Professor Harry Atwater

Group Leader


Harry Atwater is the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at the California Institute of Technology. Atwater’s scientific interests have two themes: light-matter interactions in nanophotonic materials and structures as well as solar energy conversion. Atwater is an early pioneer in nanophotonics and plasmonics; he gave the name to the field of plasmonics in 2001. He is also the founding Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, and he currently serves as Director of the DOE Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis.

Harry Atwater is a Member of US National Academy of Engineering, and is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Materials Research Society, and the National Academy of Inventors.  He has created new high efficiency solar cell designs and has pioneered principles for light management in solar cells. Atwater is the co-founder of Alta Devices, a solar photovoltaics company in Santa Clara, CA that holds the current world records for 1 Sun single and dual junction solar cell efficiency as well as solar module efficiency, and is currently transitioning GaAs photovoltaics technology to manufacturing and large-scale production. He is the founding Editor in Chief for the journal ACS Photonics, and is Associate Editor for the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics. In 2006 he founded the Gordon Research Conference on Plasmonics, for which he served as chair in 2008.

As of September 2018, he has authored or co-authored more than 450 publications and 48 patents cited in aggregate > 56,000 times, and marked by citation metrics: h index = 83 (Web of Science) and h = 107 (Google Scholar), and he is an ISI Highly Cited Researcher (2014-2018). His group’s advances in the solar energy and plasmonics field have been reported in Scientific American, Science, Nature Materials, Nature Photonics and Advanced Materials.

Atwater has been honored by awards including: Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Lecture Award, American Chemical Society (2018); APS David Adler Lectureship for Advances in Materials Physics (2016); Julius Springer Prize in Applied Physics (2014); Fellowship from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013); ENI Prize for Renewable and Nonconventional Energy (2012); SPIE Green Photonics Award (2012); MRS Kavli Lecturer in Nanoscience (2010); and the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award (2010). He also received the Joop Los Fellowship from the Dutch Society for Fundamental Research on Matter (2005), the A.T.&T. Foundation Award (1990), the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award (1989) and the IBM Faculty Development Award in 1989-1990.

Professor Atwater has worked extensively as a consultant for industry and government, and has actively served the materials community in a variety of roles, including President of the Materials Research Society in 2000, MRS Meeting Chair in 1997, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Gordon Research Conferences. He also teaches graduate level Applied Physics classes at Caltech in nanophotonics, solid-state physics and device physics.

Professor Atwater received his B. S., M. S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981, 1983 and 1987, respectively. He held the IBM Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University from 1987-88, and has been a member of the Caltech faculty since 1988.


Available Publications

Transport of hot carriers in plasmonic nanostructures

Adam S. Jermyn, Giulia Tagliabue, Harry A. Atwater, William A. Goddard III, Prineha Narang, and Ravishankar Sundararaman
(2019) - Nanophotonic Materials and Devices

Giant Enhancement of Photoluminescence Emission in WS2‑Two- Dimensional Perovskite Heterostructures

Arky Yang, Jean-Christophe Blancon, Wei Jiang, Hao Zhang, Joeson Wong, Ellen Yan, Yi-Rung Lin, Jared Crochet, Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, Deep Jariwala, Tony Low, Aditya D. Mohite, and Harry A. Atwater

NANO Letters (2019)

Dynamic beam steering with all-dielectric electrooptic III–V multiple-quantum-well metasurfaces

Pin Chieh Wu, Ragip A. Pala, Ghazaleh Kafaie Shirmanesh, Wen-Hui Cheng, Ruzan Sokhoyan, Meir Grajower, Muhammad Z. Alam, Duhyun Lee & Harry A. Atwater
(2019) - Metasurfaces

Ultraefficient thermophotovoltaic power conversion by band-edge spectral filtering

Zunaid Omair, Gregg Scranton, Luis M. Pazos-Outóna, T. Patrick Xiao, Myles A. Steinerc, Vidya Ganapatid, Per F. Petersone, John Holzrichterf, Harry Atwater, and Eli Yablonovitch

Life Cycle Assessment of tandem LSC-Si devices

Marina M Lunardi, David Needell, Haley Bauser, Megan Phelan, Dr. Harry Atwater and Richard Corkish.