Video conferencing has kept the remote workplace humming during this year’s pandemic, and it was partly made possible through the work of researchers such as Peter Delfyett, the 2021 winner of the prestigious Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Sciences.

Delfyett, a UCF Pegasus Professor of optics and photonics, studies the application of semiconductor lasers to fiber optic communications — the key component of programs like FaceTime and Zoom.

“It is the backbone of the internet,” says Delfyett, who joined the UCF College of Optics and Photonics in 1993. “This is a very relevant time to receive this award as we are all very dependent on these applications during the pandemic.”

Each year, the American Physical Society selects one scientist who has made outstanding contributions in laser science research to receive a cash prize and certificate of cited contributions to the field. The award is named after Schawlow, a Nobel laureate and co-creator of the laser.

“I was shocked when I first heard that I received the award and then immediately humbled,” says Delfyett. “To be recognized by your scientific peers that aren’t only peers, but competition as well…to me that is the highest achievement possible.”

Delfyett is a graduate of The City College of New York and the University of Rochester; his doctoral research focused on ultrafast spectroscopy. His technical achievements at UCF include producing semiconductor diode-based lasers that produced the world’s shortest pulses from a laser diode; produced the world’s highest power from a laser; generated the most data from a single laser diode; and generated an optical timing signal that is the most accurate ever generated from a laser diode.

Currently, Delfyett is working toward the next stage in electronic transistors. The number of transistors on a chip continues to double every two years — an observation called Moore’s Law — but physicists generally agree the theoretical end point of these shrinking transistors is coming soon. Delfyett is convinced there is a way to transcend the current barrier. His lab’s goal is to combine photons and electrons to continue increasing the processing speed of electronics.

Their target: photo-electronic circuitry that can process about 1 million Netflix channels on a semiconductor chip about the size of a fingernail. This would have immediate applications in data centers throughout the world.

Delfyett will receive $10,000 with this current award to celebrate his contributions to the field of physical sciences.

“Science gives to me a feeling of inspiration that I hope to instill on my students,” says Delfyett. “By engaging in science, you have the opportunity to discover things that have never been discovered before, and that is what motivates me to keep on with my research.”