John H. Lehman: The 2020 SPIE Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award in Photonics
John H. Lehman is an expert in laser radiometry, the field which provides the foundational measurements upon which the broader applications of lasers critically depend. Early in his career, Lehman, a physicist and leader of the Sources and Detectors Group in the Physical Measurement Laboratory's Applied Physics Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), developed novel trap detectors which proved well-suited as transfer standards used to intercompare measurements with primary standards; his designs have been widely used by National Measurement Institutes around the world. Among other achievements since, he has developed a range of novel primary and secondary power and energy detectors with the highest degree of metrological precision and accuracy, as well as a new optical power meter based on photon momentum, eliminating the problem of thermal damage from absorbing detectors.
Lehman is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the 2018 US Department of Commerce Gold Medal for revolutionizing optical power metrology through the world's first fiber-based standard to support telecommunications, sensing, and defense; the Jacob Rabinow Award for pioneering research in the field of carbon nanotube coatings; and the Judson C. French Award for "establishing traceability of multi-kilowatt laser power to fundamental units in support of laser manufacturing and military applications." Broader contributions to the scientific community include being a workshop organizer and presenter at SPIE conferences, as well as serving as the president and member of the Board of Directors for the Colorado State Science Fair from 1988-1998.
"John Lehman is one of the most prolific practitioners of laser radiometry active today," says Gordon W. Day, division chief emeritus of NIST's optoelectronics division. "As just one example, while every physics student knows that photons have momentum and transfer force when they strike an object, most believe that the force is too small to be useful. John has shown that, at least for lasers of moderate power, photon momentum can, in fact, be large enough to be used as a mechanism for measurement. This is a huge development that, within certain limits, frees laser radiometry measurements from the traditional requirement to trace those measurements to electrical parameters. His contributions to the field of photonics are extraordinary."