Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
For pioneering achievements in the invention and realization of cost-effective, efficient two- and multi-terminal single-crystal silicon light-emitting devices, through original designs, R & D, using standard IC technology for all-silicon, monolithically integrated optoelectronic systems
“A great effort yields a great result. Always choose to embrace the bigger challenge. Others can attend to the rest.” This is the motto of Herzl Aharoni, whose favorite element of the research process is the challenge. He prefers the most difficult problems due to their opportunity to provide the greatest solution at the end. He says, “I like the difficult problems since they present the opportunity of intellectual effort for their solution, which…many times require [the] studying of new subjects [to solve].” His work transforming physical phenomena into practical optoelectronic devices (SiLEDs) is a perfect example of taking a challenging idea and finding the solution. After 19 years of waiting for other technologies to catch up, he demonstrated his work to colleagues who then joined his team to finish the project. He “initiated and guided in a leading role a research on inventing and developing practical two-, three-, and multi-terminal efficient integrated single-crystal (SiLEDs),” using a unique approach, and the results were widely published and presented. He proudly comments, “Today, I look upon the spreading of my idea as a father who looks with a great pleasure and satisfaction at the growth and developing of his child. Clearly this approach will develop and grow farther on.”
His interest in pursuing uncharted territory was inspired by reading about famous scientists as a child. He remembers reading books about how they made their most noteworthy discoveries, and his imagination was sparked. He loved reading about the process from idea to discovery and learning about how each scientist overcame a difficulty. His favorite of these stories was about Michael Faraday. Herzl says, “What attracted me to him is the fact that he was a curious person who gained his knowledge in science at the beginning as an uneducated person…no academic education!” He goes on to say that the experimental nature of Faraday’s work was of particular influence. Herzl’s own experiments led him to an unexpected observation which revealed a great challenge: “I first accidentally observed light emission from Silicon PN junction that I fabricated for my experiments which were made for other purposes altogether…This phenomenon presented a challenge for me, that is-how can it be used for practical purpose?” and of course, he succeeded.
Looking back, he credits his time in the Israeli Air Force as a radio technician with preparing him for a successful career. “Every day brought about a new subject and new challenge due to the fact that new equipment was introduced all the time …As a young person those days were very exciting. They determined my course of action through laying the practical foundation for the next step [of my career].” He never questioned the importance of that experience in preparing him for becoming a scientist. Herzl’s most important lesson from this time was how to take a systematic approach to solving large problems. With so many possibilities for error in complex electronic devices, it is important to take a technician’s approach. Moreover, he advises any young scientist to “study more and more mathematics!” With both a systematic approach and strong mathematical skills, anything is possible.
As a widely recognized researcher, Herzl continues to work into his retirement at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. Since his decision in the last year of university to pursue semiconductor devices, he has been devoted to the subject, commenting: “There is no dull moment, and every day brings a new outcome.” He is active in the community, and keeps up to date through OSA publications and newsletters which allow him not only to see updates in his specific field, but more generally as well. He is most excited about the rate of new inventions and developments for devices in the field, because “this leads to far-reaching future implications not only for science but also for society.”
Photo Credit: Herzl Aharoni
Profile written by Samantha Hornback