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The Future of Communication Technology: Dr Michael Lebby On How His Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

An Interview With David Liu

Be nice — people like to work with people who are pleasant. Business is about getting things done, and yes, there are instances when nice won’t work, but it does most of the time. In my perspective, the majority of people tend to want to enjoy working with people, and whether they are nice is revealed through their interpersonal skill-base.

The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Lebby.

Dr. Michael Lebby is both an entrepreneur and intrapreneur primarily in the photonics field. He and his colleagues co-invented a diode laser (oxide VCSEL) at Motorola in the early 1990s which is now being utilized in unit volumes of billions in mobile phones for structured light/3D sensing (such as FACE ID™ by Apple), personal computers as the laser mouse, as well as fiber optic interconnects that make up the internet. He is currently the CEO of Lightwave Logic Inc., which he led to up-list organically (which is a very rare achievement) to the NASDAQ in September 2021. Dr. Lebby holds over 230 issued USPTO utility patents and over 450 if international derivatives are included. He has been cited by the USPTO to be in the most prolific 75 inventors in USA from 1988–1997. He is an accomplished technical expert witness with over 100 patent litigation/IP cases and over 20 trials. He has led the USA trade association in optoelectronics (OIDA) and represented the North American optoelectronics industry on Capitol Hill. He was recently made Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (USA) in 2020. He is a Fellow member of IEEE and OSA, and an elected member of the Cosmos Club of DC, London Guild of Spectacle Makers, and Royal Philatelic Society (London). He holds two doctorates in EE and an MBA from Bradford University (UK), has been a full Professor of Optoelectronics at Glyndwr University in Wales, UK.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started my career as an apprentice electronics engineer in the UK. For some reason, I decided that I wanted to work in electronics from the practical standpoint rather than the academic perspective. After working with electronics hardware, values (tubes), amplifiers, electronic circuits, etc., I realized that if I wanted to progress beyond fixing radios and TVs, then I would have to go to college to learn how to design electronic circuits, and cool electronic products. This I did, and my career progressed to RSRE in the UK for semiconductor research, and then onto AT&T Bell Labs in New Jersey, where my research was key in achieving my PhD in semiconductor physics. At the time photonics or optoelectronics was a new and exciting area where things like laser diodes, LEDs, and photodetectors/sensors were being developed. I decided to specialize in photonics and my career followed that path to this day.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I only wear black. I started doing this late in the 1990s when I worked as a Corporate Investor for Intel. I have given numerous technical and business talks/lectures/courses over the years, and around the 2001 timeframe, I was invited as a keynote speaker for a major international conference in Stockholm, Sweden. The evening before, there was a dinner for the important speakers, and I suggested perhaps I should wear some brighter colors. The response was quick and deafening — No! We only know you as the man in black, and you can’t change — it’s who you are. Little did I realize that black would be the subject of popular movies/TV themes today! The good news is — I still wear black both at home and at work. In fact, when the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ bell came along in September last year, my colleagues said — you have to wear black — it’s who you are….but I ended up making my outfit a little more ceremonial, I wore a white shirt, black suit and a black bow tie with mathematical embroidering. Sometimes — you have to adapt to the environment, and respect the occasion!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I was once with my parents at a barbeque cookout in Sacramento, California. This was while I was studying for my MBA. There was an unused chess table, and I was looking at the pieces trying to figure what they were, as the last time I played chess was when I was at high school over a decade earlier. A man approached me for a game. I tried in vain to say no but he insisted that I play. So, I did. In the end, I won the game, and learned this gentleman was a keen player and one of the best players locally. He asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said daringly that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and this was why I was pursuing an MBA. He looked at me, thought longingly, and said, “Michael, the MBA is good, but that is not going to help you become an entrepreneur. You have to be hungry for success.” While pure hunger may not get us there, it has certainly helped my career over the years.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

While we look at the recent past for credit in one’s success, I find it is the nurturing of the skills that need to be respected. My skills, my sense of professionalism, and my ability to create inventions come, I believe from my parents. The best story I can recall is their pride in doing something well, both scientifically in timing, as well as an art-form. They were championship ballroom dancers, and yes, it is rumored I can dance. However, it was the strict tempo that ballroom dancing demands that gives you the respect to dance on time, look collected, be respectful and graceful, while enjoying the moment.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try in my work to provide innovative technology that enriches everyone’s lives. It is evident in the things I’ve done: from the diode lasers that I co-invented, which get used in mobile phones today for things like face recognition, to providing technology for data to travel faster in the internet. It all counts!

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Imagine if the speed of data passing through the internet doubled. What would it mean for us if our bandwidth availability at home tripled, quadrupled, or even was 10X or 100X faster? We would see faster downloads, faster uploads, and we would be able to run many video windows throughout our home. Gone would be the days of turning our camera off to save bandwidth. Wouldn’t this be great?

