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Research Alert: Jan. 7, 2014

SRC launches industry consortium, partners with NSF to research trustworthy and secure semiconductors and systems

The growing scale and complexity of information networks and embedded systems, and our increasing reliance upon them, are accompanied by challenges and risks.  Are the networks and systems on which we depend trustworthy and secure?  Are they resistant to unintended access, tampering and counterfeiting?

The Semiconductor Research Corporation announced the launch of the The Trustworthy and Secure Semiconductors and Systems (T3S) initiative, to focus on developing strategies, techniques, and tools to provide assurance that electronic systems will perform as intended. Such assurance is a function of processes and tools integrated across all steps of design, manufacture, and distribution.  In order to build a technological foundation that business and government can use to make systems that are trustworthy and secure, there is a need for fundamental, multidisciplinary research that spans architecture, design and manufacture.

T3S is an industry consortium that partners with government agencies to fund university research — building and coordinating an academic network, generating new ideas and understanding, and providing a pipeline of relevantly educated talent. Member companies set the research agenda and get early and easy access to research and researchers, while leveraging their investment.

Work on growth of novel materials and structures

Imagine that you could combine materials with different properties into new heterostructures with a vast range of designer properties. Now imagine what you could create.

“What I am looking for is something that is unique, something that you might not be able to do anything with now. We are trying to solve technological problems. I don’t necessarily know what the final product will be. It might be something that no one has thought of yet. That is the only way you can beat a well-established technology,” said Chris Palmstrom, a professor of electrical and computer engineering materials at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Palmstrom fabricates new heterostructures using electronic, magnetic, and mechanical properties of dissimilar materials, as he explained to a group of 65 people at a Physics and Astronomy Department Colloquium entitled Growth of Novel Materials and Structures at Ohio University in September.

“We are trying to combine different materials, things like metals and semiconductors to make structures with new properties. If I have a metal and a semiconductor, I am going to put the two together as layers and composites to see what structures and properties I can obtain,” he said.

Palmstrom has used molecular beam epitaxial growth, in combination with in-situ and ex-situ atomic level characterization techniques, to investigate the growth of epitaxial metals on semiconductors and metal oxides, Heusler alloys, and rare earth monopnictides, which have been used to optimize properties of these heterostructures for semiconductor spintronics, thermoelectric, and shape memory applications. Palmstrom’s work relies heavily on both theoretical work and experimentation. He often combines dissimilar materials with a specific application in mind, but the results can fall outside of his expectations.

“We have a plan or an idea on what would happen. We have a lot of curiosity. Then we do experiments to try to verify our ideas about what would happen. With some of our experiments, we have no idea what is going to happen. There is no theory. Then it is a matter of going back and trying to understand why it happened,” Palmstrom said.

New center to lead Purdue efforts in computational nanotechnology, materials and devices development

The devices and technologies of the future will only be as good as the materials used to make them – and that’s part of the problem. A new Purdue University research center hopes it can be a leader in finding solutions.

The Purdue Center for Predictive Materials and Devices (c-PRIMED) and its focus on modeling for materials engineering dovetails with the national Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). Announced by President Barack Obama in 2011, this federal initiative will concentrate on developing methods to double the speed and halve the cost of creating new advanced materials.

Purdue’s, developed by the Network for Computational Nanotechnology and arguably the world’s largest nanotechnology user facility, is highlighted in the White House’s National Science and Technology Council report in June 2011 that paved the way for the MGI.

The 18-page report, titled Materials Genome Initiative for Global Competitiveness, says: “Accelerating the pace of discovery and deployment of advanced material systems will, therefore, be crucial,” adding, “Open innovation will play a key role in accelerating the development of advanced computational tools.” The council’s report goes on to say, “An existing system that is a good example of a first step toward open innovation is the nanoHUB.”

“c-PRIMED represents a continuation and a deepening of ongoing Purdue research efforts through,” said Gerhard Klimeck, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The new Discovery Park research center, part of $12 million in new investment by Purdue’s research infrastructure, is led by Klimeck and Alejandro Strachan, a professor of materials engineering. Other Purdue investment efforts in this area include Conte, the nation’s fastest university-owned supercomputer; and the Center for Prediction of Reliability, Integrity and Survivability of Microsystems (PRISM).

“Our efforts will focus on ways to accelerate the time it takes to introduce advanced materials to the marketplace for everything from airplane wings, solar cells and electronic devices to packaging that keeps food fresher,” Klimeck said. “That’s the dream behind c-PRIMED – and it’s more attainable now.”

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