Past Professor

Nick Holonyak

CAS Professor Emeritus of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Professor Holonyak has made fundamental contributions to the science and technology of elemental and compound semiconductors, including major achievements in solid-state lasers and incoherent light emitters. He invented the first practical light-emitting diode. He and his students built the first p-n diode quantum well lasers and introduced the name quantum well lasers. He is also known for his work on early diffused silicon devices, tunnel diodes, and silicon-controlled rectifiers, including invention of the symmetrical switch (TRIAC) used in wall light dimmers. He was the first to observe inelastic tunneling, which is the beginning of tunneling spectroscopy. Among the 54 patents he holds on semiconductor materials and devices are the fundamental patents on quantum-well layer disordering and on the aluminum-based III-V oxide, now being exploited in optoelectronics. With Prof. M. Feng he is the inventor of the transistor laser, a unique three-port device with an electrical and optical coherent signal output.

For his contributions, he has received the IEEE’s Morris N. Liebmann Award, Jack A. Morton Award, Edison Medal, Third Millennium Medal, and Medal of Honor; National Medal of Science; Japan Prize; John Scott Medal, City of Philadelphia; Solid State Science and Technology Award, Electrochemical Society; GaAs Symposium Award with Welker Medal; Monie A. Ferst Award, Sigma Xi; Charles H. Townes Award and Frederick Ives Medal, Optical Society of America; National Academy of Sciences Award for the Industrial Application of Science; American Electronics Association 50th Anniversary Award; American Society for Engineering Education Centennial Medallion; Vladimir Karapetoff Eminent Member’s Award, Eta Kappa Nu; John Bardeen Award, Minerals, Metals and Materials Society; Global Energy International Prize, Russia; and U.S. Medal of Technology. In 1997 the Optical Society of America established the Nick Holonyak, Jr. Award. He holds an honorary doctorate of science from Northwestern University and honorary doctor of engineering degree from Notre Dame University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences; an honorary member of the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute (St. Petersburg, Russia); an eminent member of Eta Kappa Nu; a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Nine of his former graduate students are elected members of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2004, he received the Washington Award, Western Society of Engineers; Lemelson-MIT Prize and Von Hippel Award, Materials Research Society. In 2005, he was named a laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. He has been inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame (2008), The Engineering at Illinois Hall of Fame (2010), and the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio (2011).  In 2013, he became a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), was honored with the LED Pioneer Awards of Strategies Unlimited, and received the Outstanding Achievement for Global SSL Development (Beijing, China). He has been awarded the Sarnoff Citation from the Radio Club of America (2014), the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE’s) Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering (2015), and the University of Illinois Alumni Association (UIAA) Achievement Award (2015). He was named an Honorary Member of Optical Society (OSA) (2016) and was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering from the Franklin Institute (2017).


October 24, 2012 is Nick Holonyak Day!  Read more

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