News Archive 2022

News Articles

Arkansas Nanotech Researcher Jin-Woo Kim named IEEE Fellow

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Jan 25, 2022

Jin-woo Kim, A Professor And Researcher With The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, Was Inducted As A Fellow Of The Institute Of Electrical And Electronics Engineers On Jan. 1 For His Contributions To Nanotechnology.

A professor of biological and agricultural engineering for the experiment station, the research arm of the U of A System Division of Agriculture, and the U of A College of Engineering, Kim has devoted much of his career to developing advanced nanoparticle systems into practical tools for medical, agricultural and manufacturing uses. 

IEEE elevated Kim to IEEE fellow status for his contributions to nanoscale fabrication of bio/nano-hybrid materials. The IEEE is a professional organization for the advancement of technology with more than 400,000 members in over 160 countries. Only about 5,000 members have been named IEEE fellows. Kim was among 311 senior members bestowed with the honor in 2022.

"We congratulate Dr. Kim for his induction as fellow of IEEE," said Jean-François Meullenet, senior associate vice president for agriculture-research and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. "We know this is a very special honor for him and a great recognition for his breakthrough work in nanoscience. Well deserved."

"It is a prestigious honor and an important career achievement," said Lalit Verma, head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. "Dr. Kim's research and development work and innovative technology will enhance the economic well-being and quality of life in Arkansas and the world."

Kim's contributions to nanotechnology have helped develop a method to treat cancer in collaboration with the U of A for Medical Sciences.

"I have found him to always be an innovative, deep thinker and someone with a special ability to think across disciplines as he collaborates on exciting work related to our cancer detection and drug delivery interests," said Robert J. Griffin, Ph.D., of the UAMS Department of Orthopedic Surgery. "His work on DNA-based nanoparticles was particularly fascinating as he was able to ingeniously use the natural properties of DNA to create multi-functional nanomaterials with exciting potential."

Verma said Kim's work with nanoparticles has the potential to transform many fields of research, ranging from optoelectronics, nanophotonics and nanomedicine to agriculture, food safety and biosecurity. Kim has been developing innovative technology to guide the self-assembly of nanoparticles into specific shapes and functions that he calls "nano-toolbox technology." He has also used the technology to investigate the applications of nanocellulose created from timber industry waste

Kim serves as a co-founder and a scientific advisory board member to CelluDot LLC, a Fayetteville start-up company working to turn nanocellulose into materials that can be used for a variety of uses including agricultural adjuvants, medical diagnosis agents, smart fabrics, packing materials and filters.

"Perhaps the highest form of recognition is one received from your peers," said Kim LaScola Needy, dean of the College of Engineering and professor of industrial engineering. "Fellow status in IEEE is extremely competitive and reserved for those who have advanced their profession in a significant way. I am so pleased to see that Dr. Kim has received this much deserved recognition for his important work."

Steve Tung, professor and graduate coordinator for the Department of Mechanical Engineering, also gave his congratulations to Kim on the award.

"In the last two decades, he has contributed greatly to our understanding of bio-nanotechnology and also provided a strong leadership role in his service for the IEEE Nanotechnology Council," Tung said.

Kim has been a member of the IEEE since 1998 when he was pursuing his doctorate in biological and agricultural engineering at Texas A&M University. He has been director of the Bio/Nano Technology Group at the U of A since 2001 and served in many key leadership roles with the IEEE over the years, including vice president for publications and vice president for conferences of the IEEE Nanotechnology Council, as well as the co-editor-in-chief of the IEEE Open Journal of Nanotechnology, IEEE's rapid and open-access journal.

"I am humbled and thankful for the recognition," Kim said. "It feels truly amazing to have my work recognized, but it would not be possible without the support and motivation from many people during my career — I am grateful to all!"

"The IEEE Fellow is one of the most prestigious honors of the IEEE and is bestowed upon a very limited number of senior members who have contributed importantly to the advancement or application of engineering, science and technology bringing significant value to our society," said Susan K. Land, outgoing IEEE president and CEO.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch.

