OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

business and the economy

OSU scientists part of national APLU report outlining research challenges

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities released a report today outlining six “grand challenges” facing the United States over the next decade in the areas of sustainability water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education.

The APLU project was co-chaired by W. Daniel Edge, head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. The report is available online at: http://bit.ly/1ksH2ud

The “Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources” is the first comprehensive, nationwide report on research, education and outreach needs for natural resources the country’s university community has ever attempted, Edge said.

“The report identifies critical natural resources issues that interdisciplinary research programs need to focus on over the next 5-10 years in order to address emerging challenges,” Edge noted. “We hope that policy-makers and federal agencies will adopt recommendations in the roadmap when developing near-term research priorities and strategies.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are: 

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

 

Three other OSU researchers were co-authors on the report, including Hal Salwasser, a professor and former dean of the College of Forestry; JunJie Wu, the Emery N. Castle Endowed Chair in Resource and Rural Economics; and George Boehlert, former director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Wu played a key role in the climate change chapter in identifying the need to better understand the tradeoffs between investing now in climate change adaptation measures versus the long-term risk of not adopting new policies.

Edge and Boehlert contributed to the energy chapter, which focuses primarily on renewable energy.

“The natural resources issues with traditional sources of energy already are well-understood,” Boehlert said, “with the possible exception of fracking. As the country moves more into renewable energy areas, there are many more uncertainties with respect to natural resources that need to be understood and addressed. There are no energy sources that do not have some environmental issues.”

Salwasser was an author on the sustainability chapter that identifies many issues associated with natural resource use, including rangelands, forestry, fisheries and wildlife and biodiversity. The authors contend the challenge is to use these resources in a sustainable manner meeting both human and ecosystem needs.

The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Oregon State University, which partnered with APLU and authors from numerous institutions.

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Media Contact: 
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Dan Edge, 541-737-2810; Daniel.edge@oregonstate.edu

OSU surpasses fundraising milestone of $1 billion

 

A copy of President Ray’s speech is available online: http://bit.ly/1dRiaHx

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray announced today that the university’s first comprehensive campaign has surpassed its $1 billion fund-raising goal – 11 months ahead of schedule.

Ray made the announcement at his annual “State of the University” address in Portland to an audience of more than 600 business, political, civic and education leaders, alumni and friends of the university. He encouraged contributions through the remainder of the year to further deepen the university’s impact on students, the state, nation and world. Gifts to The Campaign for OSU now total $1,012,601,000.

“While this is a remarkable milestone, this campaign has never been about the big number,” Ray said. “Our generous donors are committed, as is the university, to transforming Oregon State into a top-10 land grant research university to significantly advance the health of the Earth, its people and our economy.”

Donors have brought private support for Oregon State to an all-time high, with annual totals exceeding $100 million for the last three years. More than 102,000 donors to the campaign have:

  • Created more than 600 new scholarships and fellowship funds – a 30 percent increase – with gifts for student support exceeding $170 million;
  • Contributed more than $100 million to help attract and retain leading professors and researchers, including funding for 77 of Oregon State’s 124 endowed faculty positions;
  • Supported the construction or renovation of more than two dozen campus facilities, including Austin Hall in the College of Business, the Linus Pauling Science Center, new cultural centers, and the OSU Basketball Center. Bonding support from the state was critical to many of these projects.

 

Business leaders Pat Reser, a 1960 OSU alumna; Patrick Stone, a 1974 graduate; and Jim Rudd have co-chaired the campaign since its public launch in 2007. All three have been trustees of the OSU Foundation, and Reser, board chair of Reser’s Fine Foods, also serves as chair of Oregon State’s new Board of Trustees that was appointed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“Our donor community is growing because people are deepening their ties to Oregon State – and that helps make us a better university,” said J. Michael Goodwin, CEO and president of the OSU Foundation, the nonprofit organization charged with raising, administering and stewarding private gifts to the university.  “This broad base of support positions Oregon State well for future philanthropic support and engagement from our alumni, parents and friends.”

Donors from every state and more than 50 countries have invested in OSU as part of the campaign. Almost 40 percent of these campaign donors are first-time donors to the university. More than 1,000 donors have made campaign gifts of more than $100,000, including 177 donors who have made gifts of $1 million or more. Oregon State joins only 34 other public universities in the country to have crossed the billion-dollar mark in a fund-raising campaign.

