UA Gets $17.9M Grant to Build Semiconductor Fabrication Center

UA Gets $17.9M Grant to Build Semiconductor Fabrication Center
A silicon wafer being placed on a semiconductor device by a die attach machine. The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has received a grant to build and operate a semiconductor fabrication facility. (Shutterstock)

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville researchers have been awarded a $17.9 million grant from the federal National Science Foundation to build and operate a semiconductor fabrication center.

It will be the only silicon carbide facility of its kind in the U.S. open to external researchers, the university said in a news release Monday. The facility will provide domestic opportunities for device design, prototyping and proof-of-principle demonstrations.

The announcement comes amid a global semiconductor shortage that has impacted chipmakers and slowed production of a wide range of devices from automobiles to gaming consoles. 

The new facility will produce integrated circuits, sensors and devices with a number of industrial applications, including electronics for electric and gas-powered vehicles, solar inverters, and systems for construction equipment such as bulldozers. 

There are also military applications for the technology, according to the release.

“The national impact of having a fabrication facility such as this is enormous,” said University of Arkansas professor Alan Mantooth, who leads the team of engineering researchers that received the grant. “The country that leads the world in advancing silicon carbide semiconductor design and fabrication will also lead the race to market nearly all new game-changing technologies, including those used by the military, as well as general electronic devices that are essential to our economy.”

The grant will pay for infrastructure, equipment, technology installation and upgrades to existing facilities. It will also fund the employment of three full-time staffers and a post-doctoral researcher.