Cary Gunn, 30
Shrinks optical circuitry to speed transmissions on phone and Internet networks
Cary Gunn is changing photonics- the use of laser light for computing and telecommunications. A long-term goal of the field is to etch optical circuitry onto silicon wafers so it can manipulate light the way electronic circuitry manipulates electrons. To make the technology widely useful and cost effective in telecommunications networks, engineers have been trying to decrease the size of optical components and integrate them with electronics on individual chips. When Gunn was a Caltech graduate student, he used proprietary computer simulation tools to design fine-scale optics that enable tiny optical components- one-hundredth the size of conventional ones- that operate with unprecedented precision. The improvement makes it practical to integrate optical and electronic components. Such integrated microprocessors could communicate with the outside world at much higher data rates than separate chips can manage, while using less power. To develop the technology, Gunn and five associates raised $24 million form venture capitalists and started Luxtera in Carlsbad, CA. Gunn, who is vice president, says Luxtera should have integrated chips on the market by next year.