Irish scientist wins prestigious Institute of Physics award

29 Nov 2021

Brian Corbett. Image: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Brian Corbett has made significant contributions to tech start-ups in Ireland, including one that was acquired by Facebook.

Irish scientist Brian Corbett has been awarded the Institute of Physics (IOP) Katharine Burr Blodgett Medal and Prize 2021 for his contributions in the field of photonic devices.

Corbett is based at the Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork (UCC). He is a researcher at IPIC, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for photonics, and has identified and created several innovative photonic device technologies that have helped many start-ups and multinational companies in Ireland.

“Corbett has raised the visibility of Ireland’s high-impact technology ability significantly on the world stage. He is an outstanding recipient for the Katharine Burr Blodgett Medal and Prize,” the IOP said in its award statement today (29 November).

The IOP is a UK-based professional body for the advancement of physics education and research in the UK and Ireland. Its annual award, named after the famous US scientist Blodgett, recognises physicists who have made significant achievements at different stages in their careers.

Corbett invented a scalable laser manufacturing technology that drives down the cost of high-performance, single-wavelength lasers for diverse mass market applications. This led to the establishment of Eblana Photonics, which commercialised the technology, in 2001.

His work also helped launch Firecomms, an Irish start-up that was acquired by a Chinese company, and he helped attract US printing start-up X-Celeprint to establish its global headquarters in Tyndall in 2013.

A company built on the back of Corbett’s patented micro LED technology, InfiniLED, went on to be acquired by Facebook in 2016. Since then, that team in Cork has grown to more than 100 scientists and engineers working to develop Corbett’s technology, and the company now known as Meta is eyeing further growth in this sector in the future.

Corbett previously won the Intel Outstanding Researcher Award in 2013 and his partnerships with many multinational companies such as Seagate have contributed to Ireland’s global reputation as a destination for technology investment.

Prof Sheila Rowan, president of IOP, congratulated all the award winners in different categories and said that each of them, including researchers, teachers, industrialists, technicians and apprentices, have had significant impact on their professions.

“Recent events have underlined the absolute necessity to encourage and reward our scientists and those who teach and encourage future generations. We rely on their dedication and innovation to improve many aspects of the lives of individuals and of our wider society.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic