AES Semigas


27 July 2023

Michigan Semiconductor Hands-On Research Experience to help grow US workforce

In a program designed to help grow the US semiconductor workforce, a cohort of college students from across the country is spending summer at the University of Michigan learning how to make, study and improve advanced semiconductors.

They are working in the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility’s cleanroom, using industry-standard equipment, and immersing themselves in research. No prior knowledge of nanofabrication was required for the 10-week Michigan Semiconductor Hands-On Research Experience (M-SHORE), which is funded for three years by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), with support from the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). M-SHORE is designed to broaden participation in semiconductor-related engineering and encourage participants to pursue further academic studies in the field.

“The goal is to reach students who don’t have access to a facility like the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility or who have never had this type of hands-on training,” says Lurie Nanofabrication Facility’s director Becky Peterson, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We want them to gain real experience making and testing devices in a lab — to go beyond putting together circuits in a class to building the physical layers that make the devices inside a cleanroom.”

The recent chip shortage has highlighted the need for the USA to expand the domestic semiconductor manufacturing industry and workforce. “We need to focus on providing better training and expanding the number and types of students we train, so we can grow the workforce in this field in the United States,” says Peterson.

The students will work with University of Michigan faculty and graduate students on projects in three areas:

  • Understanding and improving the performance of gallium nitride (GaN). Students are part of teams working to improve artificial photosynthesis systems that split water to produce hydrogen fuel, and to develop high-frequency and high-power transistors capable of supporting 6G networks and beyond.
  • Developing new nanofabrication methods to make materials and devices that address energy conversion and sustainability. Students are part of research teams making transparent aerogels that convert solar energy into heat, making mixed aerogel-nanoparticle paints that are pigment- and dye-free, and making ultrasensitive probes that can measure temperature and heat flow at the nanometer spatial scale. Aerogels are solid, porous foams made of interconnected nanostructures.
  • Investigating the behavior of complex oxide materials and devices — contenders to replace or augment silicon in computing, data storage, energy and sensing applications. Students will be part of teams using nanomanufacturing tools to synthesize and study advanced oxide materials, including entropy-stabilized complex oxides that can be used for multi-modal devices; ultrawide-bandgap oxide semiconductors that can be used for high-voltage, high-power future applications; and memristor memory chips that can store and process data at the same time.

“We have learned about these devices, but now we’re learning how to actually make them,” notes Eyo Achamyeleh, who studies electrical engineering at Union College in New York, is working on one of the gallium nitride projects.

“My home institution is smaller and less focused on research,” comments Allan Flores, a senior at California State University, San Marcos, who is studying applied physics, and said that the experience is leading him to consider a Ph.D.

This year, the student participants come from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Union College; Sierra College; California State University, San Marcos; Purdue University-Fort Wayne; State College of Florida; Case Western Reserve University; and Trine University.

Going forward, University of Michigan will work in partnership with two minority-serving institutions, the University of Texas at El Paso and Florida International University, to recruit participants and design collaborative projects.

University of Michigan’s Lurie Nanofabrication Facility supports semiconductor research, education and regional economic development. Faculty members, students, other institutions, national labs and industry use it for R&D, training and small-scale manufacturing. Over the past five years, the LNF has supported more than 900 users, including 95 companies, 150 University of Michigan faculty members and researchers from 40 other US universities and four international entities.

The effort is supported through the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in partnership with the Semiconductor Research Corporation.

Tags: GaN