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Transforming university nanoscience discoveries into smaller, faster electronics is the aim of a new multi-institutional collaboration.

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A UNL physics team leads the Center for NanoFerroic Devices, a $7.125 million research collaboration involving six universities and an industry consortium. Funded by the Semiconductor Research Corp. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, it’s one of three new multi-university research centers that are part of the second phase of the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative.


From left: Alexei Gruverman, Peter Dowben, Kirill Belashchenko, Xia Hong and Evgeny Tsymbal (not pictured, Christian Binek)

The center builds on advances that UNL and its Materials Research Science and Engineering Center have made in exploring nanomaterials to surpass current technological limitations, said physicist Evgeny Tsymbal, George Holmes Professor of Physics who co-directs the new center with UNL colleague Peter Dowben, Charles Bessey Professor of Physics. Tsymbal also directs UNL’s MRSEC, which the National Science Foundation funds. “The new center is a natural continuation of the research that we’ve been doing. Now we’re rising to a new level,” Tsymbal said.

Today’s electronics use an electric charge to store and process information, which limits the number of transistors that can occupy a chip. The new center is pursuing three alternatives to take advantage of nanoscale properties that require less energy, which could enable more compact and powerful devices.

UNL physicist Alexei Gruverman leads a team focused on nano-thin ferroelectric oxide, a material with both positive and negative polarization directions that can be read like a binary code to store information. A second initiative relies on UNL physicist Christian Binek’s work with spintronics, which manipulates electron spin to store information. The third initiative, led by Ilya Krivorotov at the University of California, Irvine, focuses on how electrons carry information by generating spin waves. UNL physicists Kirill Belashchenko and Xia Hong also work with the center.

“The new center is a natural continuation of the research that we’ve been doing. Now we’re rising to a new level.”

— Evgeny Tsymbal

Tsymbal said collaboration among researchers and industry is critical to moving fundamental principles from the laboratory to specific devices.

UNL’s university partners are University of California, Irvine; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University at Buffalo, SUNY; University of Delaware; and Oakland University. Industry partners include IBM, Intel, Micron Technology, Texas Instruments and GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Semiconductor Research Corp. is the world’s leading university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies.