UTEP awarded $917K Grant to Advance Semiconductor Technology

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Advanced Materials Research has received a $917,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to continue developing and improving advanced materials for national defense, power electronics and security interests.

“This project is yet another example of UTEP’s leadership in research and discovery that has direct applications, and which is of public value,” said Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D., UTEP vice president for research. “This award creates an exceptional opportunity for our students, many of whom will be able to expand their knowledge in the field of materials engineering.”

Ramana Chintalapalle, Ph.D., director of the Center for Advanced Materials Research and a professor of mechanical engineering at UTEP, is a principal investigator for the grant.

“This grant will allow UTEP students to perform cutting-edge research in an area that is critical to the Department of Defense, and most importantly, with the Air Force…This project will also provide ample opportunities for our students to find pathways to careers that have a direct impact on our national security.”

Ramana Chintalapalle, Ph.D., director of the Center for Advanced Materials Research

Research officials say this effort will focus on the design and development of advanced materials based on gallium oxide and its alloys. Gallium oxide belongs to a class of materials known as ultra-wide bandgap semiconductors, which can operate at higher voltages, frequencies and temperatures than traditional semiconductors such as silicon.

Because of these properties, gallium oxide has attracted the attention of the scientific and engineering research community for its potential to allow for the design and development of devices that can operate in extreme conditions.

“We are developing materials that will be lighter and stronger,” Chintalapalle said. “Not just stronger from a mechanical standpoint, but they will be stronger enough for unseen radiations, unseen weather conditions and unseen extreme high temperatures and pressures.”

The increased interest in gallium oxide and other ultra-wide bandgap oxides is also attributed to the tunable properties exhibited by this class of materials, which are vital for a range of applications for U.S. defense and national security interests. These applications include energy storage and conversion, and the production of high-efficiency power electronic devices such as those in aircraft electronics, radar systems and electric vehicles

UTEP’s Center for Advanced Materials Research team is collaborating with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) on this project. In addition to the AFOSR grant, the project will leverage contributions from within UTEP and the national laboratories for student opportunities in research and development activities.

College officials say students in this project will develop technical and professional skills relevant in the semiconductor industry. Some of them will also spend a summer and/or a full semester at CMU to perform research using advanced facilities in the Bertucci Nanotechnology Laboratory. This will also provide opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas, student mentoring and interdisciplinary training

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