VCSEL engineer gets 2011 IEEE David Sarnoff Award for GB Ethernet research

C.J. Chang-Hasnain has been recognized for her contributions to Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers by the IEEE. Her demonstration of the first gigabyte-per-second multimode VCSEL transmission using a multimode optical fiber became the prototype of today’s Ethernet technology.


C.J. Chang-Hasnain, an engineer whose groundbreaking contributions to the physics and design of Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) have reportedly shaped their use in modern technology, has been honored by IEEE with the 2011 IEEE David Sarnoff Award.

The award, sponsored by Sarnoff Corporation, recognized Chang-Hasnain for pioneering contributions to VCSEL arrays and tunable VCSELs. The award was presented on March 8th, 2011 at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference in Los Angeles, Calif.

Chang-Hasnain’s seminal contributions have been instrumental in establishing VCSELs as the dominant technology for multimode fiber applications, according to IEEE. And her work has had a profound influence on commercial tunable, high-speed and laser array designs. VCSELs reportedly comprise more than 75% of today’s laser market, dominating the high-volume, low-cost and short-distance laser sectors. They can be turned on and off very fast, at billions of times per second, but yet manufactured at very low cost in wafer-scale. VCSELs are now used in applications ranging from Ethernet data networks to computer mice to laser printers. Allegedly, most local area networks and large-scale data centers supporting Internet traffic use VCSELs.

Chang-Hasnain’s invention and integration of Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and photonic systems created a new class of optoelectronic devices. Chang-Hasnain explained the modal structure of VCSELs and demonstrated the first planar structure, which was commercialized. Her demonstration of the first gigabyte-per-second multimode VCSEL transmission using a multimode optical fiber became the prototype of today’s Ethernet technology, according to IEEE. She was reportedly the first to demonstrate that VCSEL arrays can be designed to have a precise wavelength variation to form a 140-wavelength array. She also showed that VCSELs can be used for wavelength-division multiplexing applications.

Chang-Hasnain demonstrated the first realizable tunable VCSEL structure with a wide tuning range. Tunable lasers allow the wavelength to be altered in a controlled manner. She later invented a high-contrast grating that led to a tunable laser with a 40x improvement in speed. Overall, her developments concerning wavelength-engineered VCSELs have resulted in tunable lasers that accomplish both a wide range and continuous tuning simultaneously.

An IEEE Fellow Chang-Hasnain is a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, an Honorary Member of A.F. loffe Institute (Russia) and a Chang-Jiang Scholar at Tsinghua University, China.  She holds 37 patents and has published over 400 papers. Prof. Chang-Hasnain has been the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Lightwave Technology since 2007. Her awards include the IEEE Photonics Society’s William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award, the Optical Society of America’s Nick Holonyak Jr. Award, and the Humboldt Research Award. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, all in electrical engineering and computer science. She is currently the John R. Whinnery Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.


- Edited by Amanda McLeman, Control Engineering,

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