Claire F. Gmachl

Professor of Electrical Engineering
Director of MIRTHE (NSF-ERC)
Ph.D. 1995, Technical University of Vienna

My research group is working on the development of new quantum devices, especially lasers, and their optimization for systems applications ranging from sensors to optical communications.

Our special focus is currently on Quantum Cascade (QC) lasers, a novel type of semiconductor injection laser based on electronic intersubband transitions in the conduction band of a coupled quantum well heterostructure. Quantum wells are only few atomic layers thick slivers of one type of semiconductor material interleaved with another type of semiconductor, the barrier. Many performance features of the lasers, e.g. their emission wavelength in the mid- to far-infrared, power, or modulation capabilities, are designed into the device by choice of the quantum well and barriers thicknesses. Think ~ 500 quantum wells; think creativity!

Current projects include the development of high temperature, high power, high efficiency QC lasers. Widely tunable, monolithic and external cavity, QC lasers are being developed for optical sensors in environmental, medical, and security applications. While my group is focused mainly on the development of the lasers, we maintain strong collaborations with many expert spectroscopists in academia, government and industrial labs, who are building sensor systems.

My group's working style is collaborative and open. Expect to work hard, and expect to have a lot of fun, too! Device modeling on the computer, device fabrication in the PRISM facilities, and optical device characterization in our labs take up about the same amount of time (~ 30 %) of the work week, with ~ 10 % reserved for scientific writing etc.
I am also the director of MIRTHE, the NSF-sponsored Engineering Research Center for Health and the Environment.  A group of 6 universities, ~ 40 faculty, ~ 100 students, and ~ 25 industry and practitioner organizations collaborate to develop the next generation sensor platforms for chemical trace gas sensing using mid-infrared spectroscopy.  For more information check out our web-page: www.mirthecenter.org .