Federico Capasso


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Personal details

Name: Federico Capasso

                 School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
                 Harvard University
                 205 A Pierce Hall
                 29 Oxford Street
                 Cambridge MA 02138

Phone: (617) 384-7611

Fax: (617) 495-2875

Email:  capasso@seas.harvard.edu

Personal: Married; two children

Citizenship: Italian and US (Naturalized; 09/23/1992)



Doctor of Physics, Summa Cum Laude

University of Rome, La Sapienza, Italy


Postdoctoral Fellow,

Fondazione Bordoni, Rome, Italy

Academic Appointments

Jan. 2003 - present

Robert Wallace Professor of Applied Physics

Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering

John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA       

Professional Positions

2000 – 2002

Vice President of Physical Research, Bell Laboratories Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, NJ

1997- 2000

Department Head, Semiconductor Physics Research, Bell Laboratories Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, NJ.

1987- 1997

Department Head, Quantum Phenomena and Device Research, Bell Laboratories Lucent Technologies (formerly AT&T Bell Labs, until 1996), Murray Hill, NJ

1984 – 1987

Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ

1977 – 1984

Member of Technical Staff, Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ

1976 – 1977

Visiting Scientist, Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, NJ

1974 – 1976

Research Physicist, Fondazione Bordoni, Rome, Italy

Citations (Google Scholar): Over 93000

H-index (Google Scholar): 144

Publications: Over 500 peer-reviewed journals

Patents: 70 US patents

Key achievements

1. Bandstructure Engineering.and Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCLs)

Capasso and his Bell Labs collaborators over a 20-year period pioneered band-structure engineering, a technique to design and implement artificially structured (“man-made”) semiconductor, materials, and related phenomena/ devices, which revolutionized heterojunction devices in photonics and electronics. Quantum Cascade lasers represent the most important highlight of this research. Invented and demonstrated by Capasso and his group (Science 264, 553 (1994), over 6000 citations). Unlike diode laser they are unipolar lases based on new operating principle. Their emission wavelength can be tailored over an extreme broad range by changing nanometer layer thickness while using the same materials. They have revolutionized mid-infrared photonics, as they represent the first high performance and reliable semiconductor lasers for this technologically and scientifically important spectral region. They are finding widespread use in scientific and industrial applications: high-resolution spectroscopy, chemical sensing and trace gas analysis, atmospheric chemistry, combustion and medical diagnostics. They are widely commercialized by many companies.


2. Metasurfaces and Flat optics

The seminal paper (Science 334 333 (2011), over 5500 citations) of Capasso and his group is widely recognized has the one which introduced subwavelength structured surfaces (metasurfaces) as a powerful and flexible tool for wavefront control by judicious design of the local phase, amplitude and polarization. This paper generalized the textbook laws of reflection and refraction and demonstrated them for a general class of designer metasurfaces. Capasso pioneered the use of metasurfaces as a platform for Flat Optics demonstrating metalenses with superior aberration control compared to conventional diffractive optics (Fresnel) and refractive optics, with much less thickness and complexity and ease of optical alignment. Highlights are the first high performance diffraction limited dielectric metalens in the visible (Science 352, 1190 (2016), over 1750 citations), the first single broadband achromatic lens and the correction of third order aberration including field curvature with a single metaoptic. This work triggered a large scale scientific and industrial effort, propelled by Capasso’s vision that since metaoptic can be fabricated by large scale fabrication techniques of semiconductor industry (DUV lithography), this will lead to a convergence of CMOS technology and lens making. Metasurfaces have therefore major advantages with respect to bulk metamaterials in terms of technological impact. The latter suffer from major fabrication complexities at optical wavelengths, greatly limiting their application potential.

In the area of polarization, the impact of flat optics has also been major leading to new compact high performance in line and terminating polarimeters. A powerful generalization of Fourier optics introduced (Matrix Fourier Optics) by Capasso and his team has led them to the demonstration of a new single shot ultracompact polarization sensitive camera consisting of a single metasurface and a sensor, which pixel by pixel reconstruct in real time the full Stokes vector of the scene, exhibiting superior performance to existing cameras based on division of amplitude, time and focal plane (Science 365, 6448 (2019), 130 citations) Capasso has published many seminal breakthrough papers on plasmonic metasurfaces. He demonstrated collimators on the facet of semiconductor laser for beam shaping in the near- and farfield, the earliest successful application of metasurfaces in active devices. He has obtained fundamental new results on the propagation of surface plasmons, such as the polarization controlled directional coupling of surface plasmon polaritons leading him to the first direct evidence of spin momentum locking in optics, and the demonstration of a localized long-range nondiffracting surface wave, the Cosine-Gauss plasmon beam.

In a highly cited paper (Science 328 1135 (2010), 1440 citations) he and Naomi Halas group demonstrated core-shell nanoparticles clusters (trimers, quadrumers and heptamers) as building blocks of a new class of optical materials, exhibiting magnetic activity in the near infrared and giant Fano resonances.