About the Division of Agriculture: The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation's historic land grant education system. The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Researchers to Develop Solid Lubricant Coatings for Conveyor Systems

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — May 04, 2022

A research and development team led by Min Zou, professor of mechanical engineering and an Arkansas Research Alliance Fellow, has received a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop low-friction, durable, graphite-lubricant coatings for industrial conveyor systems.

Belt conveyors comprise about a quarter of the $7.65 billion global conveyor market, which has expanded significantly in recent years because of e-commerce. However, an enormous amount of energy is wasted in these systems. High sliding friction between conveyor belts and slider bed materials is responsible for more than half of the total energy losses in a flat conveyor system.

The researchers will develop novel graphite coatings that will significantly reduce energy consumption and equipment failure in conveyor systems. The research will also deepen a fundamental understanding of the novel coating technology to enable applications in other fields, which could lead to significant savings in many U.S. industries.

The technology is based on a unique, patented bonding approach, developed by Zou’s group, in which graphite coatings adhere tightly to a substrate material.

After developing and optimizing fast-coating deposition processes for conveyor materials, the researchers will build scalable coating processes for full-sized belt conveyors. They will then build a prototype for evaluating the coating performance and demonstrate the feasibility of the coatings for industrial applications.

The new project is a collaboration between university researchers and industry leaders. Zou’s team at the U of A will partner with researchers at Arkansas State University and Hytrol Conveyor Company Inc., the largest conveyor manufacturer in the U.S.

Robert Fleming, assistant professor at Arkansas State; Ty Keller, Hytrol’s manager of product innovation; and Boyce Bonham, Hytrol’s chief engineer, will serve as co-principal investigators.

The project will support a doctoral student at the U of A, who will serve as the entrepreneurial lead, a master’s student at Arkansas State, and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups. They have benefited from site and national NSF I-Corps training and Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation support and training, as well as mentoring by Cynthia Sides, assistant vice chancellor for research and innovation at the U of A, and Douglas Hutchings, director of the Arkansas Research Alliance Academy.

Zou’s research focuses on nanoscale materials and manufacturing. She is an international expert on surface engineering and tribology — the study of friction, wear and lubrication in the design of bearings and interacting surfaces in motion. Zou has designed, refined and tested solid lubricant coatings for various applications. The coatings are thinner, more durable and environmentally superior to petroleum-based oil lubricants.

Zou holds the Twenty-First Century Chair of Materials, Manufacturing and Integrated Systems.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

The Magic of Nano-Surface Engineering; Zou Discusses Effort to Develop Low-Friction Lubricant Coatings for Mechanical Systems and Biomedical Implants

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — July 05, 2022

In this month's Short Talks from the Hill, Min Zou, professor of mechanical engineering, explains nano-surface engineering and her effort to develop low-friction, lubricant coatings and surfaces for mechanical systems and biomedical implants.

For the past six years, Zou has served as director of the multi-institutional Center for Advanced Surface Engineering, made possible by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation through its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, otherwise known as EPSCoR.

The center consists of 10 universities in the state of Arkansas, involving faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students working to develop new materials and surfaces with multiple functions.

"Overall, the center has helped improve the research competitiveness of the state of Arkansas in the field of material science and engineering, and we continue to impact major industry sectors," Zou says in the podcast.

In her 19 years at the university, there isn't much Zou hasn't accomplished. She is an Arkansas Research Alliance Fellow and faculty member of both the Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program. She holds the Twenty-First Century Chair of Materials, Manufacturing, and Integrated Systems.

To listen to the podcast, click the link above. Short Talks from the Hill highlights research, scholarly work and economic development news at the University of Arkansas. Previous podcasts can be found at the link above or by visiting

Thank you for listening!

