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Yasuharu Suematsu (末松 安晴, Suematsu Yasuharu) is researcher and educator in optical communication technology by invention of the Dynamic Single Mode Semiconductor Lasers for actuation and following development of large capacity and long distance optical fiber communications.

Yasuharu Suematsu
Dr. Yasuharu Suematsu.jpg
Portrait of Yasuharu SUEMATSU-2006
BornSeptember 22, 1932 (1932-09-22) (age 86)[1][2]
Gifu, Japan[2]
Alma materTokyo Institute of Technology[1][2]
Awards2015 The Order of Culture, from the Emperor of Japan.

2014 Japan Prize[1]
2003 IEEE James H. Mulligan Jr. Education Medal[1][3]
1996 Medal of Honour with Purple Ribbon[1]
1994 C&C Prize[1]
1994 John Tyndall Award[1]

1986 IEEE David Sarnoff Award[1]
Scientific career
Fieldsoptical communications[2]
Notable studentsYoshihisa Yamamoto[4]



Yasuharu Suematsu was born on September 22, 1932, in Gifu, Japan.[2] He received both his B.S. (1955) and Ph.D. (1960) from the Tokyo Institute of Technology.[1][2] Afterwards, he joined the faculty of the Tokyo Institute of Technology as a professor, and became its president in 1989.[1] Later he also held the positions as first[5] President of the newly founded Kochi University of Technology and later became Director General[1] of the National Institute of Informatics. He authored at least 19 books and more than 260 scientific papers.[3]


Professor Suematsu is best known for his contributions to the development of optical fiber communication. He developed semiconductor lasers which even under high-speed modulation produce light at a stable wavelength which coincides with the wavelength region where the optical losses of fibers reach its minimum.[6]

Fig.1. Replica of the earliest demonstration of optical fiber communication experiment, in May 26, 1963, restored in 2008-7. (Registered as Future Technology Heritage, at the National Museum of Science, Japan). By courtesy of the Museum of Tokyo Institute of Technology.

~The Earliest Demonstration of Optical Fiber Communication Experiment~Edit

The earliest demonstration of optical fiber communication was performed by Suematsu and his students, in May 26, 1963, in the occasion of open house of the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Fig.1).
The light source was helium-neon gas laser, the modulator was hand made modulator by use of ADP crystal, applied signal voice voltage of 1.200 volts, for polarization rotation in response to voice signal, the optical bundle glass fiber for the transmission medium, and the photomultiplier tube for detector. The original ADP reserved in desiccator as well as the replica of that experiment, restored in 2008-7 as shown in Fig.1, were registered as a Future Technology Heritage, at the National Museum of Science, Japan, in 2019.

Fig.2. Principle of Single mode resonator consisted of two distrusted reflectors connected with phase shift of integer multiple of Π/2, for Dynamic Single Mode (DSM) Lasers, in 1974.
Fig.3. Laser tip on mount of the first demonstration of dynamic single mode laser at wavelength of 1.5 micrometers, in October 1980. By courtesy of the Museum of Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Fig.4. Single mode property and schematic structure of the first demonstration of dynamic single mode laser at wavelength of 1.5 micrometers, in October 1980.

~Creation of Dynamic Single Mode Lasers~Edit

Light is the highest frequency of electromagnetic waves that humans can control. It outperforms radio waves by a wide margin in transmitting a large capacity of information. Research into optical communications was undertaken such as in U.S.A., Japan, and England. The nature of optical fiber communication was thought possibly being able to transmit a large capacity of information over a long distance, all over the world. To make it a reality, the focus was on creating a Dynamic Single Mode laser (DSM laser) (Fig.2) which has the following three characteristics:

(1) operates at a wavelength band which causes minimal loss within the optical fiber to allow for long-distance transmission (1.5 micrometers was discovered to be the ideal wavelength band during the course of following research);

(2) operates stably at a single wavelength to surmount the problem of transmission capacity reduction due to dispersion on the propagation constant in single mode optical fiber; and

(3) allows the wavelength to be tuned to adapt to communication in multiple wavelengths.

First, in 1972-1974, Suematsu and his student proposed a single mode resonator which would consist of refractive index waveguide for the transverse mode, and two distributed reflectors joined together with a phase shift by odd numbers of a half π for the axial single mode operation (Fig.2) . In the meantime, Suematsu pioneered materials for a mixed crystal of GaInAsP/InP for a semiconductor laser that would operate at a wavelength band of 1.5 micrometers—which causes minimal loss inside the optical fiber as Donald A. Keck et al suggested in 1973— and continuously operates at room temperature, in July 1979. Following these preliminary achievements, Suematsu and his co-workers succeeded in creating an integrated laser with built-in distributed reflectors using a material in the band of 1.5 micrometers. In October 1980, Suematsu and his students had built a dynamic single mode laser that stably operates at a single mode even under rapid direct modulation (Fig.3 and Fig.4) , and continuously operates at room temperature. This laser remained in stable operation mode even when the temperature was changed, so that the wavelength could be tuned thermally within the 1.5 micrometers band. Thus, the thermo-tunable dynamic single mode laser was born and triggered to develop 1.5 micrometer high speed fiber system, as cited by such as the 1983 Valdemar Poulsen Gold Medal , the Danish history of optical communication, and the 1986 David Sarnoff Award . Its spectral behavior was investigated profoundly to attain full single mode operation. Meanwhile, research and development progressed at industries in areas such as optical fibers, optical circuits, optical devices, modulation schemes, and system structures. The actualization of the dynamic single mode laser became an impetus to develop high-capacity and long-distance optical fiber communications, and it began to be applied commercially in the end of the 1980's.

