UA Cashing In for Computer Chips


Remember two weeks ago when we praised University of Arkansas researchers in an editorial for their work to develop cost-effective silicon carbide computer chips, work that could help keep the U.S. technologically competitive?

That was spurred by the school announcing a $17.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to build and operate a semiconductor fabrication center to produce those chips.

Well, the new news is the project has been awarded another one-year, $5.4 million grant to equip the center, supply materials and pay researchers, Distinguished Professor Alan Mantooth told Whispers last week. He also said U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, helped secure this funding.

It is a collaborative research grant with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, Mantooth said. The lab contributed $900,000, while the Army Research Office contributed $4.5 million.

That $4.5 million will be spent on equipment. The rest will be used to cover staff compensation, tuition and materials.

Mantooth also said the Army asked for a five-year plan when the UA applied for the grant in early 2020, but he cautioned that there isn’t a guarantee the grant will be renewed.

The Army is investing in this project because it’s interested in high-voltage technology with both field and base applications, Mantooth said.

“The advantage is [of] building systems out of this [silicon carbide] material is that they can be both high voltage but also lightweight for mobile systems,” he said.

That means the new type of chip could allow soldiers to more quickly move and set up power distribution systems.