Deconstructing the Body

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — July 06, 2022

When it comes to achieving success, Kartik Balachandran takes an unorthodox view: “Fail fast, fail cheap.” As an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas, Balachandran specializes in building microphysiological systems -- 3D organ constructs engineered from human cells and tissues that mimic critical human functions. Informally referred to as “organs-on-chips” – and not the kind you use to swab up salsa – these chips are measured in inches and can simulate the basic functions of the liver, heart, lungs or most any other organ with remarkable accuracy.

This makes organs-on-chips incredibly useful benchtop platforms for studying and understanding biological mechanisms, including what happens when diseases, toxins or trauma interfere with them. Organs-on-chips also have a crucial role to play in developing new therapeutic treatments.

“There are thousands of candidate molecules that chemists come up with,” Balachandran explains. “Then they have to figure out which [pharmacological drugs] are going to be successful.”

This typically involves an exhaustive process of animal testing to weed out bad candidates, followed by several rounds of human testing in clinical trials, until finally the best candidate emerges – a process that can take a decade or more.

“If we take a look at the success rates, they’re quite abysmal,” Balachandran says. Of the initial thousand candidates, “You have maybe one that succeeds in the end. So the motivation for this field was to come up with a method where you can really identify the candidate drugs that will be most successful in a human application and then model that.”

In essence, organs-on-chips greatly reduce the need for animal testing by proceeding directly to human testing – without the concerns of harming actual humans. Experiments can be run quickly and cheaply, compared to clinical trials, so dead ends are discovered and abandoned much faster. In short, the system is designed to fail fast and cheap, accelerating the long journey to a successful therapeutic or basic scientific advance.

Of his initial interest in this work, Balachandran says, “I just thought that this was a really exciting field. There are so many diseases that are surrounded by unknowns. Nobody knows why they occur. Treatments are unknown or inadequate. So, I thought, if we can create human models without doing human trials, maybe that’s the way to go. This is how I can make an impact in the field.”

Inside the Balalab

In the back corridors of the Engineering Research Center (ENRC), located in the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, you’ll find Balachandran’s lab, nicknamed the Balalab. There he oversees a team of graduate and postdoctoral students that averages around three to five a year, along with a comparable number of undergraduates. At present, the team is focusing on three organs: heart, lung and brain. The lab is working under several ongoing grants, two of which were awarded in 2022.

The first is a $298,000 grant from the Department of Defense to develop and study the effects of particulate matter pollution on the nasal airway and lung interface. To do this they will create the first in vitro benchtop system to incorporate both the upper and lower respiratory systems into a single model – or chip.

Amanda Walls, a PhD student in biomedical engineering, co-wrote the lung-on-a-chip grant with Balachandran and is creating a working model of the nasal component. She said the emphasis is on “showing that the cells can survive on the chip the same as they can in a normal culture. Then I’ll be exposing them to particulate matter, probably without flow first, just seeing how particulate matter affects them, and then I’ll move on to adding air flow.” Lastly, she’ll develop the lung component, which will connect to the nasal component of the chip through a silicone airway, not unlike an actual throat.

The second grant awarded to Balachandran in 2022 was $437,000 from the National Institute of Health to study the downstream effects of acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) on the aortic valve. SARS-COV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, similarly to the way HIV can lead to AIDS. The goal of this grant is to gain a better understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship between the infection and heart valve pathology. This will involve development of a heart valve-chip that will simulate the structure and mechanics of human valve tissues. The chips will be enclosed and have channels for fluid to flow through, simulating blood flow. The project will be considered successful when they have achieved an effective model for viral infection of valve-chips and have obtained quantitative data in whether diseased valve-chips are more susceptible to viral infection compared to healthy valve-chips.

Building the Blood-Brain Barrier

Perhaps the project that best represents the basic research and commercial aspects of Balachandran’s work is a blood-brain barrier (BBB) chip. He’s currently working under two grants: one from the National Science Foundation to develop a BBB chip to study the effects of single and repeated traumatic injuries to the brain, the other a Small Business Innovation Grant from the Department of Defense to develop a basic commercial BBB platform for the study of traumatic brain injuries - The Advanced Microphysiological Brain Injury Technology (AMBIT) Platform.