Lightwave Logic is a Colorado-based company designing very high-speed optical devices for the internet. These devices are called modulators and they switch light extremely fast, and they do it consuming very low power. We need these types of devices as the internet is a network of fiber optic glass-based cables, the data as we know it travels in digital 1’s and 0’s using light pulses that are generated by laser diodes. Each laser diode has a sort of shutter in front of it to switch the light: simply put, light passes then it’s a 1, light gets stopped, then it’s a 0. The faster you do this process, the more data can pass.

Our company has a unique technology called electro-optic polymers with a lot of patents, and proprietary techniques to protect the technology platform. With this platform, the internet can evolve to be a better, more universal utility-like service. Imagine watching the impact of more bandwidth at home. It will become easier to do many things that utilize heavy data such as video uploads and downloads, schooling, shopping, medicine, and other enriched services.

How do you think this might change the world?

Larger bandwidths not only help people at home, they also alleviate bottlenecks in commercial industries as well as the datacenters where the data traffic comes together. Providing faster optical components to enable the internet to become faster, and at the save time lower energy, will not only impact 1st world industrial societies, but also those countries that desperately need more bandwidth for their societies.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Too much bandwidth could create interesting situations where we could imagine internet wireless sensors/camera on everything we own — all of our clothes, all of our consumer products, every room, every vehicle, in that we could be monitored 24/7 with real-time video recording, of how we live our lives. To some of us, this would be great, to others this could be invasive. I often wonder, later in life, if I could have the chance to play back my earlier years. Would l learn anything? Perhaps. In a decade, this could be a black mirror situation where some may have concerns, and others would look forward to reminiscing.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I joined Lightwave Logic in 2015. Our story explaining that the internet needs high-speed optical switches that operate with lower power has remained the same for the past 7 years. The tipping point, if there is one, is that industry over the past 24 months has realized we are right, and what’s more, Lightwave Logic has the technology platform for the future. People currently in the telecommunications and datacenter environments are now calling for high-speed modulator optical switching, with lower power consumption. Our timing is perfect — the industry knows we have the technological solution for the next decade. Our positioning is very good also — we have a unique technology platform to service customers’ needs.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Widespread adoption is being ubiquitous. Today, we see other polymer technologies that are ubiquitous — such as organic light emitting displays (OLEDs). These polymers are different than what we design at Lightwave Logic in that they send out light (red, green, and blue) rather than switch light. We use OLEDs for our computer monitors, displays for our tablets and mobile phones, and now our TVs. In the early 1990s, I did research on OLEDs at Motorola — the problems with the technology since those days have been completely resolved. The same level of popularity will happen with our electro-optic polymers at Lightwave Logic. Our modulators that switch light will also become ubiquitous. Our job at Lightwave Logic is to make the polymers assessable to everyone.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

As I noted in the beginning of this interview — how many of us have had to switch off our cameras while we work at home during the pandemic? Most of us? All of us? I have a 1Gbps internet line to my home, and I still had to do this, especially when others in my family were using heavy data video connections. Increasing the bandwidth into our homes, our work-places, and the infrastructure to support our mobile devices is critical for all of us to enrich our lives. I know the pandemic has been an awful phase of our lives for many; however, it has clearly demonstrated that technologies such as those we build at Lightwave Logic can be the shining light from an otherwise dark cloud that we have all experienced (and some continue to experience).

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Enjoy your work — you tend to be more successful then. Engineers, scientists, leaders — they all do better when they enjoy what they are doing. I think of this as my hobby.
  2. Always be hungry — it works if you are an entrepreneur, or in the case of corporate environments — an intrapreneur. The advice I received as a young student is correct, and I still continue to be hungry.
  3. Have a plan to raise money — without it even the best inventions, ideas, and concepts wither away. On one hand, I’ve had really cool ideas and ran them past venture capitalists, but if the topic is not attractive and timely, you can’t raise money. On the other-hand, if you are in a project, start-up, or internal division in a company, raise money when you don’t need to — it could be your best leverage point.
  4. When you need to make decisions (even at home), make sure the issue passes ‘the red face’ test — it’s a brilliant metric for calibration. Remember those times when your parents asked if you raided the biscuit tin (I’m from the UK — we don’t have cookie jars!), and your face went red because you said no, but you secretly did…that’s it exactly!
  5. Be nice — people like to work with people who are pleasant. Business is about getting things done, and yes, there are instances when nice won’t work, but it does most of the time. In my perspective, the majority of people tend to want to enjoy working with people, and whether they are nice is revealed through their interpersonal skill-base.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

As the internet increases in bandwidth with technologies such as polymer modulators that we build at Lightwave Logic, we, as a society have to imagine what this will do for us. Unlimited bandwidth into our homes, offices, and mobile phone means we will be exposed to huge amounts of information, some we like, some we won’t want to see, and some that won’t leave us alone. Managing information is going to be a key trait for all of us as we age, and it will enrich our lives. Unfortunately for some of us, the increased information may weigh us down, may give us incorrect sources of information, and guide us in the wrong direction. Learning to manage this will be something we all have to watch over the next decade. If there is something to inspire a movement — it is how to handle information overload. Somewhere along the line, some of us will learn to use the off-switch! We actually do have that power at our finger-tips!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow our work by visiting Lightwave Logic’s website or LinkedIn page.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication

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