January 4, 2017
By Georgia Institute of Technology
We think of the engineers, scientists and inventors who change the world as icons. Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Edison. Albert Einstein – their largest contributions can be recited in just a few words.
But some of them live among us, unnoticed, even though they too made contributions that profoundly impacted everyday life. Russell Dupuis is one of them.
The smartphone you peer into, the LED bulb in your desk lamp, the Blu-Ray player that serves up your favorite film – all are here largely because of Dupuis, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech.
That’s because an essential component of their manufacturing traces back to a process that Dupuis developed in the late 1970s, a process that ushered in a new breed of mass-produced compound semiconductors. These electronic components – particularly those forged of elements from columns III and V in the periodic table — can operate at extremely high frequencies or emit light with extraordinary efficiency. Today, they’re the working essence of everything from handheld laser pointers to stadium Jumbotrons.
The process is known as metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, or MOCVD, and until Dupuis, no one had figured out how to use it to grow high-quality semiconductors using those III-V elements. Essentially, MOCVD works by combining the atomic elements with molecules of organic gas and flowing the mixture over a hot semiconductor wafer. When repeated, the process grows layer after layer of crystals that can have any number of electrical properties, depending on the elements used.