During the last 50 years, physical sciences research at Bell Labs has played
a crucial role in enabling modern communication networks through the creation
of much of its physical layer materials and components infrastructure.
Similarly, the impact on the scientific community at large during the same
period has been unparalleled in research fields such as condensed matter
physics, materials, solid-state electronics and photonics.
While a substantial part of our research is associated with the physical layer
of the network, we have an increasing presence at the system level, where, in
recent years, we have been making significant contributions synergistic with
those of other centers.
Throughout our history, our main technical mission has not changed: to perform
world-class research in support of communication technologies, in particular
its physical, materials and device foundations. The outlook is typically five
to 20 years out.
In pursuit of our mission, we maintain close ties to the international
community of scientists, make significant contributions in defining the present
and future research agenda in selected areas, and hold influential roles in
leading technical societies.
Three of the Nobel Prize winners in Physics in the last seven years did their
prize-winning work at Bell Labs, and our scientists continue to win top prizes
such as the Buckley prize of the American Physical Society, and the Max Born
Award and the Robert Wood Prize of the Optical Society of America. Bell Labs
recognizes that true innovation is performed by intellectual leaders recognized
by their community of peers.
Some areas of focus for this center include:
Nanotechnology research, which will play an important role in
realizing the vision of a seamless always-on, always-connected, broadband
mobile global communications network. Some of the research thrusts in
nanotechnology include a "design team" that is focused on microsystems
and nanotechnology innovations, and a “fabrication team” that develops novel
processes to realize these innovations. Nanotechnolgy researchers partner
with other groups within Bell Labs (e.g., Mathematics, Computing Sciences,
Optical Networking, Wireless Networking, Government Communications), with
Alcatel-Lucent’s product units, with government agencies, with third-party
commercial entities, and with universities to drive both visionary fundamental
scientific investigations as well as applied technology and product
Using funding initially provided by the New Jersey Economic Development
Authority, the New Jersey Nanotechnology Consortium (NJNC) conducts
collaborative research with a wide variety of groups and organizations in the
state of New Jersey, including the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers
University, the State University of New Jersey, and the University of Medicine
and Dentistry of New Jersey.
- Another area of focus in the Enabling Physical Technologies Research Center
is device physics, which lays the groundwork for the electronic and
photonic devices that will enable next generation communication networks. There
are three main thrust areas here: optical devices, molecular electronics, and
quantum devices. In optical devices, the team seeks to advance the
boundaries of understanding about the interaction of light with matter at both
the materials and the device level. In molecular electronics, the focus is on
developing the physics behind novel devices that employ the small size and
unique functionality of individual molecules. In quantum devices, Bell Labs
researchers seek to understand the quantum mechanical nature of matter, and are
using the world’s purest metals - fabricated in house - to understand and
control the quantum wavefunctions of electrons confined to two
- The center also develops optical technologies to deliver innovations
in integrated optical components. Facilities/capabilities include optical
design and characterization, optical component prototyping (SLIMLine clean
room), advanced assembly and packaging, and thermal management.
Materials research, the final area of focus for this center, provides
the foundation for all of the center’s other activities. Teams focus on the
design, synthesis and characterization of new materials that exhibit novel
electronic and photonic properties. Research is conducted in a highly
multidisciplinary environment that couples fundamental materials chemistry and
physics research with device design and material processing design and
integration. Studies include many classes of materials, including organics,
oxides, semiconductors, and metals.