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Current Winner - 2021

Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

Sajeev John

Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

Department of Physics

University of Toronto

Prof. Sajeev John is a world-renowned theoretical physicist whose pioneering research enables photons to be trapped and controlled in an optical microchip, analogous to how electrons are controlled in a semiconductor. John’s invention of Photonic Band Gap (PBG) materials, which allow confinement of photons to a microscopic region with the size of the wavelength of light, is a highly consequential breakthrough in the fundamental science of light-matter interactions. As a result, it may be possible to process information optically rather than electronically, enabling a supercomputing technology more stable and scalable than quantum computers. Hollow-core optical fibres, based on the PBG concept, are now used by medical doctors in life-saving laser surgeries. The ability to “localize light” on the microscopic scale also provides a route to a new generation of “lab-on-chip” optical sensors that can detect multiple, disease-identifying, biomolecules for instantaneous medical diagnostics using minimal fluid sample. John and his team at the University of Toronto have recently applied their light-trapping ideas into the design of flexible, lightweight, thin-film silicon solar cells that can be coated on a variety of surfaces, with unprecedented sunlight capture capabilities and power-conversion efficiencies well beyond that of standard solar panels.

Sajeev John is one of Canada’s most influential and respected scientists. His discoveries are the driving force behind major technological advancements, and his revelations have impacted the fields of physics, chemistry, engineering and medicine.

In recognition of his trailblazing contributions, Prof. Sajeev John is awarded the 2021 NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal.

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