The first step is to validate a physiologically relevant platform of the BBB that mimics the brain’s vasculature and endothelial cells, a membrane (the barrier), and the connecting neurons and pericytes. Easier said than done.

Lais Andrade Ferreira, a Fulbright Scholar from Brazil and PhD student in cell and molecular biology, is managing the project. She said she came to the U.S. because she wanted to do work that involved stem cells, neuroscience and disease modeling. Balachandran’s lab checked all the boxes.

To create the BBB platform, Ferreira uses human cells obtained from skin biopsies that are commercially available. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPSCs, and have been reprogrammed to a stem cell state. “Pluripotent” denotes cells that can be induced into becoming any other cell type. While it would be preferable to use primary brain cells, this would limit Ferreira to using animal cells, which don’t provide an accurate representation of the human brain.

Through a series of steps, which include introducing the cells to a nutrient and energy rich culture media and turning on or off signaling pathways, the IPSCs are induced into the desired cell types, such as endothelial cells for the blood vessel side of the chip, or pericytes on the neurological side. Pericytes help maintain the blood–brain barrier, regulate immune cell entry to the central nervous system and help control brain blood flow.

It can take days or weeks to grow a desired cell, so concurrently computer modeling is used to develop the chip design, simulating blood flow through the membrane -- from blood to brain, as it were. Physical chips are then manufactured onsite. The next step is getting the living cells attached to the chip and behaving in a physiologically relevant way. Once this is accomplished, the simulated organ will be subjected to stress in the form of a silicon sheet, which is attached to the chip and can be stretched and snapped to mimic a shock to the cells – or a traumatic brain injury.

As they develop models, Balachandran says, they are also consulting clinicians who better understand the basic biology of the organs under study and can help nudge the researchers toward better representations of natural physiology and pathologies. It’s a slow, iterative process of building prototypes until a comprehensive protocol has been devised.

But once the basic platform is validated, it doesn’t have to be exclusively used for traumatic brain injuries. It can be adapted to study a range of issues related to the BBB, including therapeutics for diseases like Alzheimer’s, whether that means trying existing or entirely new drugs.

Nanomatronix, a local company specializing in nanotechnology, microelectronics and biotechnology, is working with Balachandran to commercialize this technology. Gage Greening, a biomedical engineer working with Nanomatronix, explained the company’s interest this way: “Organ-on-chip technologies are revolutionizing the R and D space for diseases. And Dr. Balachandran is on the front end of this space. There is a unique business opportunity to explore technology that can be used to evaluate brain injury pathophysiology.” He added that while he saw the brain injury R and D as the primary market fit, the BBB chip clearly had implication across the field of neuroscience. Nanomatronix’s goal is to have a working prototype within two years.

Balachandran, for his part, is happy to see his work become commercially viable, but he maintains, “my primary passion is still the research side of things, understanding health and disease.”

The First Decade of Mentoring and Research

Since he was hired, Balachandran has authored or co-authored 27 papers, been a co-inventor on three patent applications, brought in more than $3 million in grants, advised 14 graduate students and received the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Teacher Award, Outstanding Researcher Award and, every year between 2013 and 2020, the Outstanding Mentor Award.

These last awards would seem to reinforce his own management philosophy: find good people and get out of the way. Amanda Walls confirmed he practices what he preaches: “Dr. B’s great. He’s very supportive of whatever direction you want to go.” She said that when she arrived two years ago, her intention was to study viruses, since it was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and on everyone’s mind. But as she read through the literature, she thought the effects of particulate matter on the lungs would be a more interesting avenue of investigation. “He was very on board with that,” Walls said, adding, “I think it’s super cool that he gives his students the freedom to pursue their interests.”

