Our group’s research spans a wide range of advanced materials processing and device fabrication techniques for energy applications such as high temperature superconducting thin film tapes and photovoltaics as well as for flexible electronics. A key capability of our group is single-crystalline-like thin films of various materials on inexpensive, flexible substrates by roll-to-roll processing. Epitaxial growth of oxides, nitrides, silicides, arsenides, phosphides, germanium, silicon and compound semiconductors on lattice mismatched, practical substrates is large emphasis of our research. A variety of thin film process technologies such as metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD), ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD), magnetron sputtering, e-beam evaporation, inkjet printing and solution coating are being employed. Unique, state-of-the-art equipment for thin film and bulk materials processing, electromagnetic characterization at high magnetic fields and low temperatures, as well as semiconductor property measurements are available in our laboratories.
An area of our expertise is high-temperature superconducting materials for energy applications. This project is currently funded by awards from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office and the DOE Office of High Energy Physics. Through these awards and previous programs with ARPA-E, Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Laboratory, we have developed thin film superconductor tapes with record-high performance in high magnetic fields and low AC losses. These high performance superconductor tapes have been designed for use in the next-generation electric machines, high-power wind turbines and high-field magnets for high energy physics and superconducting magnetic energy storage.
Another area of research is high-performance crystalline semiconductors on inexpensive flexible substrates. Using our unique single-crystalline-like template technology, we are working on high mobility epitaxial semiconductor thin films such as gallium arsenide, silicon and germanium on metal and flexible glass substrates. These semiconductors are being used to fabricate high-efficiency, low-cost solar cells and high-performance flexible electronics. Our project on high efficiency GaAs on flexible metal substrates is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.
Strong industrial partnership is a hallmark of our program. Nearly all our funded programs include industrial partners which is not only evident of the practical relevance of our research but also enables a robust transfer of our technology to industry. In addition, many companies collaborate with our group through sponsored research programs to specifically address challenges in their manufacturing operations. Small businesses have been cultivated by our group to transition our technologies to commercialization with funding from Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Students graduating from our group have transitioned to employees of some of our partner and small business companies.
Our research has extended beyond the UH campus into the University’s Energy Research Park where a 13,000 sq.ft. building has been established for the Energy Devices Fabrication Laboratory. The Laboratory consists of clean room process areas, device fabrication and metrology areas as well as a toxic gas room to safely handle several types of exotic gases to process several advanced materials. A unique MOCVD tool for compound semiconductors with dual reactors for roll-to-roll as well as wafer processing is present. Photovoltaics (PV) and Flexible Electronics are being pursued in this Laboratory using our unique substrate technologies.
We have established a University-wide center, the Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) with a mission to function as a central manufacturing research organization of the University of Houston so that a wide range of technologies being developed by UH faculty can be scaled up to manufacturing and eventual commercialization. An example is our Advanced MOCVD reactor design that has yielded three-fold improvements in performance, efficiency and throughput that is now being scaled up to pilot manufacturing. AMI is also developing novel in-line quality control tools for high-yield manufacturing and innovative quality assurance tools for rapid, 100% inspection of product in device operating conditions.
Our group currently consists of 17 graduate research assistants, five research faculty and scientists, an equipment engineer and a full-time safety manager. Research assistants in our group receive exceptional mentorship not only in conducting very intensive, milestone-driven scientific research but also in broad engineering skill sets at his unique facilities and by his support engineering and scientific staff. All our research assistants benefit from excellent day-to-day coaching from the many research faculty, scientific and engineering staff in our group, on critical thinking skills to solve complex research problems, hands-on expertise with unique, industry-scale, state-of-the-art equipment and industry-standard safety training and best practices. Hence, students in our group are uniquely prepared to tackle scientific and engineering challenges which are uncommon in academia. We are seeking more research assistants to join our group and experience the stimulating research environment in world-class facilities.