Auburn, Rutgers and Purdue universities to study advanced power electronics with research grant

AUBURN UNIVERSITY  The II-VI Foundation will sponsor a three-year Cooperative Research Initiative between Auburn University, Rutgers University and Purdue University. With up to $1 million in funding, the initiative to study advanced power electronics is coordinated by John Williams, Auburn University professor emeritus of physics.

Williams has maintained longtime collaborations with Sarit Dhar, who is the primary Auburn investigator on the project, Leonard Feldman at Rutgers University and James Cooper at Purdue University. Those relationships, along with Williams’ experience and knowledge, made the collaboration possible.

The project is “SiO2/4H-SiC Interface -Optimization for Next Generation Power MOSFETs.” The initiative will support efforts in the realm of advanced power electronics development and, specifically, oxide semiconductor interface passivation studies for silicon carbide devices.

Known for funding individual institutional efforts, this is the first time the II-VI Foundation has designated a gift for a Cooperative Research Initiative.

“The Block Gift Cooperative Research Initiative is different than anything we have ever done before,” said Carl Johnson, II-VI Incorporated chairman and co-founder of the II-VI Foundation with his wife, Margot. “We recognized that the work being done at Auburn, Rutgers and Purdue provides three different viewpoints on the same tough problem, and we have a coordinator in John Williams who really understands the strengths and dynamics of each contributing program. In the past we would have had to fund and administer these programs separately, but with John as the coordinator, we were able to combine efforts for the first time.”

After a 37-year career at Auburn, Williams officially retired in December 2011. During his tenure he directed the development and growth of the Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Physics Program. The program was started in the early 1990s, and research collaboration between Auburn and others now involved in the Cooperative Research Institute dates from 1998. Williams’ research efforts focus on technology development of advanced, energy-efficient semiconductor materials and devices, which are used in high power systems such as large industrial motors and hybrid-electric vehicles.

In addition to Williams and Dhar, others involved in the collaboration from Auburn include Claude Ahyi, assistant research professor of physics, and physics graduate students Aaron Modic and Chunku Jiao.

The II-VI Foundation’s stated mission is to encourage and enable students to pursue a career in engineering, science and mathematics while maintaining a standard of excellence in that pursuit. During a May 7 campus visit, II-VI Incorporated’s Johnson spoke to students about expectations for their participation in the research program.

“We expect excellence in design and execution of the research program,” Johnson said. “We expect high academic performance, want you to achieve your personal best and to strive for excellence. Finally, we expect you to prepare for your respective professional careers and to demonstrate social responsibility.”

During the course of the collaboration, Auburn, Rutgers and Purdue will submit a joint proposal each year, and available funding will be appropriately applied to the research efforts being performed by the respective groups. The program also aims to educate and train young scientists and engineers in interdisciplinary technology development of advanced power electronics.

The II-VI Foundation grant comes to Auburn as a charitable gift through the Auburn University Foundation. The Auburn University Foundation frequently receives charitable gifts in support of Auburn University research and outreach from corporations and foundations in addition to those philanthropic contributions made by alumni and friends of the university. To learn more about the Auburn University Foundation, go to www.auburnuniversityfoundation.org.

(Written by Candis Birchfield.)

Contact: Candis Birchfield, College of Sciences and Mathematics, (334) 844-5734 (ceh0012@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)