CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the University of Oregon have received a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to form a new Center for Green Materials Chemistry, a reflection of nationally recognized programs in Oregon that should lead to advanced electronics with a reduced environmental footprint, higher performance and lower cost.
If research programs are successful, as experts believe they will be, the new center will then be in line for continued federal funding up to $25 million over five years, officials say.
“The concept is to use new, fundamental scientific advances to drive more efficient production and fabrication methods, use green materials and reduce environmental impacts,” said Douglas Keszler, center director and distinguished professor of chemistry at OSU. “The focus will be on electronics and related areas. This is cutting-edge science and technology, and it was born and bred here in Oregon.”
The initial work, Keszler said, will take place in the Department of Chemistry and the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at OSU; and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oregon. The new center will tap into the leading strengths of research programs at both universities, Keszler said.
“Among projects sponsored by the Oregon Nanoscience and Mircotechnologies Institute, I believe this new center holds great potential for future growth in both the research enterprise and commercial entities,” said Skip Rung, ONAMI president and executive director. “ONAMI is delighted to have played a role in seeding the effort.”
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski praised the work of both the individual researchers and the collaborative spirit of the state model.
“This is an amazing honor for not only Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, but the entire state,” Kulongoski said. “With awards like this, Oregon is proving that the ONAMI model of collaboration and focused effort can compete with the preeminent research institutions in the nation.
“This National Science Foundation award showcases Oregon’s international leadership in sustainability,” he said. “Whether it is the state’s commitment to renewable energy practices or the university research we are conducting in green chemistry, this state is a leader in sustainable practices.”
Dave Johnson, center co-director and Rosaria P. Haugland Foundation Chair in Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Oregon, said that “ONAMI investments in facilities, increased ties to Oregon and regional industry, an ONAMI spin-out company and the intercampus collaborations were all key elements in putting together this winning proposal.”
According to university researchers, many existing approaches to the manufacture of electronic devices are wasteful, sometimes require the use of toxic or carcinogenic materials, and result in higher-than-necessary levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Some emerging electronics applications appear to require the use of elements that are expensive or hazardous,” said John Wager, professor of electrical engineering at OSU. “Our objective is to use only inexpensive and non-toxic elements, such as zinc or tin, to form a green basis for modern electronics.”
The new center, experts say, will aim at nothing less than breakthroughs in high performance electronics.
Benefits are anticipated not only in environmental issues but also in costs, which might come down dramatically with new approaches to fabrication. The center will continue to work closely on these initiatives with private industry partners, which already include HP, Intel and AKT/Applied Materials.
Advances in “transparent electronics” at OSU in recent years are an illustration of what is possible in this arena, the researchers said. Scientists and engineers at OSU and HP have created transparent materials that form the basis for transistors and integrated circuits. One promising near-term application is a new type of solar energy system that developers at Xtreme Energetics, a high-tech start-up company based in Livermore, Calif., say could be four times more cost-efficient than any existing technology.
“The NSF Division of Chemistry has identified a team of distinguished researchers who can work together to tackle a big, challenging problem,” said Luis Echegoyen, director of that division. “Developing the chemistry that will allow technologically advanced materials to be made in an environmentally sustainable way is a science challenge that should develop into a very major effort.”