Physics professor honoured
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