Sergio Cova

Professor emeritus of Politecnico di Milano


  • Year of nomination: 2011
  • Facility: Department of Electronics and Information [facility name no longer in use]
  • E-mail:

"Sergio Cova graduated in Nuclear Engineering from Politecnico di Milano in 1962 and he was an INFN researcher from 1963 to 1964. From 1964 to 1976 he was Physics Assistant and Lecturer at Politecnico di Milano and at the University of Parma. From 1976 to 1977 he was Full Professor of Electronics at the University of Bari and from 1977 he has been Full Professor at Politecnico di Milano.

Sergio Cova's academic and scientific career progressed in a period that witnessed extraordinary technological evolutions: from the birth of microelectronics and optoelectronics to the era of pervasive electronic systems and sensors being applied in the most diverse ways. By actively working in this scientific and technological context, Prof. Sergio Cova has brought prestige to the University with his gifts both as a teacher and as a scientist.

As a teacher, Professor Sergio Cova has promoted and supervised the launch of key courses in the teaching of Electronic Engineering (Electronic Devices and Electronic Equipment), helping to shape the peculiar didactic style of Politecnico’s Electronic Engineering Programme. From 1979 to 1998, as Head of the Lifelong Learning Programme of Politecnico di Milano, he coordinated activities dedicated to technological and cultural development in industry.

As a scientist, Professor Sergio Cova has made innovative contributions in the physics and technology of optical and ionising radiation detectors, microelectronics, electronic and optoelectronic instrumentation, collaborating with researchers from other fields (physics, astronomy, biochemistry and molecular biology) in interdisciplinary activities and developing new techniques and specific devices.

He played a pioneering role in 'photon counting and timing' technology, designing and developing the 'Single-Photon Avalanche Diode' (SPAD) detectors, and extending the application of single-photon techniques up to the infrared spectral region, using SPAD devices in Germanium and compound semiconductors.

He invented the Active-Quenching Circuit (AQC) which paved the way for the usage of SPADs.

He led a research group that developed SPAD devices and AQC circuits in successive generations, being the first to create them in a single integrated form in 1995. These activities are today one of the representative of the Department of Electronics and Information fields of research.

The impact of his scientific and technological activity is demonstrated by his scientific publications (over 240 articles in scientific journals and international conferences and 4 US and EU patent licenses), by numerous citations and by recognitions at international level (1992 IEEE Fellow, 2000 IEEE Life Fellow, Distinguished Lecturer IEEE Photonics Society).

In 2004 Prof. Sergio Cova was also co-founder of the spin-off MPD - 'Micro-Photon Devices Srl' which, having established itself as an international leader in the field of single photon detectors, exports 95% of its production and testifies to the ability to translate the results of university research into a technological enterprise."

[extract from the 2011 nomination statement]