Jan Hendrik Schön, 31
Lucent Technologies Bell Labs
Hendrik Schön is reinventing the transistor at the place it was born. He and his Bell Labs coworkers have produced single-molecule transistors whose electrical performance is comparable to that of today’s best silicon devices but which are hundreds of times smaller. Making such molecular transistors, which could lead to ultrafast, ultrasmall computers, has been a goal of researchers for years; Schön’s clever design established Bell Labs as a leader in the race. But Schön is not interested in simply reinventing the transistor. He wants to change the very materials that form microelectronics,replacing inorganic semiconductors with organic molecules. Schön has made an organic high-temperature superconductor, renewing hopes that superconductors could have widespread electronic applications. He also helped devise the first electrically driven organic laser, which could mean cheaper optoelectronic devices. The soft-spoken Schön recalls being “very surprised” by how well his molecular transistors worked. But it won’t be a surprise if Schön helps transform microelectronics.