Balachandran has been with the Biomedical Engineering Department since its creation in 2012, among the first hires by inaugural chair, Ashok Saxena. In fact, the position was Balachandran’s first faculty position, as he was hired while doing a post-doctoral stint at Harvard. While entrusting their career to an unproven department with no history of accomplishment might have given some young faculty pause, Balachandran embraced the opportunity: “I thought it would be exciting to play a part in forming and developing this new department – whether that would be working with other faculty on the syllabus, the accreditations and setting up the research lab at the same time.”

Ten years later, his reasons for joining the U of A are largely unchanged. “Many of the things that initially excited me are still here. You know, it’s still a relatively new department in the bigger scheme of things, and I feel like I have a critical role to play in developing the biomedical engineering program.”

So long as it’s done fast and cheap, presumably.

Solomon Ojo Awarded Optics and Photonics Scholarship

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — July 12, 2022

A Ph.D. student researching innovative semiconductor materials growth and advanced nanofabrication techniques has been awarded a 2022 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, in recognition of his potential for contributions to the field.

Solomon Ojo studies materials science and engineering under the supervision of electrical engineering professor Shui-Qing "Fisher" Yu. Ojo's research involves integrated optoelectronic devices with an emphasis on Silicon-Germanium-Tin alloys sometimes called (Si)GeSn.

"(Si)GeSn is a disruptive technology that can increase the efficiency and significantly reduce the cost of devices such as lasers, photodetectors and infrared imaging devices," Ojo said.

He received a U of A Doctoral Academy Fellowship and currently serves as treasurer of the U of A's SPIE "Laserbacks" Student Chapter.

The society awarded $293,000 in education scholarships to 78 SPIE student members in 2022.

Physicist Defends Validity of Stokes-Einstein Equation in Living Systems

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — July 13, 2022

A physicist at the University of Arkansas has defended the validity of the Stokes-Einstein equation, one of Albert Einstein’s most famous equations, as it relates to biology. The research will help scientists better understand antibiotic resistance and the mechanical properties of cancer cells.

Working with proteins in live bacteria, Yong Wang, assistant professor in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, tested the 117-year-old equation, which provided evidence for the reality of atoms and molecules. He found that the famous equation remained valid for explaining how molecules move inside bacteria.

“Bacterial cytoplasm is not a simple soup,” Wang said. “Our study showed that it might be more like spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs.”

Cytoplasm is the crowded and complex material inside bacteria. It has high concentrations of large biological molecules, including millions of proteins, carbohydrates and salts, and all kinds of polymers and filaments, such as DNA and RNA.

Wang found that although Einstein’s equation appeared to be off for proteins’ motion within live bacteria, it remained valid by taking into account the entangled polymers and filaments inside bacteria.

The so-called Einstein relation – also called the Stokes-Einstein equation – is one of Einstein’s major research accomplishments in his “year of miracles,” 1905. Explaining the mobility of particles through liquid, the equation has been characterized as a stochastic model for Brownian motion, meaning particles move around randomly because of collisions with surrounding molecules. Most importantly, the theory provided early empirical evidence for the reality of atoms and molecules.

However, over the past two decades, scientists have challenged the theory’s validity as it applies to what’s inside live cells and bacteria. Wang’s study adds to this body of knowledge, helping resolve the current controversy.

More importantly, it provides a foundation for assessing the mechanical properties of cells and bacteria based on the Einstein relation. This should help scientists understand antibiotic resistance of certain microorganisms and the mechanical properties of cancer cells, which differ from the mechanical properties of normal, healthy cells.

On this study, which was published in Physical Review Letters, Wang worked with Lin Oliver, professor and chair of the Department of Physics, and Asmaa Sadoon, doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

NIST Awards $700,000 to Improve Small, Low-Cost, Wireless COVID Sensor

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Sept 16, 2022

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, via an application from the RAPID Manufacturing Institute, awarded the University of Arkansas $699,604 to improve a Wi-Fi nano-biosensor that will be used in a palm-sized, low-cost and wireless SARS-COV-II detection system.

