General Info

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Brief Bio

Jeff Tsao is currently a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, and coordinator for Sandia’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences Materials Sciences and Engineering Program.

He has a BS in math and MS in EE from Stanford; and a PhD in Applied Physics from Harvard where his advisors were Nico Bloembergen, Eli Yablonovitch and Itamar Burak.

From 1981 to 1991, he was research staff, first at MIT-Lincoln Laboratory where he studied laser microchemistry, then at Sandia where he studied semiconductor epitaxy.

From 1991 to 2001, he managed various semiconductor materials research departments at Sandia, then, while on entrepreneurial leave, was VP of R&D at E2O Communications, a pre-IPO fiber communications company. He also took a sabbatical during this period at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore, where he developed and gave a comprehensive series of twelve lectures on compound semiconductor epitaxy.

From 2001 to 2013, he became a “community organizer,” spearheading white papers, reports and programs which helped set larger national and global research directions, including in solid-state lighting.

Beginning in 2013, Jeff began to explore the “science of science” – how to understand and nurture research itself as a complex adaptive (and learning) system.

9-Page C.V. (January 2020)





Creativity in Scientific and Engineering Research

(JY Tsao) (SAND2019-15148 PE)

Talk (with notes) given at DOE/EERE/BTO (Building Technologies Office) on January 9, 2020. The talk builds on recent work on creative outcome after a piece of research has been done, applying it to anticipatory creative outcome before the research has been done.

Creative Outcome as Implausible Utility

(JY Tsao, CL Ting, CM Johnson) (SAND2019-5800 J) (Rev Gen Psych 23(3) 279-292, 2019)

Paper builds on the work of Dean Simonton to develop a definition for creative outcome (especially in scientific and technological research) as useful learning and implausible utility.

Nurturing Transformative U.S. Energy Research: Two Guiding Principles

(V Narayanamurti and JY Tsao) (SAND2018-1548 J) (MRS Energy & Sustainability doi:10.1557/mre.2018.9, 2018)

Paper raises for debate and discussion the growing mis-control and mis-protection of U.S. energy research. This flawed approach originates in natural human tendencies exacerbated by an historical misunderstanding of research and development, science and technology, and the relationships between them. We outline the origin of the mis-control and mis-protection, and propose two guiding principles to mitigate them and instead nurture research: (i) focus on people, not projects; and (ii) culturally insulate research from development, but not science from technology.

Commentary: The social science of creativity and research practice: Physical scientists, take notice, T Odumosu, JY Tsao, V Narayanamurti, Physics Today 68, 8-9 (2015) (SAND2016-0135 C).

Commentary  builds on the work of Dean Simonton to develop a definition for creative outcome (especially in scientific and technological research) as useful learning and implausible utility.

Art of Research: A Divergent/Convergent Thinking Framework and Opportunities for Science-Based Approaches (SAND2017-7430 O)

(G.E. Avina, C.D. Schunn, A.R. Silva, T.L. Bauer, G.W. Crabtree, C.M. Johnson, T. Odumosu, S.T. Picraux, R.K. Sawyer, R.P. Schneider, R. Sun, G.J. Feist, V. Narayanamurti, J.Y. Tsao; Chapter 14 in E. Subrahmanian, T. Odumosu, J.Y. Tsao, Eds., Engineering a Better Future (Springer, 2018, SAND2018-10125 B)

Book chapter summarizing the conclusions of a Forum and Roundtable, held at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, June 5-7,2013, initiating a dialog between the two communities: distinguished practitioners of the art of research and experts in the emerging science of research. The Forum and Roundtable had a dual focus: to identify science that can be applied to improving how research is done and to identify ways in which Sandia could apply such to its own processes.

Engineering the Ultimate Dynamical Social System: what we know and don’t know about how scientists do science

(Jeff Tsao)

  Talk given at Complex 2012 (Santa Fe, 2012) (SAND 2012-10354C).

This talk discussed how the system of science is a complex adaptive system and how it might be analyzable within a framework of a co-evolving dual network of people and ideas.

A Case for Sandia Investment in Complex Adaptive Systems Science and Technology

(Curtis M. Johnson, George A. Backus, Theresa J. Brown, Richard Colbaugh, Katherine A. Jones, Jeffrey Y. Tsao) (SAND 2011-9347P and SAND 2012-3320) (October 2011)

This white paper made the case for Sandia National Laboratories investments in complex adaptive systems science and technology (S&T) -- investments that could enable higher-value-added and more-robustly-engineered solutions to challenges of importance to Sandia’s national security mission and to the nation.

