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Liu becomes first Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Graduate Finalist from Holonyak Lab

5/22/2020 10:39:40 AM Allie Arp, CSL

For the last 25 years, the Lemelson-MIT Program has rewarded exceptional student inventors who strive to improve people’s lives. The Lemelson-MIT Program believes that invention can solve many economic and social challenges. Some of those issues are embodied in the work of one of this year’s Lemelson-MIT Student Prize graduate finalists -- Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab student Richard (Dicky) Liu

Dicky Liu
Dicky Liu
Can Bayram
Can Bayram

 “This competition is highly prestigious and one of the nation’s top collegiate competitions with an excellent graduate student pool from colleges and universities across the US,” said Can Bayram, Liu’s adviser and Holonyak Lab assistant professor. “I am very proud to see Richard’s hard work being recognized nationally and that he is making the most of the academic freedom and intellectual excellence in my group and in our graduate program.”

Liu is the first electrical and computer engineering student at the University of Illinois and the third Illinois student (since the Student Prize award program expanded to a national competition in 2014) to get to the finalist stage after the lengthy screening process. He was asked to select and present two of his inventions with more and more detail through three rounds of judging. His invention video can be reached here.

Liu already patented his primary invention that lays foundations of a new light emitting diode (LED) to be used in the next generation of solid-state-lighting. Liu and Bayram developed a new semiconductor crystal that requires less indium to achieve blue and green colors, as well as tripling the lighting efficiency.

“Our patented method of growing a new crystal on a cheap and scalable silicon substrate enables mass production,” said Liu. “We estimate that our next generation of solid-state-lighting solutions will be three times as efficient and a quarter of the cost once completed.”

Liu’s second invention is a new approach in the area of space laser technology that decreases the laser’s physical footprint, but still allows it to be robust enough to withstand the vibration and temperature fluctuation of a space launch. The laser system designed by Liu could be sent to Jupiter’s moon Europa and be used to conduct scientific experiments on its surface.

In addition to this honor, Liu was a finalist for the 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame Collegiate Inventors Competition for his primary contribution to next-generation solid-state lighting. Liu recently defended his Ph.D. work and will graduate later this year. While he has many options post-graduation, from starting his own company to working in either academia or industry, Liu is certain to be successful, says Bayram.

“Success like this does not come in a day. Richard has been working consistently and reinventing his skills, building up his knowledge, and progressing in his thesis periodically over the last five years,” said Bayram, assistant professor for electrical and computer engineering. “Such a highly-distinguished recognition is the icing to Richard’s PhD work. This recognition certainly signifies the impact of his PhD work in the field of photonics as well as recognizes him officially as one of the nation’s very best and brightest.”