Distinguished UCF Optics, Photonics Professor Inducted into Florida Inventors Hall of Fame

Distinguished UCF Optics, Photonics Professor Inducted into Florida Inventors Hall of Fame

Peter Delfyett, a UCF distinguished professor, was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame for his groundbreaking inventions in optics and photonics.

Delfyett, who also serves as the director of the Townes Laser Institute and is a university trustee chair professor and Pegasus Professor within the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), came to UCF in 1993 and now holds 45 U.S. patents.

He is elated to have been chosen, and he credits his recognition to UCF’s willingness to cultivate an environment favorable for innovative research.

“It is a true honor to be inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame,” Delfyett says. “What I think it really speaks to is not just my efforts, but the efforts of my graduate students and the support we have from the administration to create a positive environment that’s conducive for discovery and inventiveness.”

The 2024 class is the 10th inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. This year’s nine inductees collectively hold more than 350 U.S. patents and belong to many different areas of academia and innovation. Since its founding in 2013, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame has inducted 77 inventors, who collectively hold over 5,200 U.S. patents. This year’s inductees will be honored at a ceremony on Oct. 25 in Tampa, Florida.

“The Class of 2024 represents the best of innovation in Florida, and their achievements underscore the critical role that innovation plays in driving progress and improving the quality of life for people in our state, our nation and around the world,” says Paul Sanberg, chair of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Advisory Board and president of the National Academy of Inventors. “Their groundbreaking work not only advances scientific discovery but also strengthens the economy and enhances our global competitiveness.”

Focused on Research

Delfyett has made the most of his 31 years at UCF. He has dedicated himself to serving as a resource to aspiring optics and photonics students while researching lasers of various strengths and capabilities.

There are many discoveries he can recall, but Delfyett cites four inventions that he is most proud of, including:

  1. “One is that we showed how we can generate the world’s shortest and brightest pulse ever generated from the semiconductor laser – kind of like laser pointer technology. Everyone knows what a laser pointer is, we can make those with world class brightness brighter than ever has been done before. And the bright the duration of the flash is less than 1/5 of a trillionth of a second. With those technologies we can see atoms and electrons moving around. We can transfer terabytes of information per second.”
  2. “We then invented a laser that serves as an optical clock that can be used in position timing and navigation satellites, but also for clocks inside your computer to make your laptops and your cell phones run faster.”
  3. “The third is technology that we spun out for Radiance. Radiance was a company that’s using the laser for cutting Gorilla Glass, stents and next generation fuel injectors.”
  4. “The fourth one, we have a body of work of utilizing lasers for communication and signal processing.”

Delfyett’s body of research is extensive and punctuated by honors spanning scientific disciplines and recognizing different aspects of his career.

He recalls receiving an inaugural Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1996 — just three years after arriving at UCF.

“This was something that was even higher than the [NSF Faculty Early Career Development] award,” Delfyett says. “The PECASE Award was an outgrowth of the original ‘Presidential Faculty Fellow Award,’ and is the highest honor bestowed by the federal government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. In the year it began, the NSF granted the awards to the nation’s top 20 young scientists. It was a big deal, and I got to go to the White House to receive the award.”

His research continued and accolades followed.

In 2021, he was UCF’s first sitting faculty member to be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and in the following year, he earned the lifetime honor of being named an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow.

(Photo by Antoine Hart ’18)

Opportunity for Innovation

Delfyett’s interest in optics and photonics was piqued after seeing a course titled, Introduction to Lasers, in his second year at the City College of New York. He says he had a gut feeling that this could be the next big thing.

After gaining some experience in the industry, he gravitated to UCF because there was ample opportunity to grow with a young school.

“When I came to UCF, CREOL was just beginning [as a center],” Delfyett says.  “I noticed was that the administration and CREOL really liked to foster this concept of UCF and CREOL strongly partnering with the community and the industry. And with that kind of vision, I thought, ‘This would be a great place to be able to not just train students and develop technologies, but to move technologies from the laboratory and out into the real world.”

The dedication to understanding the importance of CREOL, which began a college in 2004, and fostering partnerships is something that Delfyett says has continued throughout his tenure at UCF. He cites President Alexander N. Cartwright’s background in electrical engineering and other administration members with backgrounds in science and research as a testament to the university’s commitment to STEM.

Delfyett remains optimistic that he may yet realize some of his greatest research aspirations – or at least play a role in their development.

“Something that I’m interested in now is a telescope with thousands of telescopes arranged kind of like lenses on a fly’s eye,” he says. “If you can do this properly, you can make an imaging device that could potentially physically image a planet in another solar system.”

Delfyett’s enterprising ambitions boldly go even further into the sci-fi genre.

“Boom. I want to make the holodeck from Star Trek,” he says. “The entire room would be paneled with special holographic displays, and it would truly appear as three dimensions and the floor would move as if you were walking.”

The technologies to make this a reality aren’t limited to fictional characters like Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Delfyett says.

“We’re working on the technology to be able to transmit that amount of information required to make all of these videos go at that at the rate,” he says. “We’re working on technologies that show that if we wanted to have this in our house, it would only require the power five homes rather than that of, say, a nuclear power plant.”

Delfyett’s bold aspirations are very in sync with his pioneering outlook on innovation and ingenuity.

“It’s great to have this coming from the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. It’s like getting the hometown recognition.” — Peter Delfyett, Pegasus Professor

“I plant the flag far down the road, and I have no idea how I’m going to get there,” he says. “I’ve been talking about these things for 25 years, but over time, the technology gets better and more mature and we’re taking steps to making these things become a reality.”

Delfyett considers himself “somewhere in the late middle” of his career, but he has no intention of slowing his pace just yet.

His induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame further fuels his research ambitions and desire to discover new frontiers in optics and photonics.

“I’ve been around for a long time where a lot of the work that we have done over the years is really now starting to get the recognition,” Delfyett says. “It’s great to have this coming from the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. It’s like getting the hometown recognition.”

Accomplished Inventors

Other UCF faculty, emeriti and graduates who previously were inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame include:

  • Jason Eichenholz ’95MS ’98PhD (2023) Co-founder and chief technology officer, Luminar Technologies, courtesy faculty member in CREOL; optical science and engineering alum
  • David Kotick ’81 ’83MS (2021): Senior science technical manager at the Naval Warfare Center Training Systems Division; electrical engineering alum
  • Michael Bass (2019): Professor emeritus of optics and photonics, physics, and electrical and computer engineering
  • Sudipta Seal (2018): Pegasus Professor; trustee chair professor; university distinguished professor of materials science and engineering
  • Issa Batarseh (2017): Pegasus Professor of electrical engineering
  • Jacqueline Quinn ’94MS ’99MD (2016): environmental engineer and research scientist for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; environmental engineering alum
  • J. Soileau (2016): Professor emeritus of optics and photonics; distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, and physics
  • Shin-Tson Wu (2014): Pegasus Professor of optics and photonics; trustees chair professor

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