A Brief History of Sandia National Laboratories and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science: Interplay between Science, Technology, and Mission

(Jeff Tsao, Jerry Simmons, Sam Collis, Andy McIlroy, Sam Myers, Tom Picraux, Fred Vook) (SAND 2011-5462) (October 2011)

This report reviews the history of Sandia’s fundamental science programs supported by the Office of Science.

Kuhn, Galileo, Casimir: Insights into the relationship between Science and Technology

(Jeff Tsao) (SAND 2013-7804 P) (June 2011)

This presentation was given at a strategic planning discussion meeting at Sandia, and discussed bi-translational S&T, something that might be called a virtuous “Casimir’s Spiral,” in which science leads to new technology, while technology leads to new science.

Galileo’s Stream: A Framework for Understanding Knowledge Production (Jeff Tsao, Kevin Boyack, Mike Coltrin, Jessica Turnley, Wil Gauster) (SAND 2006-7622J) (Research Policy 37, 330-352) (March 2008)

This paper introduced a new framework for understanding knowledge production in which:  knowledge is produced in stages (along a research to development continuum) and in three discrete categories (science and understanding, tools and technology, and societal use and behavior); and knowledge in the various stages and categories is produced both non-interactively and interactively.

Consumer Preferences and Funding Priorities in Scientific Research (Jeff Tsao) (Science and Public Policy 16, 294-298) (October 1989)

This paper discussed the possibilities for a de-centralized market-oriented system for funding scientific research, in which researchers receive a form of royalty for the use of their published papers.


The Electrification of Energy: Long-Term Trends and Opportunities (JY Tsao, EF Schubert, R Fouquet, M Lave) (SAND2017-12043 J) (MRS Energy and Sustainability 5, E7 (2018))

Three powerful long-term historical trends in the electrification of energy by free-fuel sources are presented and analyzed. These trends point toward a future in which energy is affordable, abundant, and efficiently deployed; with major economic, geo-political, and environmental benefits to humanity.

Rebound Effects for Lighting (Harry Saunders, Jeff Tsao) (SAND 2010-1559 J) (SAND 2012-5124J) (Energy Policy 49, 477-478 (2012))

In this Communication, we seek to clarify confusion regarding our 2010 Journal of Physics article on historical rebound effects for lighting, which showed that global energy use for lighting has experienced 100% rebound over 300 years, six continents, and five technologies. We argue that our results have been misunderstood by some to mean lighting efficiency gains are counterproductive, and we instead argue for vigorously promoting improved lighting technologies.

Solid-State Lighting: An Energy Economics Perspective (Jeff Tsao, Harry Saunders, Randy Creighton, Mike Coltrin, Jerry Simmons) (SAND 2010-1559J) (Journal of Physics D 43, 354001 (2010))

In this paper, we provide estimates of the potentially massive shifts due to solid-state lighting of (a) the consumption of light, (b) the human productivity and energy use associated with that consumption, and (c) the semiconductor chip area inventory and turnover required to support that consumption.

The World’s Appetite for Light:  Empirical Data and Trends Spanning Three Centuries and Six Continents (Jeff Tsao, Paul Waide) (SAND 2008-4246J) (LEUKOS 6, 259-281) (Apr 2010)

In this paper, we collected and self-consistently analyzed data for per-capita consumption of artificial light, per-capita gross domestic product, and ownership cost of light.  The data span a wide range (three centuries, six continents, five lighting technologies, and five orders of magnitude), and are consistent with a linear variation of per-capita consumption of light with the ratio between per-capita gross domestic product and ownership cost of light.

The Rebound Effect: An Analysis of the Empirical Data for Lighting (Jeff Tsao, Paul Waide, Harry Saunders) (Dec 2008) (SAND 2008-7959C) with notes

This talk was given at the 28th USAEE/IAEE North American Conference in New Orleans.

Some Simple Physics of Global Warming (Jeff Tsao) (March 2008) (SAND 2008-2255P) and notes

These viewgraphs are based on a tutorial lecture given for a high school physics class at the Bosque School in Albuquerque.

Basic Research Needs in Solid-State Lighting (Julie Phillips, Paul Burrows, Chairs) (October 2006)

This report is based on a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Science’s Workshop on Solid-State Lighting (SSL), May 22–24, 2006, chaired by Julie Phillips and Paul Burrows.  It examines the gap separating current state-of-the-art SSL technology from an energy efficient, high-quality, and economical SSL technology suitable for general illumination; and identifies the most significant fundamental scientific challenges and research directions that would enable that gap to be bridged.

