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NC State to lead Regional Semiconductor Innovation Hub

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North Carolina State University has been awarded $39.4 million from the US Department of Defense to serve as the leader of a regional innovation hub in wide bandgap semiconductors.

The regional hub, “Commercial Leap Ahead for Wide Bandgap Semiconductors,” or CLAWS, also includes one university partner, N.C. A&T State University, as well as six industry partners: Wolfspeed, Coherent Corp., General Electric, Bluglass, Adroit Materials and Kyma Technologies, Inc.

The funding is part of $238 million invested through the “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act” for the establishment of eight Microelectronics Commons regional innovation hubs spread across the United States.

“NC State is honored to lead a Microelectronics Commons regional innovation hub to use our breadth and depth of expertise to create better wide bandgap semiconductors that are so important for our nation’s defense,” said Chancellor Randy Woodson. “We’re thankful for the work of those who developed and passed the ‘CHIPS and Science Act’ that supports these regional hubs, and for the regional partners who will collaborate on future research and discovery in this critical high-tech sector.”

Wide bandgap semiconductors offer higher voltage and temperature capacity than traditional silicon chips. They are used in power electronics, but also in RF and wireless devices for communications and radars, as well as photonic devices for sensing, communications, artificial intelligence, and future quantum technology applications. The hub will also explore next-generation ultra-wide bandgap materials with even greater voltage and temperature capabilities, including diamond and gallium oxide electronics.

“Leveraging NC State’s expertise through campus resources like PowerAmerica and the FREEDM Systems Center alongside traditional strengths in electrical and computer engineering as well as computer science should help make this leap ahead for wide bandgap semiconductor technology a reality,” said Mladen Vouk, vice chancellor for research and innovation at NC State.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks announced the awards on Sept. 20.

“The effort is focused on ‘lab to fab’ – laboratory to fabrication – capability for wide bandgap semiconductors and is about building capability to make them here in the U.S. and help ensure domestic supply,” said John Muth, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the primary investigator on the award. “The hub has a nucleus of members that are building this capability, but we will also have hub affiliates and future partners that will be able use the equipment and capability of the hub for Dept. of Defense-funded and commercial projects.”

The hub will also enhance the ability to perform a wide range of fundamental research that is core to the university’s science and extension mission, Muth added.

“The technologies hold the potential to enable future electric vehicles, power grid technologies, 5G/6G, quantum technologies and artificial intelligence applications,” said Fred Kish, MC Dean Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the director of the new hub. “They are also important for national security applications by providing energy efficiency, size, weight, power, and performance advantages in critical application areas including weapons systems, warfighter outfitting, position/navigation/timing, biotechnical and medical, materials processing, displays, and a host of additional defense needs.”

NC State will work with hub partner N.C. A&T State University and community colleges to build technical expertise in semiconductors across the state, Muth added.

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