggered InGaN quantum wells that improve the radiative efficiency of green light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Several of Tansu’s students have received patents and international prizes. Hongping Zhao has won a premier scholarship two years in a row from SPIE, the world’s largest nonprofit professional society for optics, photonics and imaging. Yik-Khoon Ee won the Best Student Paper in nanophotonics at the IEEE Photonics Global Conference 2008, where his paper was chosen from among 96 submitted.

Tansu aims to recruit graduate students who possess three intangible qualities – motivation, persistence and high expectations for themselves. They learn to apply the fundamentals of physics to the science and technology of semiconductor optoelectronics, semiconductor nanostructures and photonics.

Tansu’s group also investigates solar photovoltaic cells, thermoelectric materials and devices, biological and chemical sensors, semiconductor lasers, and nitride-based semiconductors.

Tansu’s students are trained to use and maintain the COT’s extensive facilities, which include state-of-the-art MOCVD epitaxy reactors, etching tools, dielectric and metal evaporators, and light-resistant lithography equipment. This affords an advantage offered by few other university labs. In one building, students can perform all the steps – simulation, growing materials, advanced characterization, device fabrication and device testing – necessary to make a semiconductor photonics device.

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