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Ma to pursue diamond transistors, biotransistors and nanomembrane lasers

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma received a $350,000 seedling grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop diamond transistors that can be integrated on silicon. By integrating wide bandgap materials like diamond to boost the power of silicon CMOS-based power amplifiers, Ma hopes to achieve performance gains necessary for wireless communications while maintaining the flexibility, cost and production infrastructure of silicon. 

"Diamond is the best material for this purpose, due to its superior heat dissipation," says Ma. He will use the funding to develop prototype diamond transistors for radio frequency power amplification.

In addition to the DARPA project, Ma has received $300,000 in funding from the National Institutes for Health to develop biotransistors as part of a $2.2 million National Institutes of Health project to develop a new methodology of gene sequencing with Chemistry and Genetics Professor David Schwartz

Rather than using the base by base approach of traditional DNA sequencing, a tedious process that requires ultra-small DNA transistors, the new sequencing approach will involve coding DNA molecules such that much larger transistors–designed and fabricated by Ma and his lab–can be used to identify the DNA sequence. 

Ma has also received a $120,000 WARF Accelerator grant to develop a commercial prototype of the silicon nanomembrane-based surface-emitting lasers, first described in a July 2012 Nature Photonics paper. The project aims to create a functioning laser based on fabricating a silicon-based, ultra-thin vertical cavity surface emitting laser with an electrical power source. A successful prototype will allow commercial use of this laser for optical connections ranging distances ranging from a few centimeters to several kilometers.

Mark Riechers
1/14/2013