Physics pro­fes­sor hon­oured

Surrey Advertiser - - Front Page -

PRO­FES­SOR Alf Adams, in­ven­tor of life-chang­ing tech­nol­ogy that boosted the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion, has been awarded the 2017 Guild­ford Roll of Hon­our.

The pro­fes­sor of physics, who has been at the Univer­sity of Sur­rey since it was es­tab­lished in Guild­ford, in­vented the strained-layer quan­tum well laser while work­ing at the univer­sity in 1986.

The ba­sis of his find­ings helped to pave the way for ev­ery­day tech­nolo­gies such as DVD, CD and BluRay play­ers, su­per­mar­ket bar­codes and fi­bre op­tic broad­band, as well as the in­ter­net.

Strained lasers can also be used to iden­tify chem­i­cals in air pol­lu­tion and to iden­tify mol­e­cules to help di­ag­nose a range of dis­eases – from can­cer to liver disease.

Prof Adams’ in­ven­tion is es­ti­mated to be worth bil­lions of pounds – how­ever, he never patented the idea as he wanted it to be used to ben­e­fit as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

He said: “It’s a great hon­our for me to re­ceive this very pres­ti­gious award. How­ever, I could not have car­ried out the work for which I am be­ing hon­oured with­out the sup­port that I have re­ceived over the last 50 years from my wife Helga.

“Shortly af­ter I met her she would get up at mid­night and cy­cle from her house to the Univer­sity of Karl­sruhe to bring me food so that I could work right through the night. I knew straight away that I had met some­one very spe­cial.

“So I am in fact cel­e­brat­ing a half cen­tury of three very won­der­ful re­la­tion­ships. One with the town of Guild­ford, one with the Univer­sity of Sur­rey and one with my dear wife Helga.”

Pro­fes­sor Max Lu, pres­i­dent and vice-chan­cel­lor of the univer­sity, said: “Dur­ing Prof Adams’ 50 years at the Univer­sity of Sur­rey he has, of course, in­vented the strained-layer quan­tum well laser – but, just as im­por­tantly, he has in­spired gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents. Some have gone on to be­come lead­ing physi­cists, such as Pro­fes­sors Stephen Sweeney and Jim Al-Khalili.”

The Guild­ford Roll of Hon­our award was pre­sented to Prof Adams at a cer­e­mony at the Guild­hall, on Tues­day last week. In its sixth year, it cel­e­brates in­di­vid­u­als who have made ex­cep­tional con­tri­bu­tions to the eco­nomic wealth, so­cial well-be­ing or the artis­tic cul­ture of Guild­ford and sur­round­ing re­gion.

Pro­fes­sor Alf Adams

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