NSF: Investing $45M in future of semiconductors

UC research project is among 24 that will benefit from federal investment

The National Science Foundation announced $45 million in funding to support 24 semiconductor research and education projects, including one at the University of Cincinnati.

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Assistant Professor Sarah Watzman is studying “spin gapless semiconductors” in collaboration with four other academic institutions.

Sarah J. Watzman, Asst Professor
CEAS-Mech Eng & Materials Eng

UC Assistant Professor Sarah Watzman. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

The grants are designed to spur semiconductor development and manufacturing in the United States as part of the 2022 Chips and Science Act.

“Our investment will help train the next generation of talent necessary to fill key openings in the semiconductor industry and grow our economy from the middle out and bottom up,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said.

“By supporting novel, transdisciplinary research, we will enable breakthroughs in semiconductors and microelectronics and address the national need for a reliable, secure supply of innovative semiconductor technologies, systems and professionals.”

At UC, Watzman is studying the next generation of materials used in nanoelectronic devices called spin gapless semiconductors.

“These materials focus on spintronic applications, which combine electronics with spin, which is an intrinsic property of electrons,” Watzman said.

“Focusing on the spin of an electron, rather than on the whole electron, makes it possible to make smaller devices that operate at higher speeds and consume less energy,” Watzman said.

Watzman is collaborating on the research project with two professors in UC's College of Arts and Sciences.

Evgeny Mikheev, an assistant professor of physics, will work on the device development portion of the project while Assistant Professor Melissa Jacquart in philosophy will oversee technology communications. Jacquart is the associate director of the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science, which supports researchers in achieving broader impacts of their work on students and society.

“This project will also promote development of the semiconductor workforce through technical communication coursework and credentialing,” Watzman said.

UC is among 47 institutions that will use the NSF grants to support their two-dozen projects.

Featured image at top: UC College of Engineering and Applied Science students wear protective clothing while working with semiconductors in the Mantei Center's 8,000-square-foot clean room. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing

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