Drexel-Led Team Joins Collaborative Effort to Advance Semiconductor Technology

PHILADELPHIA, October 21, 2011

A team of scientists and engineers led by Drexel materials science and engineering professor Dr. Jonathan Spanier and collaborators Dr. Andrew Rappe of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Lane Martin, Dr. Nadya Mason, and Dr. Moonsub Shim the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) joins a group of research teams nationwide in striving to revolutionize the tiny electronic components that keep the world’s technology moving at ever-increasing speeds.

The Semiconductor Research Corporation in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, has awarded $20 million to a dozen groups of researchers that will examine the use of new materials, devices and architecture to revolutionize the sustainability, efficiency and production of semiconductors.

"The cooperation and support of industry in this effort through the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative of the Semiconductor Research Corporation also brings a significant perspective to the grantees' research with opportunities for mentoring of their students," said Dr. Lawrence Goldberg, senior engineering advisor at the National Science Foundation.

The team of Spanier, chemist Rappe and physicist Mason, and materials scientists Martin and Shim of UIUC will share $1.8 million of the NSF/SRC funds to focus on new materials essential in realizing the new nanoelectronic devices.

According to Spanier, Drexel’s part of this collaboration, which is called the Meta-Capacitance and Spatially Periodic Electronic Excitation Devices (MC-SPEEDs), will focus on investigating and developing new ways of encoding information using interactions among electrons in a semiconductor that are controlled by the presence and properties of new materials.

“We anticipate that the outcomes of this research have the potential to change how we use and interface with computers and other devices in our daily lives. With our collaborators at Penn and the UIUC we seek to build on the history of innovation in the birth of modern computing at these institutions.”

The Drexel/Penn/UIUC team joins 11 other interdisciplinary teams led by researchers at Columbia, Cornell, MIT, Notre Dame, the University of California at Riverside, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Pittsburgh, and Virginia Commonwealth in an initiative called Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond (NEB). The vision of NEB is that collaborative research combined with industry partnership will accelerate the discovery and development of new materials, methods and systems for producing nanoelectronics.

“The search for a new semiconductor device that will provide the U.S. with a leadership position in the global era of nanoelectronics relies on making discoveries at these kinds of advanced universities,” said Jeff Welser, director of the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) for SRC. “These schools have the talent and capabilities needed to produce critical research that helps to raise both our national competitiveness and economic progress.”

This team-driven approach allows each group of researchers to contribute in their areas of specialty in hopes of making unified discoveries that reshape the field of nanoelectronics, while also generating data and technology that can be used in the nanoelectronics industry.

“The best thing about the team is that it brings together expertise from a number of different fields – computational materials science, synthesis of materials, oxides, carbon-based systems, advanced transport studies, optical characterization and much more,” Lane, the team’s representative from the University of Illinois-Urbana said. “It means that our students and researchers are exposed to new ways of thinking about materials, devices and approaches to science. In my opinion, that is one of the most important, but often overlooked, features of such a team. I learn something new and impactful every time I interact with professors Spanier, Rappe, Mason and Shim.”

Another important aspect of the four-year grant is the partnership it creates between research and industry via the NSF and SRC. Regular meetings between team leaders and representatives from the SRC, an industry and university consortium that will participate in ensuring the technological relevance of the translational research developed by the NEB member teams, with an ultimate goal of commercial product.

“Modern science and engineering research benefit greatly from interactions with industry, because they formulate the problems that they see as blocking innovative products that can benefit society,” Rappe, who is a collaborator from the University of Pennsylvania. “Industry/academia dialog accelerates our progress toward practical innovative solutions.”

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