“The campaign is about developing and energizing a community of dedicated advocates, people who share our vision of what Oregon State can accomplish,” Ray said. “These partners have changed Oregon State forever – and I believe the best is yet to come.”

In his State of the University address, Ray said Oregon needs to quit talking and start planning to meet its goal of a more educated citizenry to achieve economic and social prosperity. He cited the state’s lack of apparent focus on reaching Oregon’s “40-40-20” educational achievement goal, which calls for 40 percent of adult Oregonians to hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree, 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or a meaningful postsecondary certificate, and all adult Oregonians to hold a high school diploma or equivalent by the year 2025.

OSU has developed a plan to do its part and is committed to those goals, already demonstrating success, Ray said. But more is needed.

“Beyond Oregon State University’s own enrollment management and strategic plan, I have no idea how the state will get to 40-40-20, which could require as many as 35,000 more students annually enrolled in our four-year universities and colleges,” Ray said. “There is no statewide blueprint.”

Ray went on to describe how OSU’s enrollment grew by 1,532 students in Corvallis and online and by another 135 students at OSU-Cascades in Bend.

“Despite those gains, the net increase in enrollment among all Oregon public universities outside of Oregon State totaled 14 students,” Ray pointed out. That includes an enrollment increase at the Oregon Institute of Technology of 413 students.

OSU has been following a plan for the past two years to help the state achieve its goals. Ray said the university expects to educate 28,000 students in Corvallis, 3,000 to 5,000 students at OSU-Cascades by 2025; and grow its online enrollment to more than 7,000 students. The university also plans to educate another 500 students annually by 2025 at a new marine studies campus located in Newport.

Ray, who recently completed his 10th year as OSU president, pointed to several Oregon State University initiatives that will help boost the economy:

 

  • OSU will lead a new national effort through its College of Forestry to advance the science and technology necessary to utilize wood in the construction of taller buildings in a public-private partnership that will advance manufacturing in Oregon and boost rural economies;
  • The university launched the OSU Advantage last year – a one-stop shop for linking businesses with the students and researchers of Oregon State to accelerate new business development and spinoff companies;
  • OSU’s research enterprise continues to grow and reached $263 million in 2013 – a 70 percent increase over the last decade. Two major initiatives include the selection of Oregon State to lead the design and construction of the next generation of ocean-going research vessels for the United States, and the selection of OSU, along with partners in Alaska and Hawaii, to operate one of six national sites for unmanned aircraft systems.

Industry-sponsored research is up 60 percent in five years, Ray pointed out, and licensing agreements with industry have increased 83 percent. Since 2006, OSU has helped launched 20 startup companies, which have raised $190 million in venture capital and created hundreds of jobs.

“Economic development,” Ray said, “is part of our DNA.”

Media Contact: 
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Steve Clark, 503-502-8217

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Kearney Hall

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Video that could be downloaded for B-roll is available online: http://bit.ly/1frg9Xc

Die-hard fans view ads linked with rival teams negatively

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study concludes that it doesn’t matter how compelling an advertisement may be, most die-hard Oregon State Beavers fans will simply not purchase a product associated with the Oregon Ducks.

Researchers at Oregon State University and California State University, San Marcos asked college students, who were a mix of average sports fans and “highly identified” fans, or super fans, to look at a generic ad that that featured an association with either the home or a rival team and included either strong or weak arguments about product quality.

The “less identified,” or average fans, responded positively to the strong advertising message regardless of team affiliation. However, even though the super fans were able to recognize which ads made a more compelling case, it did not sway their negative attitude and intentions toward the advertisement when there was an affiliation with the rival.

The study, co-authored by Colleen Bee, assistant professor of marketing in OSU’s College of Business, and Vassilis Dalakas, associate professor of marketing at Cal State San Marcos, was published online this month in the Journal of Marketing Communications.

“We found that less identified fans responded positively to strong, credible arguments,” said lead author Bee. “What we found interesting is that this effect went away for super fans when the ad featured a rival affiliation. Whether an argument was weak or strong did not make a difference – all that mattered was the association with the rival team.”

Study participants were either shown an ad with weak messaging, such as “Simply great!” or an ad with strong messaging, such as “Recommended by Consumer Reports.”  Fan identification was then assessed by asking respondents to rate themselves based on how they and others see them as team-specific sports fans.

