New Interferometer

Dr. Cardinal Warde, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on materials, devices and systems for optical information processing. Warde holds ten key patents on spatial light modulators, displays, and optical information processing systems. He is a co-inventor of the microchannel spatial light modulator, membrane-mirror light shutters based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), an optical bistable device, and a family of charge-transfer plate spatial light modulators.

Warde grew up in the small Caribbean island of Barbados. As a young boy he started making his own toys. In Barbados he attended St. Christopher’s Boys School, Boys’ Foundation School and Harrison College, and was a sprinter on the high school track team. His parents demanded excellence of him in school, but gave him lots of freedom and support so he could engage his inquisitive mind outside the classroom. By age 16, he had converted his father’s unused carpenter’s shop into a chemistry and physics laboratory, and with his high school friends he was launching homemade rockets (with mice aboard) from the beach near his home. Fortunately, he says, none of his rockets escaped earth’s gravity and most of the mice got their freedom when the rockets crashed.

After finishing high school in 1965, Warde boarded a plane for the United States. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1969, where he was also a member of the school’s varsity soccer team.  His passion for physics continued into graduate school at Yale University where he earned MPhil and PhD degrees in 1971 and 1974.

While at Yale, Warde invented a new interferometer that would work near absolute zero temperature in order to measure the refractive index and thickness of solid oxygen films for his PhD research. This experience stimulated his keen passion for optics and optical engineering. Immediately after earning his PhD, Warde wrote letters to several of the leading engineering and science universities inquiring about possible appointment to their faculties.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) responded to his inquiry, and he joined its faculty of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1974 as an Assistant Professor.

Warde’s interest shifted toward the engineering applications of optics at MIT. He became involved with other members of the faculty in the development of devices for enhancing the performance of optical atmospheric (wireless) communication systems to improve communication performance in inclement weather, and on the development of photorefractive materials for real-time holography and optical computing. He has published over one hundred technical papers on optical materials, devices and systems.

Warde's research activities are focused on the development of optical neural-network co-processors that are expected to endow the next generation of PC’s with rudimentary brain-like processing;  transparent liquid-crystal microdisplays for display eyeglasses and novel cellular phones;  membrane-mirror-based spatial light modulators for optical switching and projection displays;  and spectro-polarimetric imaging sensors for remote-sensing applications.

In addition to his research and teaching duties, Warde is also an entrepreneur. In 1982 he founded Optron Systems, Inc., an incubator dedicated to developing novel electro-optic and MEMS displays, and light shutters and modulators for optical signal processing systems. Then in 1999 he co-founded Radiant Images, Inc., a company engaged in the manufacture of transparent liquid-crystal VLSI microdisplays for digital camera and camcorder viewfinders, portable telecommunications devices, and display eyeglasses.

Dr. Warde has also dedicated himself to working with Caribbean governments and organizations to help stimulate economic development in the Caribbean area. He lectures frequently throughout the Caribbean at scientific and government meetings on the role of technology and education reform on economic development. He also serves as a scientific advisor to the Government of Barbados. Warde has also mentored students in the Network Program of the New England Board of Higher Education. The goals of this program are to motivate and encourage minority youth in the six New England states to consider majoring in science and engineering and to pursue careers in these fields. Warde currently serves as Faculty Director of the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) program at MIT.

He has been recognized with a number of awards and honors for his work, including the Renaissance Science and Engineering Award from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1996 and the Companion of Honour Award (the second highest honor awarded by the Government of Barbados) in 2003.