A pioneering researcher in the field of semiconductor lasers for enabling high capacity, long-distance fiber networks like those that provide the Internet's physical foundation has won the 2014 Japan Prize in the field of electronics, information and communication.
Yasuharu Suematsu, an 81-year-old honorary professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology, was recognized along with C. David Allis, who won the Japan Prize in the life science field for his genetic research.
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The annual prize includes a gold medal, a certificate of recognition and cash award of about $481,000. Past winners have included Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf, World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and the men behind Unix. The prize, launched in 1985, is awarded to scientists and researchers, who regardless of nationality made “substantial contributions to their fields as well as peace and prosperity of mankind.”
Suematsu in the early 1980s honed his concept of a dynamic single-mode laser as an optimal light source for fiber connections. His semiconductor uses a wavelength that minimizes loss of the light signal to allow for long-distance communications and reduces wavelength fluctuation to allow for high data capacity.
Suematsu’s impact as a teacher should not be understated either: According to the IEEE, he mentored more than 60 Ph.D. students, mainly leading distinguished careers in academia and industry.