Bee said this is the first study to consider the combined effects of fan identification, sponsorship affiliation, and message characteristics. Since sports sponsorship accounts for 77 percent, or $39.17 billion in revenue, of worldwide sponsorship spending, knowing potential pitfalls is important.

“Highly identified fans incorporate the team as part of their identity, which means it really influences and biases the way they process information much more than other consumers.”

Bee said sponsorship is still a highly effective and lucrative means of advertising and branding. She said that companies should just be aware that their message – and thus their product – may be viewed negatively when they align with certain teams. For this reason, she said savvy firms use brand loyalty to their advantage. One car rental company, for instance, with strong ties to the New York Yankees only ran ads promoting its alliance to the team in New York City. 

“When you associate your product or brand with a team logo, you need to keep in mind that you will alienate the super fans of the rival team, and potentially lose customers,” she said. “On the other hand, you can also leverage that social identification to win over those sports fans who will view this sponsorship favorably simply because it is their team.”

The study was funded by a grant from the OSU College of Business.

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Colleen Bee, 541-737-6059

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Colleen Bee
Colleen Bee

Study: State, federal role in electric utilities’ labor issues should be reexamined

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Power outages have never been more costly. Electricity is critical to communication, transportation, commerce and national security systems, and wide-spread or prolonged outages have the potential to threaten public safety and cause millions, even billions, of dollars in damages.

“It doesn’t seem that dire until a storm hits, or somebody makes a mistake, and then you are risking a blackout,” said Inara Scott, an assistant professor in the College of Business at Oregon State University.

“You have to consider the magnitude of the potential harm to the public. Without power, you can’t pump gas. Cell phones may not work. Water systems are threatened. These are big problems.”

That’s why it may be time to re-examine the role of public utility commissions and the effect of the National Labor Relations Act in labor disputes regarding electric utilities, Scott suggests in a new study.

Public utility commissions have more authority than some existing court decisions suggest, but they tend to take a conservative approach and there is a strong presumption that they can’t get involved, Scott said. Modifying the NLRA to more clearly define the states’ powers might be needed to change that mindset, she said. The changes would affect both sides – labor and management – equally, she said.

“The current law does not reflect the times,” Scott said. “The courts need to look at these cases differently, because the role of electricity in our lives has changed.”

Many public utility commissions have concluded, based largely on court decisions under the NLRA, that they’re prohibited from intervening in labor disputes even when public safety is threatened, Scott said. PUCs are the state agencies that regulate public utilities.

That interpretation of the federal law does not reflect the critical role electricity plays in people’s lives and livelihoods today, said Scott, whose study of the issue was published this week in the “Energy Law Journal.”

“If workers strike or are locked out of their jobs during a labor dispute, a utility might operate just fine, or there could be a major problem,” said Scott, an attorney who spent 10 years practicing energy and regulatory law before joining the OSU faculty.

“The problems caused by an electrical outage are not easy to predict and the consequences can be severe,” said Scott, whose research focuses on the transformation of utility systems, clean energy, energy efficiency and utility regulation.

Scott began studying the National Labor Relations Act and the role of public utility commissions in labor disputes involving electric utilities after following a 2012 labor dispute involving Consolidated Edison of New York.

Con Edison management locked out more than 8,000 employees after labor negotiations broke down. Union members warned the move would leave the utility with inadequate safety monitoring, deferred maintenance and threats of unsafe conditions.

But the state’s public utility commission, the only regulatory agency with authority to oversee the safety and operation of Con Edison’s system, announced that it lacked jurisdiction to end the lockout or get involved in the negotiations.

As the lockout wore on and severe summer weather threatened the power grid, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo urged the New York Public Service Commission to get more involved.

The dispute was ultimately settled but the case underscored the high stakes of labor disputes involving electric utilities, as well as the potential danger to public safety and the need for clarification of the authority of state public utility commissions, Scott said.

Scott’s study was supported by OSU.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Inara Scott, 541-737-4102, Inara.Scott@bus.oregonstate.edu

Walmart and The Walmart Foundation award OSU grant to help boost U.S. manufacturing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been chosen for one of the first seven grants from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund created by Walmart and The Walmart Foundation to help accelerate manufacturing in the United States.

The $590,000 grant will support the development of innovations in plastics injection molding – one of the most common manufacturing processes for making consumer products – in which melted plastic resins are injected into a shaped cavity made by two metallic molds.

“Current practices for fabricating these molds are labor-intensive and costly, and much of the mold material is wasted as metal chips,” said Sundar V. Atre, OSU associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “We estimate that mold-making costs can be reduced by 40 to 50 percent.”

