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Photo courtesy of the University of Texas.

UT nanoelectronics center receives $7.8 million award

UT's South West Academy of Nanoelectronics (SWAN) 2.0 was awarded a grant from the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to continue its research in producing energy efficient nanoelectronics.
Photo courtesy of the University of Texas.

UT has received a $7.8 million grant for research in tiny technology that can make a big impact.

The South West Academy of Nanoelectronics (SWAN) 2.0 at the Cockrell School of Engineering was awarded a competitive grant from the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to continue its research in producing energy efficient nanoelectronics.

“The goal of [the research] is to try to invent the next transistor because current transistor technology is facing an energy crisis,” said Sanjay Banerjee, director of SWAN 2.0 and engineering professor. “They are consuming too much power.”

According to Banerjee, a transistor is a building block, an electronic switch used in every modern electronic device — computers, cellphones, televisions microwaves and more. With an increasing demand for devices that don’t overheat and do more while conserving battery life and electricity, there is a need for energy-efficient transistors.

The grant was a renewal from a previous award and the sum will be administered over five years. UT will be the main beneficiary among six other schools SWAN 2.0 works with,including UT Dallas, Texas A&M University, North Carolina State University, Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of California at San Diego.

In total, SRC-NIST awarded three research centers including SWAN 2.0 for the second phase of its Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI). This consortium includes companies such as IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments and more.

In addition to helping develop innovative nanotechnology that can benefit these industries and their consumers, this grant will help provide educational opportunities for UT’s engineering students, said Gregory Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School.

“This will help continue to fund research in nanoelectronics, and most of the research is done by graduate students, so this is a tremendous benefit,” Fenves said. “We also have a number of undergraduate students who do undergraduate research in the microelectronics and the nanoelectronics area, so this will provide more opportunities for undergraduate researchers.”

Chris Corbet is a fifth year engineering graduate student who is part of the research team at SWAN 2.0.

“UT is a top 10 school for my specific brand of electrical engineering,” Corbet said. “The research opportunities that a school of this caliber provides are immeasurable. My project has been directly funded by SWAN from the onset of my work at UT.Losing this grant would have forced a shift in the focus of my research adding time before completion of my PhD.”

Banerjee said that 80 percent of the funds will be used to provide graduate research assistantships for students like Corbet. The rest will go to overhead funds for infrastructure maintenance of the university.

Fenves said that these programs would not be possible without private grants. Banerjee agreed, saying that these private grants along with the state funds through the Emerging Technology Fund and UT system were instrumental in the foundation of SWAN 2.0. Banerjee said that $12 million came from Gov. Perry as matching funds and $10 million came from the UT System, on top of the $7.8 million from SRC-NIST.

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