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Inaugural Lecture of Professor Sir Michael Pepper FREng, FRS

To mark the appointment of Sir Michael Pepper to the Pender Professorship of Nanoelectronics in UCL.

On Thursday 19th November 2009 at 6.30pm, UCL will host the Inaugural Lecture of Professor Sir Michael Pepper FREng, FRS to mark his appointment to the Pender Professorship of Nanoelectronics in UCL. If you would like to request an invitation please contact Paul McKenna

The Engineering of Physics

Experimental condensed matter physics in the post-war period concentrated on the properties of naturally occurring elements particularly metals and semiconductors. In 1963 a group at IBM showed that the inversion layer of the Silicon MOS device comprised a two-dimensional electron gas whose carrier concentration, and properties, could be varied by a simple change of gate voltage. This marked a distinct change from elements where properties were pre-determined by nature.

The experimental application of the MOS device was subsequently supplemented by III-V semiconductor heterostructures grown by Molecular Beam Epitaxy. Further flexibility was introduced as gate patterning was shown to produce a one dimensional electron gas and a zero dimensional quantum dot. Now lithographic definition allows an electron system to be engineered for the study of underlying physics. In this lecture the history of the subject will be traced in terms of the phenomena discovered at each advance in the technology. The control of properties down to the single electron level has opened up a number of new directions including formation of the electron lattice, measurement of fundamental electron charge and quantum cascade lasers whose emission wavelengths can be tailored to fill a gap in the spectrum.


Michael Pepper received the degrees of B.Sc and Ph.D in Physics at the University of Reading. After a period at Mullard Ltd, as the UK branch of Philips was then known, and then went to the Plessey Company, Caswell, to work on the properties of MOS transistors and the more general aspects of the Silicon-Silicon Dioxide interface. He moved to the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, in 1973 where he pursued an experimental programme in collaboration with Plessey until 1982 and from then as a member of staff of the GEC Hirst Research Centre. A collaborator in the discovery of the Quantum Hall Effect he first demonstrated, with colleagues, the one and zero dimensional behaviour which has now resulted in the field of semiconductor nanostructures and has uncovered much significant physics in his work.

He was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1982, a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 and Professor of Physics in the Cavendish in 1987. In 1991 he became part-time Managing Director of the Cambridge Research Laboratory, CRL, of Toshiba Research Europe Ltd which has subsequently pioneered quantum communications, in 2007 he became Senior Advisor to CRL. He co-founded and became Scientific Director of TeraView, which was spun out of Toshiba Research Europe in 2001 to commercialise the terahertz technology.

For his work on semiconductors he has received the Royal Medal, 2005, and Hughes Medal, (1987), of the Royal Society and gave the Society’s Bakerian Prize Lecture in 1984. He received the Hewlett-Packard prize of the European Physical Society, (1985), and the Guthrie, (Gold), (1985) and Mott, (2000), prizes of the Institute of Physics. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2009. As a result of his work on extending terahertz technology into the pharmaceutical sector he was appointed Honorary Professor of Pharmaceutical Science in the University of Otago in 2004. In 2004 he gave the Mountbatten Memorial Lecture of the IET and has given other named lectures. In addition he has received honorary degrees and a Knighthood in 2006. In January 2009, Sir Mike became Pender Professor of Nanoelectronics and Honorary Professor of Physics in UCL.