Solar FAQs (Jeff Tsao, Nate Lewis, George Crabtree) (SAND 2006-2818P) and related informal talk (SAND 2006-2821P) (April 2006)

This white paper asks and answers a series of questions regarding the potential of the sun to supply energy to the world.  The questions are drawn in large part from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Science’s recent report on Basic Research Needs in Solar Energy Utilization.  The answers are given in a format suitable for a lay technical audience, and are supplemented by detailed calculations and comprehensive references.

Basic Research Needs in Solar Energy Utilization (Nate Lewis, George Crabtree, Chairs) (October 2005)

This report is based on a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Science’s Workshop on Solar Energy Utilization, April 18–21, 2005, chaired by Nate Lewis and George Crabtree.  It examines the challenges and opportunities for the development of solar energy as a competitive energy source and identifies the technical barriers to large-scale implementation of solar energy and the basic research directions showing promise to overcome them.

semiconductor materials and devices

Ultrawide-Bandgap Semiconductors: Research Opportunities and Challenges (J. Y. Tsao  S. Chowdhury  M. A. Hollis  D. Jena  N. M. Johnson  K. A. Jones  R. J. Kaplar  S. Rajan C. G. Van de Walle  E. Bellotti  C. L. Chua  R. Collazo  M. E. Coltrin  J. A. Cooper  K. R. Evans  S. Graham T. A. Grotjohn  E. R. Heller  M. Higashiwaki  M. S. Islam  P. W. Juodawlkis  M. A. Khan  A. D. Koehler J. H. Leach  U. K. Mishra  R. J. Nemanich  R. C. N. PilawaPodgurski  J. B. Shealy  Z. Sitar  M. J. Tadjer A. F. Witulski  M. Wraback  J. A. Simmons) (SAND2017-10150 J) Advanced Electronic Materials 4, 1600501 (2018).

This article reviews the materials, physics, device and application research opportunities and challenges associated with ultrawide-bandgap semiconductors.

Quantum-size-controlled photoelectrochemical fabrication of epitaxial InGaN quantum dots (X Xiao, AJ Fischer, GT Wang, P. Lu, DD Koleske, ME Coltrin, JB Wright, S Liu, I Brener, GS Subramania, JY Tsao) (SAND2014-16995PE) Nano Lett. 14, 5616-5620 (2014).

We demonstrate a new route to the precision fabrication of epitaxial semiconductor nanostructures in the sub-10 nm size regime: quantum-size-controlled photoelectrochemical (QSC-PEC) etching.

The World of Compound Semiconductors

This is a book started in 2002, worked on for about a year, then abandoned.  Its intent was to have been to provide an integrated guide to the science, technology and applications of the compound III-V semiconductors.  Its unique aspect was to have been its emphasis and organization around an objective database (linked file is in procite format) of the most highly-cited journal articles and U.S. patents in the field.  Comments and avenues for its continuation are most welcome.

Optically-pumped long-wavelength vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser with high modulation bandwidth (MV Ramana Murty, D Xu, CC Lin, CL Shieh, JY Tsao, J Cheng, Appl Phys Lett 86, 061108, 2006)

Electrically pumped long-wavelength VCSEL with air gap DBR and methods of fabrication (CL Shieh, JY Tsao, US Patent 6,696,308, February 24 2004)

Segmented-mirror VCSEL (JY Tsao, CL Shieh, PD Dapkus, J Yang, US Patent 6,594,294, July 15 2003)

Semiconductor Epitaxy: Science, Technology and Applications 40MB (July-November 1998) (SAND 2007-1800P)

This series of twelve lectures was given over four months at the Institute of Materials and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore.  The series began with an overview of materials and device families and properties, and of epitaxy growth techniques such as molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and chemical-vapor deposition (CVD).  Then, the science of epitaxy was discussed, including vapor, surface, thin film and bulk phenomena.  Finally, the series ended with an overview of the technology and applications of epitaxy, with attention to particular III/V alloy systems as well as to manufacturing issues.

Materials Fundamentals of Molecular Beam Epitaxy (Academic Press, 1993) and figures (SAND 2007-1801P)

This book gathers together the basic materials science principles that apply to MBE, and treats in great depth its most important aspects. Throughout, it makes use of thermodynamic and statistical calculations based on intuitive and physically motivated semi-empirical models.


Solid-State Lighting

LEDs for Photons, Physiology and Food (PM Pattison, JY Tsao, GC Brainard and B Bugbee) Nature 563, 493-500 (2018) (SAND2018-13453 J)

   Perspectives article on the future of LED lighting: not just more energy efficient, but vastly better able to control the color, intensity and distribution of light, enabling light to be used both as a signal for specific physiological responses in humans and plants as well as an efficient fuel for fresh food production.

