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Aligning resources to tackle grand challenges

More than ever, meeting the challenges of technological innovation requires a meeting of minds from different fields. New leadership in two of Lehigh's most renowned technology research centers -- the Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Center for Photonics and Nanoelectronics -- are taking heed, working together to promote key areas of collaboration while supporting ongoing work that's crucial to each center's core mission.

In both areas, for example, more advanced understanding of how photons, electrons and heat interact could lead to a wide variety of applications. Furthermore, both centers are exploring ways to integrate simulations and modeling into design and engineering; this so-called 'Integrated Computational Materials Engineering' approach is reflective of a broader movement in academia toward the use of experimentally-validated multi-scale computational models to design products, materials, and processing methods.

Integrating expertise and resources

Dr. Nelson Tansu has been appointed director of Lehigh's Center for Photonics and Nanoelectronics (CPN) and the Daniel E. '39 and Patricia M. Smith Endowed Chair Professor in Photonics and Nanoelectronics. Since joining the electrical and computer engineering faculty in 2003, Nelson has emerged as a leading scholar and researcher in device fabrications of semiconductor optoelectronics devices.

As leader of the Tansu Group at Lehigh, Nelson explores theoretical and experimental aspects of the physics of semiconductor optoelectronics and device fabrications of III-Nitride and III-V-Nitride semiconductor optoelectronics devices on GaAs, InP, and GaN substrates. Dr. Tansu has published more than 98 refereed international journal and 170 conference publications, and he also currently holds more than 14 U.S. patents. He has served as a panel member for the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and other agencies in the U.S. and abroad. He has also served in editorial boards for Photonics (as Editor-in-Chief), IEEE Photonics Journal, OSA Optical Material Express, Nanoscale Research Letters, IEEE Journal of Display Technologies, and IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics.

CPN, where research spans systems-level research in photonics and nanoelectronics toward application in health, energy, and systems infrastructure for computing and data analytics, has been established as a merger of Lehigh's longstanding Center for Optical Technology (COT) and its Sherman-Fairchild Center (SFC) for Solid-State Studies. "The goal of CPN," Nelson says, "is to approach the science of photonics and nanoelectronics in ways that address society's grand challenges. With expertise in these core areas, CPN's long-term, strategic research objectives will guide the development of strong and more integrated capabilities in computation, materials, devices and architectures, and systems."

A heritage of materials research leadership

Dr. Richard Vinci, professor of materials science and engineering, has been appointed director of CAMN. Dr. Vinci joined the Lehigh University faculty in 1998. His research focuses on the processing and mechanical behavior of thin films for microelectronics and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) applications, and the fracture of interfaces in bulk materials. He also participates in multidisciplinary research, including the development of solid-state optical devices and inorganic biomaterials. He is holder of two patents, has contributed some 43 journal publications and 37 refereed conference proceedings, has organized numerous symposia in his field, acts as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and other agencies, and has served as a guest editor for a special issue of the MRS Bulletin on mechanical behavior in small dimensions.

Vinci recently served as director of the CAMN Mechanical Behavior Laboratory, developing a world-class suite of tools for mechanical testing at the micro-scale. He has received the NSF CAREER Award, the ASM International Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers, the Lehigh University Junior Award for Distinguished Teaching, the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering Teaching Excellence Award, and Lehigh University's Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is co-author of a book, Deformation and Fracture Mechanics of Engineering Materials.

Vinci takes the helm from Dr. Martin Harmer, the Alcoa Foundation Professor in materials science and engineering, who has stepped down to take on a new role as senior faculty advisor for research initiatives within the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. Over the course of more than two decades of dedication and service as CAMN director, Professor Harmer led the center to be one of the most highly respected materials research centers in the U.S. In his new role, Martin will draw on his leadership and insight to work with faculty in the development of collaborative research proposals and major block funding opportunities with a variety of agencies.

"CAMN tends to concentrate on fundamental materials opportunities," says Rick, "creating new materials and processes with new functionalities that can be plugged into new systems. Our plan is to partner with CPN to achieve even greater synergy by continuing to coordinate our activities and work together."

Among the powerful tools for materials research at Lehigh are spectroscopy instruments such as the high resolution x-ray photoelectron spectrometer (HR-XPS) and high-sensitivity, low-energy ion-scattering spectrometer (HS-LEIS), which provide extremely precise, high-resolution views of surfaces and subsurfaces that govern a material's properties. World-class electron microscopes such as the JEM-ARM200F allow researchers to observe the chemical structure of a material at the atomic level, with specimens often prepared using a recently-acquired FEI Scios DualBeam focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope. An array of instruments also allows researchers to optimize the growth of semiconductor materials on a variety of substrates.

With the help of such resources, "technology is evolving rapidly at what's called the cyber-physical interface," says Nelson. "In the past, the computing and physical worlds have largely been separate domains. We want to be able to transform the physical world and relate it to the cyberworld. Toward this end, CPN and CAMN will each support strong core programs, and will continue to actively develop close ties and projects in areas of mutual interest."

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