Bellotti to Lead Army Research Laboratory Center for Semiconductor Modeling

in MSE Spotlight Faculty, MSE Spotlight Research, NEWS

New collaborative Center will aid in streamlining semiconductor advancements

Electronics and optoelectronics devices based on semiconductor materials play a crucial role for a variety of defense, security and commercial applications. While the development of silicon electronics has reached a high level of sophistication enabled by accurate simulation tools, for other semiconductor material systems this is not the case. Many defense applications, for example, those in the electro-optical area, employ semiconductors for which simulation and design tools are much less mature and the technology associated to device fabrication still not completely understood. This introduces significant risks and delays in the development process that ultimately leads to cost overruns. As a result, the defense and security community is investing significant resources to address this challenge.

Professor Enrico Bellotti (ECE, MSE) is the principal investigator of a new $1.25 million interdisciplinary center that will work with collaborators from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, industry and academia to develop new simulation and design methodologies for semiconductor materials and devices.

A variety of electronics and optoelectronic devices, fabricated using semiconductor materials other than silicon, are critical components of many systems used and developed both by the Department of Defense and industrial organizations. Due to the relatively small market, a single industrial organization cannot afford the investment necessary to assess a priori the risks associated in using materials and technologies that are not fully developed in a final system. As a result, accurate modeling methodologies that can predict the performance under realistic operating and manufacturing conditions would provide invaluable information prior to the prototyping or testing phases.

The Center for Semiconductor Modeling (CSM) of Materials and Devices will bring together partners in academia, government and industry to work on common problems enabling the pooling of resources, talent and knowledge together to address the development of semiconductor materials for niche applications. The aim is to focus on solving fundamental problems in a collaborative environment to enable faster and more efficient semiconductor material and device development. This approach intends to be an alternative to the current model in which the innovation process at the fundamental level is performed within each organization and it is considered proprietary.

The first projects the CSM will tackle is focused on imaging systems for the infrared (IR) spectral range. These optoelectronics devices are made of compound semiconductors and are used for space research, night vision and surveillance, bio-medical imaging and autonomous vehicles guidance. While some of these imaging systems already provide state of the art performance, further improvements will require a deeper understanding of the material properties and their associated technology. The goal of the CSM is to provide a validated modeling framework to understand the limitations of current semiconductor materials, predict the behavior of new ones and guide the technological development allowing a faster and effective development process.