Envisioning a Bright Future for MBE Research


Charles Tu
Charles Tu speaks about developing dilute nitride crystals at the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series.

Charles Tu, an associate dean of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, is known for advancing the field of Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE), a method of depositing crystals atomic layer by atomic layer that is used to build devices like high-performance transistors, lasers, and solar cells.

He has already had many firsts in his work. Tu was the first to set up a gas-source MBE system in a university in the United States which allowed his research team to grow a wider variety of materials, such as arsenide and phosphides, than were previously possible. Today, he and his research team are growing dilute nitrides and are hoping they will be used toward improving solar power.

Tu had another first in his life last week when he delivered a lecture at Boston University as part of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series. The series invites prominent engineers to the university to speak about their research, and this was the first time Tu had spoken at BU.

During the lecture, Tu talked about developing dilute nitride crystals in his lab – a process that can get quite hot.

“I tell my students that working in my lab takes 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” he joked.

Tu offered background information about the growing process and said that he was very hopeful that this material could be used to make solar cells more efficient.

The talk not only gave students a chance to meet the renowned professor; it also gave Tu a chance to reconnect with Professor Theodore Moustakas (ECE), who has also made a name for himself in the MBE field. Moustakas said that it had been a pleasure to welcome Tu to campus.

“Incidentally his work and mine overlap quite a bit,” Moustakas told the audience as he introduced Tu at last week’s lecture.

Tu and Moustakas share another thing in common, too. They both previously won the MBE Innovator Award, given by the North American Molecular Beam Epitaxy (NAMBE) Conference.

In addition to that prize, Tu was awarded the Engineering Educator of the Year Award from San Diego County and the Pan Wen-Yuan Outstanding Research Award in Taiwan. He has also co-authored more than 390 journal papers.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)