Dr. Michael Escuti

An Eye for Innovation

Engineer Michael Escuti’s liquid crystal research is revolutionizing optics.

Even the White House has noticed, bestowing a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers on the NC State researcher.

Nominated by the National Science Foundation, Escuti was honored for developing a polarization grating, a thin layer of liquid crystal material on a glass plate that solves problems in optics previously thought unsolvable.

“It is inspiring to see the innovative work being done by these scientists and engineers as they ramp up their careers—careers that I know will be not only personally rewarding but also invaluable to the nation,” President Obama noted in announcing the current class.

One result of Escuti’s research is a precise, energy-efficient way of steering laser beams that is relatively inexpensive. The research has potential applications in radar and space communication systems that use lasers to transfer data between platforms—such as between satellites or between aircraft and soldiers on the battlefield.

Escuti’s team, consisting of NC State students along with partner Boulder Nonlinear Systems Inc., has already delivered prototypes of the technology to the U.S. Air Force and is working on other applications, including tools that could lead to the development of compact and low-cost imaging for aerial vehicles, satellites and biomedical diagnostics.