“That will give U.S. manufacturing an edge,” Atre added.

The Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the Conference of Mayors, will provide a total of $10 million in grants over the next five years. The first $4 million in grants were announced Thursday (Aug. 14) at the 2014 U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver.

“Researchers at many of America’s best universities are hard at work on tough manufacturing challenges,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of The Walmart Foundation. “We are excited to support the development of innovative solutions, which we hope will unlock new opportunity for manufacturing in this country.” 

Mayor Julie Manning of Corvallis noted that her city has earned a national reputation for innovation, ranking fourth last year in a report of patents per capita.

“A manufacturing renaissance is taking place in our region,” she said. “This project builds on the steps taken in recent years to more closely align the economic development strategy of Corvallis and Benton County with the growing success of Oregon State University and other local employers in fostering innovation and job creation.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Atre and his co-principal investigator, Oregon State mechanical engineering assistant professor Rajiv Malhotra, will work with three industrial partners – Metal Technology, Inc., in neighboring Albany, Ore., plus Arburg and North American Höganäs – to develop and test their manufacturing innovations. Part of the work will take place at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, collaboratively managed by OSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The team will work with the OSU Advantage Accelerator to develop a commercialization plan. This program helps move promising ideas out of the laboratory and into the marketplace, strengthening the economy.

Atre’s and Malhotra’s project is a prime example of the university’s leading-edge research that creates a better future for Oregon and the nation, said Robert B. Stone, head of OSU’s School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering.

“Making U.S. manufacturing more competitive globally is something all of us can relate to,” Stone said. “When we shop, we know the ‘Made in the USA’ label signifies jobs and stronger communities. This support from Walmart, The Walmart Foundation and the Conference of Mayors represents a vote of confidence in our track record at Oregon State of doing research with real-world impact, as we work in partnership with industry.”

In 2010 alone the U.S. plastics industry produced an estimated 16 billion pounds of injection-molded products for applications in packaging, electronics, housewares and biomedical areas.

The grant to Oregon State is part of The Campaign for OSU, which has raised more than $1.06 billion to support university priorities, including more than $140 million in private faculty research grants. The university community will celebrate the campaign’s impact Oct. 31 during Homecoming.

 

Media Contact: 

Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126

Source: 

Sundar V. Atre, 541-908-1483; Rajiv Malhotra, 541-737-5621

History of hops and brewing chronicled on new OSU archive

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon is at the epicenter of a thriving craft-brew industry, and Oregon State University is helping shape the movement – from creating new barley varieties, to offering courses for home brewers, to its growing fermentation science program, which has a Pilot Plant Brewhouse where student brewers create new beers.

Now, the university is going a step further as it actively preserves the rich history of hops and craft brewing.

Recognizing the need to document the intertwined story of hop production and the craft brewing movement in Oregon, the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at OSU Libraries & Press established the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives in summer 2013. This month, the official launch of the online archives will be celebrated in appropriate style with “Tap into History” on March 28 at the McMenamins Mission Theater in Portland.

The archive’s goal is to collect and provide access to records related to hops production and the craft brewing industries in Oregon. The first archive in the United States dedicated to hops and beer, it will bring together a wealth of materials in hardcopy and digital formats enabling people to study and appreciate these movements. The work melds the social and economic aspects of brewing in Oregon with the hard science behind the beer research being done at OSU.

The university already has strong collections related to the history of hops, barley, and fermentation research at OSU, but scholars are gathering resources from beyond the campus as well.

“There are valuable items in historical societies, in the boxes of marketing materials in a brewer’s garage, in the computer records of operations at hop farms, on beer blogs, in social media communities, and in the stories that haven’t been recorded,” said Tiah Edmunson-Morton, archivist for the collection.

“While we are interested in adding new items to build the archive, we also want to be a portal to collections through the state, partnering with people in heritage and history communities, state agencies, hops farmers, craft brewers, home brewers, and the general community to think collectively about how to preserve and provide access to this history.”

The free "Tap into History" event at the Mission Theater, which begins at 7 p.m., includes a panel on brewing history in Oregon. Among the topics:

  • Edmunson-Morton will talk about the project and its impact.
  • Peter Kopp, an agricultural historian, will talk about his use of archival materials and the relevance for researchers.
  • John Foyston, an Oregonian writer since 1987 and noted beer columnist, will talk about his work documenting the Oregon beer scene.
  • Irene Firmat, CEO and co-founder of Full Sail Brewing Company, will talk about her work as a female brewing pioneer.
  • Daniel Sharp, a Ph.D. student in the OSU College of Agriculture's Fermentation Science program, will talk about his research and the program.

