Photonics & Quantum Electronics

Molecular-beam epitaxy lab

Photonics and Quantum Electronics is about lasers and how laser light is used. Research in the department covers a diverse range of topics. In our labs we grow semiconductor and organic photonic materials, and we study them using spectroscopy, in many cases with ultrafast lasers. Topics include: spin and exciton dynamics, nano-scale structures, optoelectronic devices, and nonlinear optical pulse propagation. Specialized courses are offered bi-annually, including Quantum Electronics, Laser Principles, Nonlinear Optics, Semiconductor Physics, Solid State Physics, and Optics. Students attend a weekly seminar and travel to national and international meetings.

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Our department has expanded in recent years with an emphasis on this rapidly-growing field, with new faculty members and new labs. Our students use state-of-the-art equipment, and can choose from a wide range of experimental thesis projects. Our theory group works closely with our experimenters. We publish in the leading journals for physics and applied physics. More than ten labs are dedicated to this research area in the beautiful Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories (IATL) building, which was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. There is a wide job market for students trained in this area, with opportunities in industry, government labs, and academia.


David R. Andersen

Nonlinear optics; quantum electronics; solid state; embedded systems.

  • Parametric solitons, nonlinear optical crossbar switch, passive and adaptive nonlinear optical equalizer, 4-pi confocal nonlinear optical microscopy
  • Applications include long-haul telecommunications systems, embedded wireless communications
  • Professor with appointments in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in Physics and Astronomy
  • Facilities include 1100 sq. ft. lab, with a 100 femtosec Ti:Sapphire laser system and other sources for nonlinear optics
  • Students also interact with theoretical wireless group from Electrical Engineering, medical group from Optical Science and Technology Center
Thomas F. Boggess

Nonlinear optics; ultrafast spectroscopy of semiconductor heterostructures.

  • Ultrafast nonlinear optical techniques used to study semiconductor nanostructures
  • Topics of interest include carrier energy and spin relaxation, recombination, and transport
  • Facilities include ultrafast lasers, cryogenic capabilities, photon-counting equipment, and magneto-optical instrumentation located in 2000 sq ft of laboratory space
Michael E. Flatté

Condensed-matter physics; materials theory.

  • Properties of impurities in high-temperature superconductors
  • High-speed semiconductor magneto-electronics
  • Member of multi-university research initiative on high-speed semiconductor magneto-electronics (with Caltech, Cornell, U. Illinois, and UC Santa Barbara)
  • Students also interact with other group members, including postdocs and other students, and with members of experimental groups at Iowa
  • Students develop skills including analytical and numerical techniques and programming C++
  • Placement opportunities for graduate students include industry participants in our research
John P. Prineas

Experimental semiconductor physics; growth and fabrication; spectroscopy; microscopy; semiconductor nanostructures; optoelectronics and photonics; III-V MBE growth; nonlinear optics.

  • Research and development of antimonide III-V compound semiconductor materials, including Ga(Al)InAsSb bulk alloys and quantum wells, InAs/Ga(In)Sb superlattices, and core-shell nanowhiskers
  • Facilities include a molecular beam epitaxy lab equipped to grow III-V semiconductors, and an optical spectroscopy lab; regular use of user facilities: Microfabrication Laboratory and the Central Microscopy Research Facility
  • Placement opportunities include industry, government labs, and academia
Arthur L. Smirl

Optical properties of semiconductors; ultrafast photonics; nonlinear optics; laser physics.

  • Optical techniques used to study scattering and to control carrier transport with femtosecond temporal resolution and nanometer spatial resolution
  • Research has potential applications in electronics, optoelectronics, terahertz wave generation, data storage, optical switching and quantum computation
  • Five laboratories (5,000 sq. ft.) including femtosecond lasers
  • Students gain experience in quantum mechanics, solid-state physics and optics
Markus Wohlgenannt

Experimental polymer physics.

  • Light absorption, reflection and emission, continuous wave photo-induced (nonlinear) absorption
  • Organic dyes in unusual optical cavities, such as photonic crystals (crystal lattice constant is equal to light wavelength) and Bragg-reflectors, "random lasing"
  • Facilities include a spectroscopy facility using a cw laser; fabrication of organic light-emitting diodes, resonators and opals
  • Students participate in worldwide collaborations with semiconducting organics, chemistry and electrical engineering departments
  • Placement opportunities gained from learning include semiconductor or fiber optics industry, government labs, and academia