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Award Recipient Will Use Funding to Predict the Unexpected in Nano Fabrication

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif., May 17, 2019 — The inconsistent performance of photonic and electronic integrated circuits is the focus of Early CAREER award recipient Zheng Zhang, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Because the nanoscale fabrication process is difficult to control, some semiconductor chips work well, some underperform, and others don’t work at all. Through uncertainty-aware design automation — where the approach is to expect the unexpected and adjust ahead of time — Zhang and his students hope to make semiconductor manufacturing more efficient and the products more consistent.

Zheng Zhang, Asst. Professor, UC Santa Barbara.
Assistant professor Zheng Zhang. Courtesy of UCSB.

“The short-term goal is to develop efficient algorithms to model, verify, and optimize the uncertain performance of an electronic or photonic chip before it’s being fabricated,” Zhang said. “This will significantly improve the product yield of a semiconductor company by increasing the percentage of successful chips in mass production, which will benefit consumers.”

Long term, Zhang is interested in extending his methodology to other domains such as robotics and self-driving automobiles. The National Science Foundation award includes up to $500,000 in funding for Zhang to pursue research into how to quantify uncertainty.

Published: May 2019
Glossary
integrated photonics
Integrated photonics is a field of study and technology that involves the integration of optical components, such as lasers, modulators, detectors, and waveguides, on a single chip or substrate. The goal of integrated photonics is to miniaturize and consolidate optical elements in a manner similar to the integration of electronic components on a microchip in traditional integrated circuits. Key aspects of integrated photonics include: Miniaturization: Integrated photonics aims to...
optoelectronics
Optoelectronics is a branch of electronics that focuses on the study and application of devices and systems that use light and its interactions with different materials. The term "optoelectronics" is a combination of "optics" and "electronics," reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of this field. Optoelectronic devices convert electrical signals into optical signals or vice versa, making them crucial in various technologies. Some key components and applications of optoelectronics include: ...
nano
An SI prefix meaning one billionth (10-9). Nano can also be used to indicate the study of atoms, molecules and other structures and particles on the nanometer scale. Nano-optics (also referred to as nanophotonics), for example, is the study of how light and light-matter interactions behave on the nanometer scale. See nanophotonics.
Research & TechnologyeducationpeopleUniversity of CaliforniaawardsNSF CAREER Awardintegrated photonicsoptoelectronicssemiconductorsnanonanoscale fabricationuncertainty awarenesssilicon photonics

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