UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, recently awarded Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Charles Godfrey Binder Professor in Engineering Science and Mechanics, the 2016 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation.

Lakhtakia was recognized for his theoretical and experimental innovations in electromagnetics, leading to the conceptualization and development of sculptured thin films (STFs) for novel optical devices and biomedical, biomimetic and forensic applications.

In the mid-1980s, Lakhtakia spearheaded the area of chiral electromagnetics and helped found the area of complex-material electromagnetics. He initiated the concept of STFs in the early 1990s and has continued his efforts to establish the area of nanoengineered thin-film materials. STF research is now being conducted in more than 100 laboratories worldwide.

Lakhtakia’s research on STFs has led to the design of several types of optical devices including circular-polarization filters, spectral-hole filters, circular-polarization vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers. It has also led to the incorporation of STFs into sensors for toxic and bacterial agents and scaffolds for tissue growth and bone repair. One prospective use of STFs in this area is the coating of metallic prostheses to promote tissue integration.

More recent and significant applications of Lakhtakia’s research include growing STFs on nonplanar surfaces to improve the visualization of fingerprints (in particular, bloody fingerprints) and other impression evidence left by people in crime scenes, and using bioreplication to transfer the attributes of growing STFs on the compound eyes of insects to textured solar-cell surfaces, which could have a major impact on solar energy harvesting and the reduction of our carbon footprint.

Lakhtakia has been recognized for his STF research with numerous awards including a 2005 Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Award for Nanotechnology, 2006 Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Award for Innovation and a 2010 International Society for Optics and Photonics Technical Achievement Award.

Lakhtakia will receive his Walston Chubb Award on Nov. 11 at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and International Research Conference to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. He will also deliver the Walston Chubb Award Lecture, titled “Filamentary Materials for Optics, Terahertz, Acoustics, Forensics and Biomimicry.”

Sigma Xi is the international honor society of science and engineering and one of the oldest and largest scientific organizations in the world. The organization has a distinguished history of service to science and society for more than 125 years. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members.

Since 2006, Sigma Xi has presented the Walston Chubb Award for Innovation to honor and promote creativity in science and engineering. The award carries a $4,000 honorarium, a certificate of recognition and an invitation to give the Walston Chubb Award Lecture at Sigma Xi's annual meeting.