LED Lighting Efficacy: Status and Directions (PM Pattison, M Hansen, JY Tsao) (SAND2018-7339 J)

   Review article in special March-April 2018 issue of Comptes Rendus Physique on “LEDs: The New Revolution in Lighting,” edited by Claude Weisbuch, Erich Spitz and Aurelien David.

The New World of Engineered SSL: Past & Present, but mostly Future (5 SSL Grand Challenges) (JY Tsao) (SAND2017-12137C)

   Plenary talk given at the OSA Light Energy Environment Boulder CO November 8, 2017.

Roland Haitz: Twenty Years of Mentorship, Collaboration and Inspiration (JY Tsao) (SAND2015-7782S) Unpublished (2015)

   Memorial tribute to Roland Haitz, one of the great pioneers and visionaries of solid-state lighting technology.

The Blue LED Nobel Prize: Historical context, current scientific understanding, human benefit (JY Tsao, J Han, RH Haitz, PM Pattison) (SAND2015-4440J) Ann. Phys. 527, A53-A61 (2015)

   Expert opinion for special issue containing the Blue LED Nobel Prize Lectures.

Toward Smart and Ultra-Efficient Solid-State Lighting

(JY Tsao, MH Crawford, ME Coltrin, AJ Fischer, DD Koleske, GS Subramania, GT Wang, JJ Wierer, RF Karlicek) (SAND 2014-3937J) Advanced Optical Materials 2, 809-836 (2014)

   Review of the current status of solid-state lighting relative to its ultimate potential to be “smart” and ultra-efficient.

Comparison between blue lasers and light-emitting diodes for future solid-state lighting

(Jon Wierer, Jeff Tsao, Dmitry Sizov) Laser & Photonics Reviews (August, 2013) (SAND2013-1956)

   This article compares LEDs and LDs (laser diodes) for future SSL: their current state-of-the-art input-power-density-dependent power conversion efficiencies; potential improvements both in their peak power-conversion efficiencies and in the input power densities at which those efficiencies peak; and their economics for practical SSL.

Four-color laser white illuminant demonstrating high color-rendering quality

(Sasha Neumann, Jon Wierer, Wendy Davis, Yoshi Ohno, Steve Brueck, Jeff Tsao) Optics Express 19, A982-990 (2011) SAND2011-2743J.

   This work tests the common belief that white light produced by a set of lasers of different colors would not be of high enough quality for general illumination.

Solid-state lighting: ‘The case’ 10 years after and future prospects (Roland Haitz, Jeff Tsao) (SAND 2010-4208J) Physica Status Solidi A 208, 17-29 (2011).

   Ten years ago, a white paper titled “The Case for a National Research Program on Semiconductor Lighting” outlined the promise and potential of semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for general illumination.  Since then, investments in the now-renamed field of solid-state lighting (SSL) have accelerated and considerable progress has been made, not always in the directions envisioned at the time.  In this paper, two of the original four authors comment on the white paper’s hits and misses, while making the original white paper available archivally as supplemental online material.  Finally, we make new predictions for the coming 10-20 years.

Solid-State Lighting: An Integrated Human Factors, Technology and Economic Perspective (Jeff Tsao, Mike Coltrin, Mary Crawford, Jerry Simmons) (July 2010) (SAND 2009-5551J) (Proceedings of the IEEE 98, 1162-1179)

In this article, we present a high-level overview of solid-state lighting, with an emphasis on white lighting suitable for general illumination.  We characterize in detail solid-state lighting’s past and potential-future evolution using various performance and cost metrics, with special attention paid to inter-relationships between these metrics imposed by human factors, technology and economic considerations.

Solid-State Lighting: The III-V Epi “Killer App”  (Jeff Tsao) (May 2010) (SAND 2010-4049C) and video

This talk was given at the International Conference on Metal-organic Vapor Phase Epitaxy (ICMOVPE) May 24 2010 in Lake Tahoe, NV.

The Next Semiconductor Revolution: This Time It’s Lighting! (Jeff Tsao) (Mar 2010) (SAND 2010-1957P) and video

This tutorial talk for students and the general public was given at the Albuquerque Academy March 31 2010 in Albuquerque NM.

(Lighting and) Solid-State Lighting: Science, Technology, Economic Perspectives (Jeff Tsao) (Jan 2010) (SAND 2010-1090C) and video

This talk was given at Photonics West Jan 26 2010 in San Francisco, CA.

