Advancing nanoelectronics research

  • 11-Jun-2011 03:59 EDT
ale lukaszew.jpg

Ale Lukaszew investigates surface properties of vanadium dioxide and other materials as part of a university consortium known as the Virginia Nanoelectronics Center (ViNC). (Photo by Joseph McClain/College of William & Mary)


When three universities launched the Virginia Nanoelectronics Center (ViNC) in May, researchers gained a venue for sharing information to develop next-generation electronics.

Technical specialists at the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, and The College of William & Mary will exchange information and data that will help develop advanced materials, novel devices, and circuits at nano-scale dimensions via the ViNC venture.

"The collective expertise of professors specializing in various areas of scientific research can accomplish more than one single investigator," Ale Lukaszew, the Virginia MicroElectronics Consortium (VMEC)'s Distinguished Associate Professor of Applied Science and Physics at the College of William & Mary, told AEI.

With researchers sharing insights and findings via web-based postings, the ViNC functions as an information repository rather than the designation for a specific brick-and-mortar facility.

Each ViNC partner university has access to specific laboratory equipment. The University of Virginia has a dedicated nanotechnology building. Old Dominion University's principal investigator uses on-campus resources as well as the Applied Research Center in Newport News, Virginia. The William Small Physical Laboratory, recently renovated with an additional 22,000 ft² (2043 m²) of space, is the primary resource center for the College of William & Mary's lead researcher.

Research efforts for the initial ViNC project are focused on the development of information processing based on vanadium dioxide.

According to Stuart Wolf, a University of Virginia professor and director of the school's Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Scientific and Technological Advanced Research (nanoSTAR) as well as the ViNC director, "Vanadium oxide is a phase change material with a transition temperature of 60°C. The benefits are much lower power operation, which would translate to denser circuits or lower power operation for circuits with similar devices."

ViNC's formation includes starting grants from the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (a technology research consortium) as well as VMEC and matching funds from the three universities of about $1.7 million over two years. The center's research projects also will receive funding from the U.S. government's National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The work done through the ViNC will serve as the building blocks for producing smaller electronics that can be used in a range of computer applications and mobile devices. But the automotive industry is also a prime candidate for reaping potential product benefits.

Instrument clusters, the digital information nerve center for today's vehicles, could realize additional improvements with technology advancements in nanoelectronics.

Noted Lukaszew, "Digital clusters enable a more cost-effective and flexible means to converge all vehicle safety and performance information. These advances offer new options but also require designers to find innovative solutions to problems such as cost control and power consumption while maintaining the ability to deliver critical performance capabilities.

"The next-generation electronics that could be developed based on research work at ViNC offers the possibility of faster and much more power-efficient electronics based on novel electronic switches."

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