3. Casimir forces

This research has focused on basic studies of the Casimir effect, i.e. the attractive force between uncharged metals and dielectrics, with the goal of designing these quantum electrodynamical forces by control of quantum fluctuations through changes (shapes and materials) of the boundary conditions of the electromagnetic fields. Highlights of this highly cited work are:

• Demonstration of actuators using the Casimir force, based on MEMS (Science 291, 1941 (2001), 1000 citations). This work explored the limits imposed by QED on MEMS technology and its potential in modifying and designing these forces.

• First measurement of the repulsive Casimir-Lifshitz force (Nature 457 170, (2009), 660 citations) an effect first predicted in the nineteen sixties, the Capasso proposed as a tool to control friction in new ways.




Cofounded EOS Photonics to market Quantum Cascade Laser based sensors of gases for atmospheric science and security; standoff detection of hazardous vapors and condensed phase materials; molecular spectroscopy and power scaling. It merged in 2015 with Pendar Medical to form Pendar Technologies (http://www.pendartechnologies.com/) which is focused on bringing breakthrough portable analysis and monitoring systems to market.



Cofounded Metalenz (http://metalenz.com) focused on bringing to market metalenses for high-volume applications (cell phones and sensors). It is supported by major strategic investors such as Intel, 3M and Applied Materials and had in 2021 its first major product launch:





2021                 Frederic Ives Medal and Jarus W. Quinn Prize, Optical Society of America

2020                Honorary Award, IEEE Italy Section

2019                 Matteucci Medal, Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze, detta dei XL

2019                 Guglelmo Marconi Science Award, UNICO 

2018                 Fermi Prize of the Italian Physical Society

2017                 Kenneth Button Prize, International Society of Infrared, Millimeter and Terahertz Waves and Institute of Physics (UK)

2016                 Balzan Prize for Applied Photonics, Balzan Foundation

2015                 Rumford Prize, American Academy of Arts and Science 

2013                 Gold Medal of SPIE

2013                 European Physical Society Quantum Electronics and Optics Award

2013                 Humboldt Research Award

2011                 Jan Czochralski Award of the European Materials Research Society

2011                 Galileo Galilei Medal of the Italian Society for Optics and Photonics

2010                 Julius Springer Prize in Applied Physics

2010                 Berthold Leibinger Zukunft Prize (Future prize)

2005                 King Faisal International Prize for Science

2005                 Gold Medal of the President of Italy for meritorious achievement in science

2004                 Edison Medal, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

2004                 Arhur Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, American Physical Society

2004                 Tommasoni & Chisesi Prize for Outstanding Achievements in Physics

2003                 Goff Smith Prize and Lecture, University of Michigan

2002                  Duddell Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (London, UK)

2001                  Robert Wood Prize of the Optical Society of America

2000                 Willis E. Lamb Medal for Laser Physics and Quantum Optics 

2000                 NASA Group Achievement Award

1998                 IEEE/Laser & Electrooptics Society W. Streifer Award for Scientific Achievement

1998                 Rank Prize in Optoelectronics (UK)

1998                 Capitolium Prize of the Mayor of Rome, Italy

1997                 Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute

1997                 Bell Laboratories Fellow Award

1995                 Materials Research Society Medal

1995                 Moet Hennessy·Louis Vuitton “Leonardo da Vinci” Award of Excellence (France)

1995                 Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Assosciation for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for best paper published in Science

1995                 Electronics Letters Prize of the Institute of Electrical Engineers       (London, UK)

1994                 Heinrich Welker Memorial Medal (Germany) and International CompoundSemiconductors Symposium Award

1993                 The New York Academy of Sciences Award

1991                 IEEE David Sarnoff Award in Electronics

1984                 Bell Laboratories Distinguished Member of Technical Staff Award


2019                 Fellow, National Academy of Inventors

2015                 Member, Academia Europaea    

2012                 Foreign Member, Accademia dei Lincei

1995                 Member, National Academy of Sciences

1996                 Member, National Academy of Engineering

1998                 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1999                 Fellow, The Institute of Physics (UK)

1997                 Honorary Member, of the Franklin Institute

1992                 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

1991                 Fellow, International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE)

1989                 Fellow, Optical Society of America

1987                 Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers

1986                 Fellow, American Physical Society

Honorary Doctorates and Other Honors

2019                 Honorary issue of Nanophotonics (Volume 7, Issue 6, Jun 2018) for Federico Capasso on “Metamaterials & Metasurfaces”

2011                 Honorary Doctorate University Paris Diderot, France

2011                 Honorary Doctorate of Technology, Lund University, Sweden

2011                 Honorary Doctorate in Materials Science, University of Roma III, Italy

2003                 Honorary Doctorate in Electrical Engineering, University of Bologna, Italy

2004                 Commendatore of the Italian Republic