Fig.5 Schematic structure of Phase-Shift Distribute Feedback laser, in October 1983 ~Thermo-tunable Dynamic Singlr Mode Laser ~.
Fig.6. A commercial phase shift distributed reflector laser array, with 100\ coin for size reference. By courtesy of Furukawa Electric Co.
Fig.7. Schematic structure of Wavelength Tunable Laser ~ Electro, in 1980 ~Electro-tunable Dynamic Single Mode Laser ~.

~Phase-Shift Distributed Feedback Laser~Edit

Among these, the phase-shift distributed feedback (DFB) laser that Suematsu and his students proposed in 1974 and demonstrated with Kazuhito Furuya in November 1983 (Fig.5) is a thermo-tunable dynamic single mode laser which had a high rate of production yield, as cited by the 1985 Electronics Letter Premium Award, IEE, UK . Since the beginning of the 1990s, it had been consistently and widely used commercially as a standard laser for long-distance use, as awarded by the 1994 C&C Prize . Often, laser array is used to cover wide wavelength region (Fig.6).

~ Wavelength Tunable Laser~Edit

On the other hand, the electro-tunable dynamic single mode laser, which would be a goal of the Dynamic Single Mode Laser, is, so called, a wavelength tunable laser that was proposed by Suematsu and his students in 1980 (Fig.7) and demonstrated in 1983. Later, the tunig wavelength range was increased by introduction into distributed reflectors with multi-grating pitches by Yuhichi Tohmori and Yuhzou Yoshikuni, and Larry Coldren. The electro-tunable dynamic single mode laser is especially important because it could be finely tunable and also monolithically integrable together with other photonic devices which needs the specific thermal tuning separately in the form of PICs (Photonic Integrated Circuits). It was around 2004, through the efforts of those involved, that this wavelength tunable laser was developed and used commercially in dense wavelength division multiplexing (D-WDM) systems and the optical coherent systems. It became utilized in earnest around 2010.

Fig.8. International submarine cables around the world. By courtesy of KDDI.

Fig.9. Transmission performance of communication fiber. Prime data by Courtesy of NTT & KDDI.

Social Contribution by ResearchEdit

High-capacity and long-distance optical fiber communications in the lowest loss wavelength band of 1.5 micrometers use dynamic single mode lasers (DSM lasers), such as phase shift distributed feedback lasers and wavelength tunable lasers, as their light sources, and have progressed along with research and development of optical fiber, optical devices, modulation schemes, and the like. Phase shift distributed feedback lasers developed by this research have been commercially applied for long distances—for overland trunk systems (1987) and for intercontinental submarine cables (1992) (Fig. 8) —and continue to support the progress of the Internet to this day. Later, since around 2004, wavelength tunable lasers are being used as the light source to advance dense wavelength division multiplexing (D-WDM) systems and optical coherent fiber systems for multi-level modulation schemes. Optical fiber communications make up a highly dense communications network circling the globe tens of thousands of times, and are also used in applications such as middle-distance Ethernets. Additionally, DSM lasers in the band of 1.5 micrometers are used for optical lines from the exchange center to the home in FTTH. The transmission performance of fiber represented by product of the transmission capacity and the distance has been increased yearly by exponentially, as shown in Fig. 9. In such ways, the information transmission capability of optical fiber has reached several hundred thousand times as much as the coaxial cables preceding them, and have significantly lowered the cost of transmitting information. Reflecting this, the mid-1990s saw the network industry such as Yahoo, Google and Rakuten appear one after the other. Optical fiber communications has progressed and the Internet has developed, and instantaneous transmission of a large volume of knowledge is now a daily occurrence. In 2018, the Internet population reached 39 Billions, 52% of world population. In the electrical communication era of the 1960's, large volumes of data, such as documents on which civilization depend on, were circulated slowly in forms such as books. In contrast, the proliferation of high-capacity and long-distance optical fiber communications has allowed for large-volume information such as books to become used interactively in an instant. The research of optical fiber communications contributed to the rapid transition to a civilization based on information and communications technology.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The Japan Prize Foundation: Dr. Yasuharu Suematsu. Dated 2014, Archived copy at
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Analysis of novel resonant electron transfer triode device using metal-insulator superlattice for high speed response". IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics. QE-22 (9): 1880–1886. September 1986. doi:10.1109/JQE.1986.1073178.
  3. ^ a b IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal Recipients, Archived copy at
  4. ^ Yoshihisa Yamamoto: Curriculum Vitae. Dated January 2005. Original at Archived July 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Archived July 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Kochi University of Technology: Congratulating Professor Emeritus Yasuharu Suematsu on winning the Japan Prize. Dated January 31, 2014, Archived copy at
  6. ^ The Japan Prize Foundation: Pioneering research on semiconductor lasers for high-capacity, long-distance optical fiber communication, Archived copy at