Research challenges to ultra-efficient inorganic solid-state lighting (Julie Phillips, Mike Coltrin, Mary Craford, Art Fischer, Mike Krames, Regina Mueller-Mach, Gerd Mueller, Yoshi Ohno, Lauren Rohwer, Jerry Simmons, Jeff Tsao) (SAND 2007-5470J) and figures (Laser and Photonics Reviews 1, 307-333 (November 2007)

This review article discusses approaches to inorganic solid-state lighting that could conceivably achieve ultra-high (70% or greater) efficiency, and the significant research questions and challenges that would need to be addressed if one or more of these approaches were to be realized.

A recursive process for mapping and clustering technology literatures: case study in solid-state lighting (Kevin Boyack, Jeff Tsao, Ann Miksovic, Mark Huey) (SAND2008-4564) and figures (2009)

This report analyzes a comprehensive dataset of English-language articles and U.S. patents published or issued in the knowledge domain of electroluminescent materials and phenomena.  A number of analyses were performed, including:  identification of knowledge sub-domains of historical and recent importance, and trends over time of the contributions of various nations and continents to the knowledge domain and its sub-domains.

Solid-State Lighting: a Case Study in Science and Technology Evolution (Jeff Tsao) (July 2006) (SAND 2006-4047A)

This talk was given at the 2006 China International Forum on Solid-State Lighting (CIFSSL) in Shenzhen, China.

Technology Footprinting and Solid-State Lighting (Jeff Tsao, Kevin Boyack, Mark Huey, Ann Miksovic, June 2006) (SAND 2006-7621P)

This work was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Program.  This set of viewgraphs explores the development of a tool that might be called “technology footprinting,” and the preliminary application of that tool to solid-state lighting.

Solid-State Lighting: the Potential and the Challenges (Jeff Tsao) (August 11-12 2005) (SAND 2005-4894A)

These two lectures were given in two half-days at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore.

Evolution of Solid-State Lighting: Market Pull and Technology Push (Jeff Tsao) (April 2005) (SAND 2008-2251C) and notes

This talk was given at the 2005 China International Forum on Solid-State Lighting (CIFSSL) in Xiamen, China.

Solid-State Lighting: Lamps, Chips and Materials for Tomorrow (Jeff Tsao) (IEEE Circuits and Devices Magazine Vol 20 Issue 3 pp 28-37, May-June 2004) (SAND 2003-3018J)

The aims of this article were twofold.  First, a brief overview of conventional and SSL lighting technologies was given.  Second, a description was given of some of the simplest but most important lamp, chip, and materials design choices that would need to be made if SSL technology is to fulfill its promise for general illumination.

Final Report on Grand Challenge LDRD Project:  A Revolution in Lighting -- Building the Science and Technology Base for Ultra-Efficient Solid-State Lighting (SAND 2004-2365, May 2004)

This SAND report was the final report on Sandia’s Grand Challenge LDRD SSL Project   This project is considered one of Sandia’s most successful GCLDRDs.  This report reviews not only technical highlights, but also the genesis of the idea for SSL, the initiation of the SSL GCLDRD, and the goals, scope, success metrics, and evolution of the SSL GCLDRD over the course of its life.

Solid-State Lighting: Roadmap (Jeff Tsao) (Laser Focus World Vol 39 Issue 5 pp S11-S14, May 2003) (SAND 2003-0556J)

A summary of the 2002 SSL roadmap, with a special emphasis on energy savings projections.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for General Illumination (Jeff Tsao, Ed.) (November 2002) (SAND 2002-3408P)

This report was the first comprehensive SSL technology roadmap, and provided quantitative enumeration of key technology targets, prioritization of research challenges, and key decisions related to competing approaches.  It also discussed lighting systems issues necessary to achieve mass penetration of LEDs in the marketplace.

Solid-State Lighting: Illumination through Semiconductor Science Website

A website, actively maintained from December 2001 through September 2006, whose intent was “to gather together information relevant to solid-state lighting, and to help stimulate the development of the science and technology foundation necessary to enable the promise and potential of solid-state lighting.”

The Case for a National Research Program on Semiconductor Lighting (Roland Haitz, Fred Kish, Jeff Tsao, Jeff Nelson, July 2000) (SAND 2000-1612)

This white paper was the first to discuss the vast technological and energy-savings potential of solid-state lighting technology.

“Light for the 21st Century” Year 2000 Report of Results

(The Japan Research and Development Center of Metals, 2000, translated by Kirill V. Sereda and Jeff Y. Tsao)

This was the first national program aimed at the development of compound semiconductors for high efficiency optoelectronic conversion for general illumination purposes.


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