Japanese “Nobel Prize” for High-Speed Transistors

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The semi-conductor engineer Dr. Takashi Mimura has been honored for his life’s work in the old Japanese imperial city with the Kyoto Prize. He developed high-frequency transistors as found in GPS receivers, radar sensors, and cell phones. Congratulations from electronica!

Alongside the Nobel Prize, the Kyoto Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious accolades awarded for the life’s work of outstanding individuals. The highly remunerated honor is always awarded on November 10 by the Inamori Foundation and 2017 marks the 33rd year.

Dr. Takashi Mimura Kyoto Prize. (Image: Kyoto Prize).
The semi-conductor engineer Dr. Takashi Mimura has been honored for his life’s work with the Kyoto Prize. (Image: Kyoto Prize).

The “Electronics” field of the “Advanced Technology” category features only every four years, however. In 2013, it was the American electronics engineer Dr. Robert Heath Dennard who was awarded the accolade. His extremely important contributions included the invention of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) in 1966. This year, the award goes to Takashi Mimura. In 1979, whilst working at Fujitsu, he developed high-frequency transistors called High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMTs), and in doing so made a significant contribution to progress in information and communications technology.

HEMT for high frequencies

The HEMT is a field-effect transistor specially designed for very high frequencies. It consists mainly of p-doped aluminum gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) and an extremely pure layer of gallium arsenide (GaAs). As the band gap of the AlGaAs is larger than that of the GaAs, a two-dimensional electron gas with very high electron mobility forms at the junction between these two materials. As a result, these types of transistors have ultra-high switching speeds and extremely low noise values.

They are therefore used in microwave receivers for radio astronomy, in receivers for satellite and GPS systems, in cell phones and base stations as well as in automobile distance radars. They are also suitable for use as high-speed circuit breakers with breakdown voltages of several kilovolts.

Kyoto Prize: An Award with a Long History

The Kyoto Prize was set up in 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, the founder of the Japanese technology group Kyocera headquartered in Kyoto. Each laureate is presented with a diploma, the Kyoto Prize medal, and prize money of 50 million yen (approx. 400,000 euros).

This year’s prize winner, Takashi Mimura, 72, from Osaka, is a visiting researcher at the Advanced ICT Research Institute of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Japan. He has already received numerous awards, including the renowned Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon from the Japanese Government, the ISCS Heinrich Welker Award and the Japan Society of Applied Physics Achievement Award.




Dr. Takashi Mimura (Image: Kyoto Prize).

The Kyoto Prize in the “Electronics” field this year goes to Dr. Takashi Mimura.(Image: Kyoto Prize).