Eli YablonovitchEli Yablonovitch. Photo by Noah Berger.

Eli Yablonovitch wins 2019 Franklin Medal

December 10, 2018 by Linda Vu

The Franklin Institute announced today that Eli Yablonovitch, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, will be the recipient of the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering. He was honored “for widely used scientific improvements to radio- and light-based technologies in wireless communications and solar energy applications.”

The Franklin Institute Awards have celebrated breakthroughs in science and technology since the institute was founded in 1824 in honor of Benjamin Franklin.

“I’m truly honored by this award. It’s especially gratifying to receive a medal named after Benjamin Franklin, a founding father whose scientific achievements and fame played a significant role in diplomacy, as he negotiated for the success of this country,” said Yablonovitch, who holds the James and Katherine Lau Chair in Engineering.

Yablonovitch is best known for inventing a class of materials called “photonic crystals,” which can be used to control light waves similar to the way semiconductors can be used to control electric currents. His groundbreaking work created the field of photonic band engineering. Today, photonic crystals are an essential component for digital communication in data centers, and they have also been recognized for producing structural color in many living organisms.

In addition to his work with photonic crystals, he famously introduced a numerical factor, called 4(n squared). Sometimes referred to as the “Yablonovitch limit,”this factor has been key in work that has improved the efficiency for almost all commercial solar panels worldwide.

“Technologies based on Eli’s work in photonics and optoelectronics have made their way into commercial solar panels and into lasers for optical communications, DVD players and laser pointers that are used throughout the world,” said Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. “The Franklin Medal is a well-deserved honor and a wonderful testament to the far-reaching influence of his research.”

Yablonovitch was among six recipients of the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Medal and two recipients of the Bower Award, which recognizes achievements in the fields of computer and cognitive science, earth and environmental science, electrical engineering, life science, materials engineering, physics, business leadership and general achievement in science.

He is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Inventors, American Academy of Arts & Sciences and is a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London.

Yablonovitch joined the Berkeley Engineering faculty in 2007 and now directs the $47.5 million National Science Foundation Center for Energy Efficient Electronics on campus. He currently studies a variety of topics, including the search of a replacement for the transistor and new forms of analog electronics that could solve the hardest problems in computer science.

He and the other awardees will be recognized at a gala ceremony and dinner on Thursday, April 11, 2019, in the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at the Franklin Institute.

Read UC Berkeley’s press release.