Engineering Researchers Earn $18M Grant to Construct Nationwide Semiconductor Fabrication Facility

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Engineering Researchers Earn $18M Grant to Build National Semiconductor Fabrication Facility

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Engineering researchers led by esteemed Professor Alan Mantooth have received US $ 17.87 million from the National Science Foundation to build and operate a national silicon carbide research and manufacturing facility at the University of Arkansas.

“The national impact of such a fabrication is enormous,” said Mantooth. “The country, which is a world leader in the development and manufacture of silicon carbide semiconductors, will also lead the race to commercialize almost all new breakthrough technologies, including those used by the military and general electronic devices that are essential to our economy are essential. ”

The unique and freely accessible facility at U of A will fill a void in US production of integrated circuits made from silicon carbide, a high performance semiconductor that is well suited to higher temperature environments. Silicon carbide has been studied for a long time, but until recently efforts to use it as a fully fledged semiconductor have been hampered by the unavailability of high quality silicon carbide wafers.

Currently, all US silicon carbide manufacturing facilities are for internal use only, and US research and development of silicon carbide integrated circuits is based on international manufacturing.

The U of A facility offers domestic opportunities for prototyping, proof-of-principle demonstrations, and device design. It will be the only freely accessible factory of its kind in the US, meaning its facilities and services will be available to outside researchers.

NSF funding will cover infrastructure, equipment, technology installation and expansion of existing facilities to accommodate new equipment. In addition, three full-time employees, a postdoc for four years and other funds for equipment and operating resources are funded.

Mantooth and other researchers at U of A Elektrotechnik have decades of experience working with silicon carbide. As one of the few university research groups, they are able to develop integrated circuits with the high-performance semiconductor.

The combination of this know-how with state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure will enable the production of superior integrated circuits for lighter and faster electronic systems that are also more energy efficient and more heat resistant.

For many years, integrated circuits for most electronic devices have been made only from silicon. Silicon carbide is changing the power electronics industry with its superior physical properties – an exceptionally strong physical bond that provides high mechanical, chemical, and thermal stability. The large band gap – the movement of electrons and photons within energy bands – and the high thermal stability also enable silicon carbide-based devices to operate at extreme temperatures.

The facility will provide integrated circuits, sensors and devices for military and industrial applications, such as solar inverters, electronics for cars – both electric and gas-powered – and systems used in heavy haulage and construction equipment such as bulldozers.

The electronics developed at the facility will also enable systems used in geothermal energy and space exploration.

The facility will train the next generation of semiconductor researchers and engineers who can work in both the silicon and silicon carbide semiconductor industries. Students of all study levels are given research opportunities and are confronted with an important area of ​​science and technology.

Research will also involve underrepresented students in this new and emerging field of electronics.

Co-project leaders on this project are Greg Salamo, Distinguished Professor of Physics, Zhong Chen, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Shannon Davis, Business and Operations Manager in the Department of Electrical Engineering and John Ransom, Director of Silicon Carbide Technology at X -FAB in Lubbock , Texas.

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