New U of A Research Center Aims to Transform Semiconductor Manufacturing

New U of A Research Center Aims to Transform Semiconductor Manufacturing
From left: Greg Salamo, Hiro Nakamura, Shui-Qing "Fisher" Yu, Hugh Churchill and Jin Hu, U of A. (Whit Pruitt/University of Arkansas)

The University of Arkansas will use a $10.3 million federal grant to establish an energy research center that could transform how semiconductors are manufactured, the school announced Tuesday.

The Center for Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors will be dedicated to investigating the formation of atomic orders in semiconductor alloys and their effects on various physical properties. The program seeks to enable reliable and cost-effective manufacturing of semiconductors, the essential material used in computers and other electric devices. 

Electrical engineering professor Shui-Qing “Fisher” Yu will lead a team of researchers including Distinguished Professor Greg Salamo, assistant professor Jin Hu, associate professor Hugh Churchill and assistant professor Hiro Nakamura.

The team is pursuing a hypothesis that material properties in semiconductor alloys can be designed and fabricated by manipulating the order of atoms, the university said in a news release.

The U of A team will lead researchers from institutions including Arizona State University, George Washington University, Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, Dartmouth College and the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.

The four-year grant is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's $540 million in research funding to universities and national laboratories focused on clean energy technologies. The initiative's ultimate goal is to create and develop low-carbon manufacturing processes that will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The research center is the second major semiconductor project announced at the U of A in the past year. The National Science Foundation in October 2021 awarded researchers a $17.9 million grant to build and operate a semiconductor fabrication center. It's planned to be the only silicon carbide facility of its kind in the U.S. open to external researchers.

Both projects come amid a global semiconductor shortage that has impacted chipmakers and slowed production of a wide range of devices from automobiles to gaming consoles. 

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