The event concludes with screenings from "Hopstories," a collection of short videos showcasing breweries in Oregon, and OPB's Beervana, a documentary about the history of beer and the rise of craft brewing in Oregon. The McMenamins Mission Theater is located at 1624 N.W. Glisan St., Portland.

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/brewingarchives

 

 

 

 

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Tiah Edmunson-Morton, 541-737-7387

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Grafting hop varieties

Phillips named director for OSU Office of Research Development

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mary Phillips has been named director for the Office of Research Development, a new unit within the Research Office, effective Dec. 1.

Phillips is associate director for the Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, where she oversees the management of intellectual property and licensing of OSU inventions. In her new role, Phillips will work with faculty and academic units to identify and pursue major funding opportunities, including federal, non-profit and corporate sources.

The creation of the Office for Research Development is a proactive step by the Research Office that addresses the challenge and goals articulated in the OSU research agenda by providing strategic institutional support for successful proposal development, Phillips said.

"What excites me about this position is the role I will play in developing new approaches that will enable our faculty to be highly competitive in securing grant funding in these times of dwindling federal funding and sequestration," Phillips noted. "This in itself is a grand challenge."

Vice President for Research Rick Spinrad said there is a lot of untapped potential for building OSU’s capacity and reputation.

“By establishing an Office of Research Development, we have created the structure to engage in strategic positioning of our research enterprise, long before specific solicitations for research are issued,” Spinrad said. “As part of OSU’s research agenda we are striving to diversify our sponsorship base.  We’ve done this very successfully with our industry engagement (40 percent increase in two years), now we have the staff and organization to start doing the same with other sponsors, notably federal agencies.”

Spinrad anticipates that OSU will dramatically increase the number of federal agencies supporting its research, and that OSU will take a much more forward-leaning posture in driving the research interests of traditional sponsors. 

“In addition, Mary’s role will allow us to be much more effective in strengthening our proposal efforts - for example by being more strategic in how we address ‘broader impacts,’” Spinrad said. “This is particularly important as general decreases in federal funding for research make for an even more competitive environment.”

Phillips will be supported by an advisory group that will consist of senior faculty representing each of the divisions within the university.

Prior to joining OSU in 2006, Phillips began her career in university technology transfer in 2001 at Oregon Health and Science University. She has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and gained postdoctoral experience in the areas of laser spectroscopy and molecular biology at the University of Oregon. 

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Source: 

Mary Phillips

541-737-4437

OSU program to spur start-ups moves into downtown Corvallis

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator has a new home in downtown Corvallis.

The Accelerator, created to spur the creation of new companies from Oregon State University-based research, will be located at 200 S.W. 4th St., less than a block from Corvallis City Hall. Mark Lieberman, co-director of the OSU Advantage Accelerator and chief startup officer, said his team will move into the building in October.

“The Accelerator facility will be a hub for creative and innovative thinking for technology start-ups,” he said. “We will offer essential networking events, as well as educational and leadership opportunities, including CEO roundtables, presentations and one-on-one meetings with successful entrepreneurs, investors, and venture capitalists.”

Lieberman, co-director John Turner, and program administrator Betty Nickerson, will have offices in the downtown facility. Turner said space for eight student interns, plus an entrepreneur-in-residence, will also be provided.

“We’re excited to be in the heart of downtown Corvallis. The Accelerator is focused on creating new companies and new jobs, and we see the city of Corvallis as an important partner in this goal," Turner said. "This gives us a place where we can all be together of course, and also gives us a public face so we can meet with researchers and companies from the community."

The OSU Advantage Accelerator is one component of the Oregon State University Advantage, an educational, research and commercialization initiative begun earlier this year. OSU’s Accelerator recently announced its first 13 clients.

The OSU Advantage Accelerator is a component of the South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN, which was made possible by recent legislative approval and funding.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Mark Lieberman, 541-737-9016

Electronics advance moves closer to a world beyond silicon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have made a significant advance in the function of metal-insulator-metal, or MIM diodes, a technology premised on the assumption that the speed of electrons moving through silicon is simply too slow.

