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Getting light right: Shaya Fainman awarded Cymer chair

Yeshaiahu (Shaya) Fainman, professor of electrical engineering
Yeshaiahu (Shaya) Fainman, professor of electrical engineering

Information technology, health care, lighting, sensing and national security applications are all benefiting from the field of nanophotonics, which involves the fabrication of devices that can generate, manipulate and control light at the nanoscale. For his contributions to this field,Yeshaiahu (Shaya) Fainman, an electrical engineering professor at the Jacobs School, was named the first holder of the Cymer Inc. Endowed Chair in Advanced Optical Technologies.

In the early 1990s, Fainman began working with light on the sub-wavelength scale and helped to develop what is now called the field of nanophotonics.

"At any scale, optics can be an enabling technology. We are looking to integrate optical, electrical, fluidic, magnetic, mechanical, acoustic, chemical, and biological signals and processes on a single chip," says Fainman.

"At Cymer we're committed to pushing the limits of DUV lithography in order to advance the production of chips that power the electronic devices we rely on everyday," says Bob Akins, Cymer Chairman and CEO. "The work of Shaya and others at UCSD on lithography applications for commercially viable nano-optics is of great interest to us, as these advances will help drive the industry forward."

Fainman, for example, has been working on the CMOS-compatible integration of optical interconnects onto processors. He is also director of the DARPA-funded Center for Optofluidic Integration, which includes world-class researchers from Caltech, Stanford, UCSD and Harvard.

In a project that could be useful for large scale protein analysis and single molecule DNA detection, Fainman and colleagues are using massively parallel surface plasmon resonance sensors to monitor biochemical binding reactions.

In addition, Fainman is involved in the development of nanolasers that could be used to further miniaturize optical sources for integrated nanophotonic circuits and systems of the future. He is also using surface plasmonics to build new microscopy tools.

"With his pursuit of deep knowledge in several cutting-edge research areas that touch important aspects of society, Shaya is a quintessential Jacobs School engineering professor. He has shown great leadership in forming interdisciplinary teams across departments, universities, and industry," says Jacobs School dean Frieder Seible.

This is the second Cymer endowed chair donated to the Jacobs School. Cymer co-founders Akins and Rick Sandstrom, chief technical advisor, met as UCSD students more than 30 years ago and their 20-year-old company now employs nearly 1,000 people worldwide.

Yeshaiahu (Shaya) Fainman, professor of electrical engineering
In a paper in the July 2007 issue of Physical Review Letters, Fainman and coauthors from the Jacobs School and Sun Microsystems describe progress toward what they call a "free space optics on a chip" configuration. Such a configuration would allow light to propagate freely in the slab of silicon, while interacting with discrete optical components that are located along the propagation direction.

"We believe that this new concept may become essential for applications such as optical interconnections, information processing, spectroscopy and sensing on a chip, - Fainman and colleagues write.

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