For more than 20 years, Gerhard Abstreiter’s research group has been recognized worldwide as a leader in the study of structural, electrical and optical properties of semiconductor nanostructures. One of Abstreiter’s best-known developments is a version of the high electron mobility transistor (HEMT), a high-frequency amplifier module that can be found in any mobile phone today. This type of transistor coprises extremely thin layers of different semiconductor materials, which imparts it with very low noise characteristics.
In the early days of satellite television, dish antennas were over two meters in diameter. Today’s typical small satellite antennas are able to provide good television pictures thanks to the low-noise HEM transistors developed by Abstreiter at the Walter Schottky Institut on the Garching Campus of the Technische Universität München.
Other important components stem from research on quantum dots – structures of semiconductor materials just a few nanometers in size with properties akin to those of atoms and molecules. In the early eighties of the last century, these kinds of structures were postulated as a basis for efficient laser systems. Abstreiter and his research group were among the first to produce these quantum dots and put them to practical use.
Today, quantum dot laser systems play a big role in modern communication technologies. They are increasingly used to generate the light pulses pushing information through fiber optic cables.
Critical to the functionality of these components is the ability to produce layers and island structures measuring only a few nanometers with highest precision. The establishment of the Central Institute of Semiconductor Physics, the Walter Schottky Institute, played a pivotal role in developing this capability. Abstreiter was deeply involved in the initiation of the institute and helped transform the vision into a new building that was errected in record time. The Center for Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials (ZNN ), built twenty years later, also bears his signature.
The Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physical Society) has bestowed Abstreiter its highest honor in the field of experimental physics for his pioneering research into low-dimensional electron systems in semiconductor heterostructures and nanostructures. His work has laid the foundation for understanding semiconductor quantum structures and represents a milestone for specific applications in modern micro and nano electronic devices. The golden medal with portraits of Otto Stern and Walther Gerlach will be handed over in March 2014 at the Annual Meeting of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.