Multifunctional smart sensors and high-power devices on a computer chip

October 4, 2010

Researchers from North Carolina State University have patented technology that is expected to revolutionize the global energy and communications infrastructure – and create U.S. jobs in the process.

The researchers have developed the means to, for the first time, integrate (GaN) sensors and devices directly into silicon-based . "This enables the development of high-power – high-voltage and high-current – devices that are critical for the development of energy distribution devices, such as smart grid technology and high-frequency military communications," says Dr. Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at co-holder of the patent.

"GaN can handle more power than conventional transistors. And it can do so faster, because it can be made into single crystals that are integrated into a silicon chip – so electrons can move more quickly," Narayan says.

"This integration of GaN on the silicon platform without any buffer layers has enabled the creation of multifunctional smart sensors, high-electron mobility transistors, high-power devices, and high-voltage switches for smart grids which impact our energy and environmental future," Narayan explains.

Integrating GaN into silicon chips also makes a broader range of radio frequencies available, which will enable the development of advanced communication technologies. "These devices stand to meet the challenges of high-power, high-frequency and high bandwidth needs for advanced consumer applications and military satellite communications," Narayan says.

"The United States still leads the world in innovation," Narayan says. "But with the advent of the internet and instant communication, just doing innovative research isn't enough any more. We have to take steps to ensure that our advantage in innovation can be translated into products that create jobs here at home."

"Direct integration of devices based on different types of semiconductors onto silicon chips is of considerable interest because it can enable different functionalities, such as lasers or higher performance transistors," says Dr. Pradeep Fulay of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the GaN research at NC State. "Professor Narayan has used a special process that allows integration of semiconducting materials like GaN on the silicon so as to create hybrid type computer chips. This research will likely lead to transistors with far superior power and performance sought for many commercial and military communication applications."

The research that led to the GaN breakthrough was done by Narayan and former NC State Ph.D. student Thomas Rawdanowicz and published in Applied Physics Letters and U.S. Patent Granted (20050124161).

NSF is currently funding additional research in this area by Narayan. A U.S.-based corporation is already in the process of licensing the technology.

Explore further: IMEC demonstrates growth of GaN high-electron mobility transistors on 150 mm silicon

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not rated yet Oct 04, 2010
"...and create U.S. jobs in the process." How can anyone say that and guarantee it? When it comes to private enterprise the board of any corporation doesn`t give a hoot about "US jobs" what matters is how much they can increase value of shares and outsourcing.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2010
So, does this mean that they fixed the crystal defect problem too? I wonder if they still have to dope it to get it to match up with the Si lattice?

Smaller, lighter, cheaper microwave ovens would be nice. That's one application of this, if they actually have got it working as they claim. Blu-Ray players use GaN laser doides, but I'm not sure if this new technology would apply to that.

Selling parts for electrical infrastructure and military comms is good, but getting an edge in a mass market consumer product is the goose that lays golden eggs.

"How can anyone say that and guarantee it? "

Quite a bit of the military work must be done by US companies, by US citizens. My brother has a job of that nature.
not rated yet Oct 04, 2010
a work force the size of that of the US cannot survive only on high tech jobs for the military. Just imagine if outsourcing were reversed and jobs brought back home from china, india and the likes.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2010
a work force the size of that of the US cannot survive only on high tech jobs for the military. Just imagine if outsourcing were reversed and jobs brought back home from china, india and the likes.

Then we could afford to buy things and actually pay for them and not live on credit. :0
Then we could afford to save a little towards retirement instead of having to look forward to Vapor-ware like Social Security.
Even government jobs are not secure. Look at Kalifornia and furloughs.

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