For the extraordinary speed envisioned in some future electronics applications, these innovative diodes solve problems that would not be possible with silicon-based materials as a limiting factor.

The new diodes consist of a “sandwich” of two metals, with two insulators in between, to form “MIIM” devices. This allows an electron not so much to move through materials as to tunnel through insulators and appear almost instantaneously on the other side. It’s a fundamentally different approach to electronics.

The newest findings, published in Applied Physics Letters, have shown that the addition of a second insulator can enable “step tunneling,” a situation in which an electron may tunnel through only one of the insulators instead of both. This in turn allows precise control of diode asymmetry, non-linearity, and rectification at lower voltages.

“This approach enables us to enhance device operation by creating an additional asymmetry in the tunnel barrier,” said John F. Conley, Jr., a professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “It gives us another way to engineer quantum mechanical tunneling and moves us closer to the real applications that should be possible with this technology.”

OSU scientists and engineers, who only three years ago announced the creation of the first successful, high-performance MIM diode, are international leaders in this developing field. Conventional electronics based on silicon materials are fast and inexpensive, but are reaching the top speeds possible using those materials. Alternatives are being sought.

More sophisticated microelectronic products could be possible with the MIIM diodes – not only improved liquid crystal displays, cell phones and TVs, but such things as extremely high-speed computers that don’t depend on transistors, or “energy harvesting” of infrared solar energy, a way to produce energy from the Earth as it cools during the night.

MIIM diodes could be produced on a huge scale at low cost, from inexpensive and environmentally benign materials. New companies, industries and high-tech jobs may ultimately emerge from advances in this field, OSU researchers say.

The work by Conley and OSU doctoral student Nasir Alimardani has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

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John Conley, 541-737-9874

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MIIM diode

MIIM diode

Pass the salt: Common condiment could enable new high-tech industry

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Chemists at Oregon State University have identified a compound that could significantly reduce the cost and potentially enable the mass commercial production of silicon nanostructures – materials that have huge potential in everything from electronics to biomedicine and energy storage.

This extraordinary compound is called table salt.

Simple sodium chloride, most frequently found in a salt shaker, has the ability to solve a key problem in the production of silicon nanostructures, researchers just announced in Scientific Reports, a professional journal.

By melting and absorbing heat at a critical moment during a “magnesiothermic reaction,” the salt prevents the collapse of the valuable nanostructures that researchers are trying to create. The molten salt can then be washed away by dissolving it in water, and it can be recycled and used again.

The concept, surprising in its simplicity, should open the door to wider use of these remarkable materials that have stimulated scientific research all over the world.

“This could be what it takes to open up an important new industry,” said David Xiulei Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “There are methods now to create silicon nanostructures, but they are very costly and can only produce tiny amounts.

“The use of salt as a heat scavenger in this process should allow the production of high-quality silicon nanostructures in large quantities at low cost,” he said. “If we can get the cost low enough many new applications may emerge.”

Silicon, the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, has already created a revolution in electronics. But silicon nanostructures, which are complex structures much smaller than a speck of dust, have potential that goes far beyond the element itself.

Uses are envisioned in photonics, biological imaging, sensors, drug delivery, thermoelectric materials that can convert heat into electricity, and energy storage.

Batteries are one of the most obvious and possibly first applications that may emerge from this field, Ji said. It should be possible with silicon nanostructures to create batteries – for anything from a cell phone to an electric car – that last nearly twice as long before they need recharging.

Existing technologies to make silicon nanostructures are costly, and simpler technologies in the past would not work because they required such high temperatures. Ji developed a methodology that mixed sodium chloride and magnesium with diatomaceous earth, a cheap and abundant form of silicon.

When the temperature reached 801 degrees centigrade, the salt melted and absorbed heat in the process. This basic chemical concept – a solid melting into a liquid absorbs heat – kept the nanostructure from collapsing.

The sodium chloride did not contaminate or otherwise affect the reaction, researchers said. Scaling reactions such as this up to larger commercial levels should be feasible, they said.

The study also created, for the first time with this process, nanoporous composite materials of silicon and germanium. These could have wide applications in semiconductors, thermoelectric materials and electrochemical energy devices.

Funding for the research was provided by OSU. Six other researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the OSU Department of Chemical Engineering also collaborated on the work.

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David Xiulei Ji, 541-737-6798

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Silicon nanostructure

Silicon nanostructures


Table salt

Table salt