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MIT Technology Review

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  • Kevin Lee

    Age:
    31

    As a 16-year-old South Korean émigré living in a gang-ridden Los Angeles area, Kevin Lee had to face the threat of daily violence. That situation, he says, “gave me drive.” In 2001, that drive prompted him and fellow TR100 honoree Desmond Lim to start LNL Technologies in Cambridge, MA, to revolutionize telecommunications. Frustrated by slowdowns that occur when fiber-optic signals are converted to the electrical signals that go into homes and offices, researchers had long tried to fashion circuitry that would manipulate light and speed up telephone, data, and video services. During his PhD studies at MIT, Lee crafted tiny optical routers and connectors that fit on a single chip. Building on that work, LNL has made prototype chips that integrate up to 10,000 photonic and optoelectronic functions within one square centimeter. The optical chip can be mass-produced and , the founders maintain, is far more powerful than other companies’ prototypes. “Optics is the industry of the future,” says Lee, vice president of engineering. “I want to be part of making that happen.”