Dr. Thomas Reinecke Receives Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Senior Professional

7/12/2006 - 42-06r
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Dr. Thomas L. Reinecke, Senior Scientist for Nanoelectronics at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), is the recipient of the 2005 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Senior Professional. Annually, the President recognizes a small group of career Senior Executives with the President's Rank Award for exceptional long-term accomplishments. Winners of this prestigious award are strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.

The Presidential Rank Award honors Dr. Reinecke as a world-class scientist who has consistently performed exceptionally important and well-recognized work in a remarkably wide range of fields of science and technology of key importance to the nation. In recent years, he has focused on nanoscience and nanotechnology, helping to define this important new area and to establish it at NRL and in the U.S.

Nanoscience is a relatively new area of research in which materials are artificially engineered virtually on an atomic scale. They have properties not found in nature and can open new technological opportunities ranging from ultrafast optical communications and ultradense electronic memories to new ways for processing information. At NRL, Dr. Reinecke is responsible for carrying out a broad program of innovative theoretical research in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Early on, he recognized that layered semiconductor nanostructures ('quantum wells' and 'superlattices') could have critical impact on electronics, and he advanced this area at NRL, collaborating on experimental work around the world and attracting key post docs and visitors in this area to NRL.

Dr. Reinecke saw that advances in materials fabrication by lithographic and novel growth techniques could make possible lower dimensional nanostructures including 'quantum dots', which behave like man-made atoms, and 'quantum wires' and that they could revolutionize wide areas of science and technology. He saw that the key to this new field was knowledge of the physical and electronic properties of these systems. He created novel techniques to calculate the properties of realistic systems, and in a series of seminal theory papers he developed descriptions of many of their key physical properties ranging from carrier transport and relaxation, to optical and acoustic vibrations and their effects, and to novel excitonic and spin properties. Dr. Reinecke's work guided the development of this area in the US and abroad.

He has also led nanoscience in new directions and discovered novel technological opportunities. For example, thermoelectrics can potentially provide cooling and power generation with no moving parts to address critical government and commercial needs for quiet, environmentally sound, cooling and power generation in ships, space and in microelectronics. However, the efficiencies of thermoelectric materials were not high enough. Dr. Reinecke demonstrated that efficiencies could be increased by forming them in superlattices of quantum wells, wires or dots, a totally new direction for nanostructures. He has created the definitive theory of these effects and designed materials and systems that have guided research and engineering on them around the world.

Dr. Reinecke is also an innovator in optoelectronics, which involves the interaction of light with semiconductors and is the basis of technologies ranging from displays to fast communications. Most work in this area focused on engineering the electronic properties of semiconductors. Dr Reinecke worked with a group in Germany to demonstrate that an important new opportunity lay in engineering the light itself. In a series of widely recognized papers, they showed that light and its coupling to solids could be modified using semiconductor microcavities made lithographically. They were the first to achieve enhancement and suppression of optical emission from solids, an unfulfilled dream since the 1950's. They also were first to demonstrate 'strong' (coherent) coupling between single photons and single electronic excitations, another decades-old dream. These advances have opened important opportunities ranging from highly efficient lasers and ultrafast optical integrated circuits to implementations of quantum communications.

It has long been known that 'quantum information' potentially can open entirely new paradigms in encryption, secure communications and ultrafast computation. To date physical implementations for these technologies have not been available. Working with researchers at NRL and in Europe, Dr. Reinecke has advanced implementations for 'quantum bits' (the carriers of quantum information) using quantum dots. His theories have delineated the potential sources of information loss in these systems, the coupling between quantum bits and methods for coherent transfer of information between dots needed for logic operations.

Recently, Dr. Reinecke and collaborators at NRL have expanded nanoscience work at NRL to new classes of nanomaterials, including arrays of functionalized carbon nanotubes. Their theories have elucidated the nature of adsorption on nanotubes, and in work with experiment they have demonstrated that these systems provide highly effective sensors of dangerous chemicals and toxins.

Dr Reinecke has developed programs for a wide range of sponsoring agencies, including the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), and the National Security Agency (NSA), and his work has guided their programs in areas ranging from optoelectronics and quantum information to thermoelectric materials and low observable materials.

As an NRL section head, Dr Reinecke also guides an unusually large number of scientists and engineers in a broad range of research and device development in semiconductor nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Dr. Reinecke has been an exceptionally active and effective researcher and scientific leader. He has published more than 225 papers in leading journals, has given more than 40 invited talks at scientific meetings and more than 400 presentations at professional meetings. His work has been cited more than 3000 times in the scientific and technical literature. He has been a visiting scientist at a number of the world's leading research institutions, including the Max-Planck Institute, Stuttgart, and others in Germany. He is frequently asked to advise and to speak on opportunities in nanoscience and nanotechnology by agencies such as ONR and DARPA. As early as 1985 he was asked to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel evaluating the scientific and technological opportunities for nanotechnology in the U.S.

Dr. Reinecke holds a B.A. in physics and mathematics from Ripon College in Wisconsin. He is a Rhodes Scholar with a Ph.D. in physics from Oxford University, and he joined NRL in 1974. His awards include the 1982 Sigma Xi Pure Science Award, Germany's 1994 Humboldt Prize, NRL's 1998 E.O. Hulburt Award and, in 1995, the J. Shelton Horsley Prize of the Virginia Academy of Sciences for his work in nanoscience. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

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