By Valerie DeLaCámara

On Monday, April 24th, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Professor of Physics (Research) Humphrey J. Maris received the inaugural Brown Technology Innovation Impact Award. 

Accompanied by Interim Provost Lawrence Larson and Neil Veloso, Executive Director of Brown Technology Innovations, Vice President for Research Jill Pipher presented the award to Professor Maris’s wife, Faye, who accepted the award on his behalf at the 7th annual Celebration of Research Ceremony at Sayles Hall.

Professor Maris is a distinguished physicist and Professor Emeritus of Physics and Professor of Physics (Research) at Brown, where he specializes in low-temperature physics and ultrafast ultrasonics. In 1991, he was appointed the George Chase Professor of Natural Science in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field. Maris has spearheaded numerous experiments investigating the quantum state of electrons, which have significantly advanced our understanding of quantum mechanics. In 2011, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics awarded him the prestigious Fritz London Memorial Prize for his exceptional work in low-temperature physics.

We spoke with Jill Pipher, who credits Professor Maris’s testing technology with setting the worldwide standard for quality control and manufacturing of computer chips, saying: “Professor Emeritus of Physics, Humphrey J. Maris, is the most successful inventor in Brown University history. Since Prof. Maris came to Brown in 1965, he has been awarded 57 patents, some of which cover the leading method to conduct non-destructive testing of materials. His testing technology has become the worldwide standard for quality control and manufacturing of computer chips. In addition to his prolific inventions, Prof. Maris has advised 50 Ph.D. students in the course of his career.”

Professor Maris’s groundbreaking work in the field of ultrafast ultrasonics has significantly impacted semiconductor metrology and technology. With his extensive research and numerous contributions, Maris has helped shape the modern understanding of semiconductor materials and their behavior at the nanoscale.

Maris's pioneering work on ultrafast ultrasonics began with his innovative approach to generating and detecting ultrasonic waves with picosecond and femtosecond time resolution. His research utilized ultra-short laser pulses to generate and measure ultrasonic waves, which allowed for the exploration of phenomena occurring on an incredibly small-time scale. This work laid the foundation for a deeper understanding of the fundamental properties of materials and the mechanisms behind acoustic wave propagation.

The impact of Maris's work on semiconductor metrology and technology is profound. Ultrafast ultrasonics has become an essential tool for characterizing and measuring various properties of semiconductor materials, such as their elastic constants, thermal conductivity, and electronic transport properties. These insights have facilitated the development of new materials with tailored properties, leading to improvements in the performance of semiconductor devices and integrated circuits.

One of the most significant applications of Maris's work is in the field of nondestructive evaluation (NDE) of semiconductor materials and devices. Ultrafast ultrasonics has provided a powerful technique for detecting defects and characterizing strain in semiconductor materials with unprecedented precision. This has allowed researchers and manufacturers to identify and address potential issues in the fabrication process, ultimately enhancing the reliability and efficiency of semiconductor devices.

Maris's contributions to ultrafast ultrasonics have also played a crucial role in advancing the understanding of how heat is transported in semiconductors, which is vital for managing thermal management in modern electronics. By investigating phonon dynamics and interactions, Maris's work has enabled researchers to develop new strategies for controlling heat flow in semiconductors, making them more efficient and reliable.

Maris's groundbreaking work on ultrafast ultrasonics has had a transformative impact on semiconductor metrology and technology. His innovative approach to generating and detecting ultrasonic waves has opened new avenues for the study of material properties and device performance, ultimately leading to improvements in the performance, reliability, and efficient manufacturing of semiconductor technologies. As a pioneer in the field, Maris's legacy will continue to influence future research and development in semiconductor science for years to come.

In his remarks at the Celebration of Research, Neil Veloso, Executive Director of Industrial Engagement & Corporate Ventures in the Office of the Vice President of Research emphasized the profundity of Professor Maris’s impact on his field, the nation and the world. “The impact of this work is profound. The field of non-destructive evaluation utilizes Dr. Maris’s research in ultrafast ultrasonics in the development and fabrication of semiconductor materials. This understanding around material properties gives insight into the transport of heat in semiconductors, and by extension, thermal management of electronic devices. Dr. Maris has 25 invention disclosures and 57 issued patents. The licensing of his work to one of the world’s leading semiconductor metrology companies has amplified the impact of this research beyond the university to (in the words of Brown’s mission) 'serve…the nation and the world.'"

The Physics Department congratulates Professor Maris on this remarkable distinction!