CORVALLIS - A chemical engineering professor at Oregon State University has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER grant worth $400,000 from the National Science Foundation to support his research into development of flexible electronics.

Chih-hung "Alex" Chang, an assistant professor who joined OSU in 2000, is the fourth faculty member in the College of Engineering to win a CAREER award during the past three years.

The CAREER award is the NSF's most prestigious award for new faculty members, designed to recognize and support the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Each award carries a substantial grant to support the faculty member's research projects and stimulate the discovery process, teaching and learning.

Chang will use the funding to refine a low-temperature chemical bath deposition, or CBD process, that enables placement of thin-film integrated circuits on plastic substrates such as bottles, maps, identification cards, and wearable electronics. Unlike chemical vapor deposition, or CVD processes, which often require a vacuum environment and high temperatures, the CBD process can function under normal atmospheric pressure and at low temperatures, making application on polymers a possibility.

"Since maintaining a vacuum is expensive, most CVD process chambers are small," Chang said. "The advantage of CBD over CVD is very significant for large-area devices such as solar cells and computer displays, and could lead to larger, less expensive displays and other products."

Chang said the project will advance basic understanding of the CBD process for the fabrication of flexible semiconductor devices and establish a new research tool for the fundamental investigation of particle formation and deposition characteristics of many solution-based processes.

Chang's research and educational efforts benefit from collaboration with other OSU faculty in engineering and chemistry and employs the Multiscale Materials and Devices (MMD) technology being developed at OSU. MMD technology involves the use of a series of tiny microchannels to attain higher rates of heat and mass transfer as well as more highly controlled chemical reactions.

Using MMD technology to create a microreactor, researchers are able to produce nanoparticles of a more uniform size, which is a key to depositing flexible electronics to polymer substrates.

The CAREER award is also enabling Chang to use MMD technology and the microreactor as a teaching tool in the classroom. "It is easier to use, easier to control and much cheaper to operate," he said. "It also makes learning more exciting and more hands-on for our students."