Mikkelsen Wins SPIE Early Career Achievement Award

Maiken H. Mikkelsen, the Nortel Networks Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and assistant professor of physics at Duke University, has won the 2017 Early Career Achievement Award from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The society recognized Mikkelsen “for her seminal contributions to the understanding of light-matter interactions and ultrafast emission dynamics in plasmonic systems.”

The citation covers much of the research Mikkelsen has published since joining the faculty at Duke in 2012, which focuses mainly on the fundamental understanding and applied uses of plasmonics. Plasmonics refers to intensified packets of energy called surface plasmons which can be created by trapping and squeezing light into nanometer-sized gaps between a metal nanocube and a metal surface.

Once created, surface plasmons possess many interesting and useful physical phenomena. They can excite nearby photoemitters, causing them to fluoresce at speeds thousands of times faster than normal. Such systems may hold the key to future optical computing and communications devices. They can also enable vast performance improvements of existing devices including light sources, sensors and detectors in the near-infrared, as well as bring devices with new functionalities, such as quantum networks, closer to reality.

Tailored plasmonic surfaces can resonate with specific frequencies of light, creating new technologies for thermal imaging and multispectral imaging and printing on single substrates. The novel optical properties  created by sandwiched plasmonic structures also can be  vastly different from naturally occurring materials and could lead to  more efficient LED bulbs, better TVs and more efficient solar-electric power.

The award comes on the tail of Mikkelsen receiving the Young Investigator Program award from the Army Research Office (ARO) and a $2 million Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). She has also recently received the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator award, the Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Award.