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U of A takes next leadership step


The University of Arkansas has taken the next step to becoming a national leader in the United States’ semiconductor economy.

This August, the university has begun construction on the national Multi-User Silicon Carbide Research and Fabrication Facility, or MUSiC. Capable of silicon or silicon carbide chip fabrication, this new semiconductor research and fabrication facility will enable the government, businesses of all sizes and universities to prototype in silicon carbide, introducing a capability that does not presently exist in the U.S.

This unique facility will offer low-volume prototyping for high-volume manufacturing, bridging the gap between traditional university research and the needs of private industry. This will accelerate both workforce development and technological advancement in semiconductors by providing a single location where chips can go from developmental research to prototyping, testing and fabrication.

Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering at the U of A, is principal investigator for MUSiC. He stated that with MUSiC, the university could “begin training the next generation at a variety of degree levels to provide well-trained and educated talent for onshoring semiconductor manufacturing that domestic suppliers offshored in the late 90s and early 2000s. Our training will be equally applicable to silicon and silicon carbide and other materials.”

Construction coincides with the CHIPS America Summit on Aug. 17, an invitation-only event for research, industry and governmental leaders from across the nation to discuss CHIPS and Science Act semiconductor-related opportunities and the ways in which the U of A and the state of Arkansas are uniquely positioned to lead.

The summit will feature Director of External and Government Affairs for the U.S Department of Commerce’s CHIPS Program Office Adrienne Elrod. U.S. Representative Steve Womack and Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald will also participate.

In addition to the MUSiC facility, the U of A is also home to the first Energy Frontier Research Center in Arkansas, as part of a team of researchers who received $10.35 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Center for Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors is dedicated to investigating the formation of atomic orders in semiconductor alloys and their effects on various physical properties. This research program will enable reliable, cost-effective and transformative manufacturing of semiconductors.

Researchers at the U of A previously established the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry to accelerate the development of quantum materials and devices. In collaboration with Montana State University and other member universities, the foundry supports the study of 2-D materials — consisting of a single layer of bonded atoms — by aiding researchers and facilitating the exchange of ideas across academia and industry. The project leads the fabrication of 2-D material quantum devices and their characterization, using low-temperature electronic transport and optoelectronic techniques.

The U of A’s existing and expanding research foundation means it’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of the recent CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act, which is providing approximately $280 billion in funding to stimulate domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors.

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