Riel won the prestigious award for contributions to materials for nanoscale electronics and OLED devices. The ceremony took place at the 68th International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco. She was also recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
Heike Riel has won the prestigious 2022 The award is named in honor of Andrew S. Grove's lifetime achievements, including helping to found Intel Corporation. Grove was Intel’s third employee and third CEO and greatly contributed to the way our gadgets and other electronics work today.IEEE Andrew S. Grove Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to solid-state devices and technology and is sponsored by the IEEE Electron Devices Society. She has been honored “For contributions to materials for nanoscale electronics and organic light-emitting devices.” The award ceremony took place at the 68th International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco.
Receiving this award in December 2022 comes at a special moment, as the world celebrates 75 years of transistor technology. Transistors are the basic building block of all electronic devices, and were first demonstrated by Walter Brattain and John Bardeen in December 1947. A month later, William Shockley made the first junction transistor. All these decades later, we couldn’t imagine life without everything powered by transistors.
But the transistor has greatly evolved from the early days, thanks to innovations in new materials, transistor structures, and lithographic and fabrication technologies. Riel’s works have contributed to advancements in nanoscale science and technology, semiconducting nanostructures and solid-state devices, and organic light-emitting displays (OLED). Her research on semiconducting nanowires, demonstrating the first vertical silicon nanowire field effect transistor in 2006, and on evaluating the potential of gate-all-around nanostructures were early proof points for today’s transistors.
More than a decade later, IBM demonstrated the world's first 2-nm-node chip technology in 2021. The device is based on gate-all-around nanosheet technology, an improved version of nanowires — advancing scaling to the next level. IBM Research’s pipeline of innovations is the base for strong partnerships feeding directly into commercial product roadmaps. Further innovations she achieved in materials and novel devices, including monolithic 3D integration and alternative switching mechanisms, could enable further transistor scaling and improved energy efficiency in the foreseeable future.
The future of computing, however, will rely on more powerful technologies like quantum computing to solve problems intractable to classical computers. Riel focuses much of her work and passion today on quantum computing and semiconductors working globally and locally on advancing these technologies according to IBM Research’s Technology Atlas. A key effort of IBM researchers is working on advancing quantum hardware and software, and how quantum and classical computers integrate, with the end goal of ushering in quantum-centric supercomputing.
Riel is IBM Research’s head of science and technology, as well as the quantum computing lead for Europe and Africa. At school, she switched to physics after finishing her furniture making degree — a craft she still does as a hobby. Though most of her time is spent figuring out how to push the limits of innovation, whether in semiconducting nanostructures or quantum technologies.
Riel’s relentless drive was highlighted by another distinguished honor she received earlier this year. The U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has elected Heike Riel as international member into the 2022 class recognizing her for “global leadership and technical innovations in the semiconductor industry, covering OLED, fundamental device processes, materials, and nanowire devices.”
The National Academy membership is one of the highest professional distinctions granted to an engineer. The honor is bestowed upon those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research and practice and have pioneered new and developing fields of technology. It’s an even greater honor for a non-US citizen: Riel is an international member of the academy and was elected to the NAE – one of only roughly 2,000 peer-elected members and international members, among the world’s most accomplished engineers.
The academy, part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, is crucially important organization in the US, running engineering programs to help the nation and encouraging education and research. One of the ways the NAE encourages innovation is through its Grand Challenges, launched in 2007 to deal with social issues, such as making solar energy more economical and making fusion power a reality.
Riel is based at IBM Research’s Zurich lab, home to four Nobel laureates. Every day, she strives to push the boundaries of possible, researching ways to change our future for the better.