Professor Harry Atwater

Group Leader


Harry Atwater is the Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science, Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and Director, Liquid Sunlight Alliance at the California Institute of Technology. Atwater’s scientific interests span light-matter interactions from quantum nanophotonics, two-dimensional materials and metasurfaces to solar photovoltaics and artificial photosynthesis. Atwater is an early pioneer in nanophotonics and plasmonics; he gave the name to the field of plasmonics in 2001. He currently serves as Director of the Liquid Sunlight Alliance, a DOE Solar Fuels Hub project, and was the founding Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech. He also chairs the Breakthrough Starshot Lightsail Committee and is a PI of the Caltech Space Solar Power Project.

Atwater has laid the foundations for plasmonic and negative index metamaterials, as well as tunable nanophotonic materials and metasurfaces. He has pioneered principles for light management and high efficiency solar cell design.  He was 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.

As of October 2020, he has authored or co-authored more than 500 publications and 60 patents cited in aggregate > 70,000 times and marked by citation metrics: h index = 95 (Web of Science) and h = 118 (Google Scholar), and he is an ISI Highly Cited Researcher (2014-2019). 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.

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, SPIE and the National Academy of Inventors.  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.

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.  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

Toward a universal metasurface for optical imaging, communication, and computation

Prachi Thureja, Ruzan Sokhoyan, Claudio U. Hail, Jared Sisler, Morgan Foley, Meir Y. Grajower and Harry A. Atwater (2022)

Ultra-lightweight mirrors with high solar reflectivity and high infrared emissivity for sun-facing radiative thermal management in space

Samuel Loke, Ali Naqavi, Emily Warmann, Pilar Espinet-Gonzalez, Nina Vaidya, Michael Kelzenberg, and Harry A. Atwater
Opt. Express 30(10) 17259-17269 (2022) (2022)

Amorphous silicon carbide high contrast gratings as highly efficient spectrally selective visible reflectors

Haley C. Bauser, Morgan D. Foley, Megan E. Phelan, William Weigand, David R. Needell, Zachary C. Holman, and Harry A. Atwater
Optica Publishing Group. Collection. (2022)

Nonreciprocal infrared absorption via resonant magneto-optical coupling to InAs

Komron J. Shayegan, Bo Zhao, Yonghwi Kim, Shanhui Fan, Harry A. Atwater
Science Advances, 8 (18), eabm4308. • DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm4308 (2022)

Optical Characterization of Silicon Nitride Metagrating-Based Lightsails for Self-Stabilization

Ramon Gao, Michael D. Kelzenberg, Yonghwi Kim, Ognjen Ilic, and Harry A. Atwater (2022) - Space Solar Power