Ryan Tian, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is the principal investigator. The detection system is anticipated to be the first of its kind, delivering not just more accurate positive and negative results in real time, but also confirming whether the coronavirus variants are alive (infectious) or dead (noninfectious).

“Our preliminary data strongly support the new nano-biosensor’s timely delivery,” Tian said. “The fact that our detector can tell whether the coronavirus is dead or alive, and not merely provide a positive result like current tests on the market, will change the game in fighting COVID and other future pandemics.”

The award to Tian and his team is part of a $3.77 million NIST grant to Avadain LLC, the Southwest Research Institute, Flextrapower Inc. and the U of A to scale up the production of graphene for use in improved respirators and nano-biosensors intended to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. As part of that larger grant, the Southwest Regional Institute will both provide and scale up its production of a higher-quality graphene flake that is large, thin and nearly defect free.

Graphene is a two-dimensional material that is a single atom in thickness and is one of the strongest, lightest and most conductive materials known. A key component of the team’s current nano-biosensor is graphene oxide, a low-cost substitute for graphene. Graphene and graphene oxide are chemically and physically different derivatives of graphite, a crystalline solid of carbon.

But according to Tian, graphene oxide has structural defects that hinder the charge transfer across the nano-biosensor’s surface. The high-quality graphene produced by Southwest Regional Institute is expected to improve the nano-biosensor’s accuracy, sensitivity, reliability and detection speed, potentially vaulting it ahead of other types of COVID-testing tools currently on the market such as PCR machines and ELISA test kits.

Tian also expects the detector to provide results at a lower cost, with greater user friendliness and simpler, large-scale manufacturing than the other test kits on the market. Under the terms of the grant, Tian and his team will deliver a cellphone-based, palm-size tool that detects coronavirus particles in the specimens and transmits the data via Wi-Fi.

Tian’s team was also awarded $50,000 from the NSF I-Corps Program. This program will allow Tian and his doctoral students, Ruqaiza Muhyudin and Yang Tian (no relation), to explore commercialization opportunities for the nano-biosensor. Tian says his sensor can also be used to detect foodborne, waterborne and airborne bacteria, as well as viruses, T- and B-cells, stem cells and cancerous cells. He anticipates it having broad applications for the food industry, healthcare and border security.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

$10.3 Million Grant Will Establish New Energy Frontier Research Center

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire — Sept 20, 2022

A team of researchers led by Shui-Qing “Fisher” Yu, electrical engineering professor at the U of A, will receive $10.35 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to establish an Energy Frontier Research Center.

The grant will establish the Center for Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors, the first Energy Frontier Research Center in Arkansas. The center will be dedicated to investigating the formation of atomic orders in semiconductor alloys and their effects on various physical properties.

This research program will enable reliable, cost-effective and transformative manufacturing of semiconductors, the essential material used in computers and other electric devices.

In addition to Yu, the team comprises four colleagues in the Department of Physics — Distinguished Professor Greg Salamo, assistant professor Jin Hu, associate professor Hugh Churchill and assistant professor Hiro Nakamura — and several researchers at other institutions.

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

The award is based on the multi-institutional team’s recent discovery that atoms in the alloy silicon germanium tin, a semiconducting material, demonstrate a short-range order in a periodic lattice. Short-range order refers to the regular and predictable arrangement of atoms over a short distance, usually only one or two atom spacings. This discovery had a significant effect on the energy band gap and led to the exciting hypothesis that material properties in semiconductor alloys could be designed and fabricated by manipulating the order of atoms.

“We particularly thank the institutional support from U of A, which played a critical role in proposal completion and will assist center operation,” Yu said.

The U of A will lead researchers from Arizona State University, George Washington University, Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, Dartmouth College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, University of Delaware and Sandia National Laboratory.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.