SUNY Poly-managed research named a top ten physics breakthrough

Research managed by SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) and conducted by a number of collaborating institutions has led to findings that have been named a top ten 2016 breakthrough in physics by Physics World. The publication recently named the SUNY Poly-led Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery and Exploration’s (INDEX) “Theme I” work on the negative refraction of electrons in graphene p-n junctions as “a top ten breakthrough,” as it supports the physics for p-n junctions in graphene, which could lead to more powerful and energy efficient computing capabilities in the future.

“SUNY Poly’s position as a world class research institution is unmatched, and our faculty and students should be proud to be a part of that success,” said Dr. Bahgat Sammakia, Interim President of SUNY Polytechnic Institute. “It’s an incredible honor to have research managed by the talented people here at SUNY Poly recognized among the top ten physics breakthroughs of this past year, and I salute the SUNY Poly INDEX team and the researchers at partnering institutions who, collectively, enabled this fascinating research.”

As part of the research, scientists created a p-n junction, a building block of many modern day semiconductor-based electronic devices, in graphene, a two-dimensional honeycomb-shaped form of carbon that is incredibly strong and conductive. By ensuring that the p-n junction interface was smooth, the researchers minimized reflections, which enabled them to measure the negative refraction of electrons, an accomplishment that could one day form the basis of a new type of electronic switch, potentially replacing the transistor, which is currently the basis of computers worldwide. While this research shows that this new type of switch is possible, it could still take many years for any practical applications to result.

“We are excited that this great work of physics has been recognized by Physics World, and as part of the SUNY Poly team, we are thrilled to have solidified INDEX’s funding and look forward to continuing this important work, ” said SUNY Poly Vice President for Research Dr. Michael Liehr. “This acknowledgement is a testament not only to SUNY Poly’s ability to lead collaborations that can have significant research impact, but also to working collaboratively as research partners with other leading institutions such as Columbia University.”

The research that led to the notable findings was specifically conducted at Columbia University, the University of Virginia, and Harvard University, and was managed by SUNY Poly; Cornell University, the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan, and IBM were also recognized by Physics World for their teams’ contributions.

“This work is significant for proving the fundamental physics of the graphene p-n junction, and we are excited that the research of ‘Theme I’ of INDEX has resulted in this recognition,” SUNY Poly Interim Dean of the College of Nanoscale Science and Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoscale Science Dr. Alain Diebold said. “This is a credit to researchers Cory Dean and Jim Hone of Columbia University, who fabricated and measured the test structures using a method called magnetic steering, as well as Avik Ghosh of the University of Virginia, who modeled and simulated the data enabling the interpretation and helping to design new test structures. SUNY Poly was proud to play an enabling role.”

The research was conducted under the SUNY Poly-led umbrella of INDEX, which is one of three active centers in the Semiconductor Research Corporation’s Nanoelectronics Initiative leveraging faculty and students across ten universities. INDEX has three research areas, or themes: graphene p-n junction devices, spintronic devices, and fabrication – with a goal to develop a new switch to replace the transistor. Currently, Dr. Alain Diebold serves as INDEX’s Director, following the tenure of Dr. Michael Liehr, who had previously served as director at the Nanoelectronics Research Institute-funded center. In addition, INDEX is a Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) program sponsored by the Nano-Electronics Research Corporation (NERC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


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