University of Virginia and Partners Launch Nanoelectronics Center

May 25, 2011

The University of Virginia, in partnership with the College of William & Mary and Old Dominion University, has launched the Virginia Nanoelectronics Center (ViNC) to advance research aimed at developing next-generation electronics. Research conducted at the center will serve as the foundation for producing faster, smaller, and more affordable computer applications in everything from mobile devices and computers to automobiles and energy-efficient homes.

“This is a fantastic example of the kind of R&D partnership that will help propel Virginia to the forefront of the innovation economy,” Jim Duffey, Virginia’s secretary of technology, said.

The center will bring together world-class researchers to explore and develop advanced materials, novel devices, and circuits at nanoscale dimensions. It will operate under the auspices of the U.Va. Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Scientific and Technological Advanced Research (nanoSTAR). The university partners have worked closely with Micron Technology, a provider of advanced semiconductor solutions and owner of a memory chip manufacturing facility in Manassas, to launch the new center.

“The formation of ViNC underscores the long-term research partnership that Micron has enjoyed with the University of Virginia,” said Scott DeBoer, Micron’s vice president of process research and development. “The university has a strong history of research related to next-generation memory and logic switch technologies that have been funded under innovative programs such as the Virginia Microelectronics Consortium, the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative, and nanoSTAR.”

An important aspect of ViNC researchers’ work will be the discovery and development of materials for advanced information technologies.

Scientists generally agree that the fundamental limits of the current microelectronics technology known as CMOS will be reached in about a decade. ViNC will develop novel devices and circuits for beyond-CMOS nanoelectronics.

The center’s initial project is the development of information processing based on vanadium dioxide in place of traditional technologies. This approach offers the benefit of smaller size and faster processing at much lower power.

“This new center is positioning Virginia at the heart of the development of a new nanoscale technology,” said Stuart Wolf, director of nanoSTAR and ViNC. “This center could establish the commonwealth as the Oxide Hills rather than a new Silicon Valley.”

Wolf, a professor with joint appointments in the U.Va. Engineering School’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and in the College of Arts & Sciences Department of Physics, previously worked for more than 12 years with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he directed funding of more than $200 million for computing research projects.

Wolf will work closely with co-principal investigators Jiwei Lu, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and Mircea Stan and Lloyd Harriott, professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Ale Lukaszew from the College of William & Mary and Helmut Baumgart from Old Dominion University also will serve as co-principal investigators. 

The center is supported by the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative, one of three research program entities of the Semiconductor Research Corp. The initiative is funded by major semiconductor companies, Micron Technology, Intel, IBM, Texas Instruments, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The center also is supported by the commonwealth of Virginia through the Virginia Microelectronics Consortium, an industry-university state-funded consortium to promote microelectronics in Virginia.

“This unique center will allow leading researchers at our state universities to work at the frontier of nanoelectronics research,” Tom Skalak, U.Va. vice president for research, said. “ViNC is a superb example of what can be achieved when the University of Virginia collaborates with our higher education, industry, and government partners. This center demonstrates our capacity to develop technologies that drive global markets and to establish Virginia as a key destination for technology innovation.”

The center is being established with starting grants from the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative and the Virginia Microelectronics Consortium and matching funds from the three participating universities for a total of nearly $1.7 million over two years. The center’s projects also are funded by National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This center grew, in part, from an earlier project, Towards Establishment of an Industry-State-Federal National Center in Nanoelectronics, funded by the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund, previously known as the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund, and Micron Technology.

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