Prof. Becky Peterson awarded DARPA Young Faculty Award to investigate new materials for power semiconductor devices

Peterson’s findings could be used in wireless sensing and actuation systems, including those that deal with monitoring of the environment and medical conditions.

prof peterson, dr farhoo Enlarge

Prof. Becky Peterson (left), Dr. Fariba Farhoo, DARPA YFA Program Manager

Becky Peterson, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was recently awarded a 2014 Young Faculty Award (YFA) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for her research project, “Amorphous Oxide Thin Film Transistors for Switched-Mode Power Supplies.” Such power supplies could potentially be used in a wide variety of wireless sensing and actuation systems, including those that deal with security and monitoring of the environment and medical conditions.

Conventional wide bandgap power devices such as high voltage Schottky rectifiers and high speed power switches use semiconductors such as gallium nitride or silicon carbide. These materials can be expensive and difficult to manufacture, and require discrete-component level integration with silicon CMOS.

To bring down the cost and complexity of manufacturing using existing materials, Prof. Peterson is investigating alternative approaches and materials. Specifically, the goal of this project is to develop power switching thin film transistors (TFTs) and power rectifying diodes based on low-cost, high-performance, transparent amorphous oxide semiconductors, namely amorphous zinc oxide alloys. To achieve this goal, Prof. Peterson will identify and fabricate device architectures that provide moderately high power handling capability using solution-processed amorphous semiconductors.

“These devices could enable DC-to-DC convertors (switched mode power supplies) for inexpensive microsystems using an ink-based, ‘electronics-on-anything’ heterogeneous integration approach,” explains Prof. Peterson. “Such circuits are essential to power wireless sensing and actuation systems that must be ubiquitous, low-cost and lightweight, such as those used in equipment and supply tracking, security, medical and environmental monitoring.”

Prof. Peterson’s research is focused on solution processed electronic materials, new devices using amorphous oxide semiconductors, and additive hetero-integration with CMOS and MEMS. Her lab uses uses liquid inks to print high-quality semiconductors, electrodes, and other materials in order to build high-performance electronic and opto-electronic devices or sensors.

She teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses, including Introduction to Semiconductor Devices (EECS 320) and Power Semiconductor Devices (EECS 598).

Prof. Peterson previously received an NSF BRIGE Award and a Samsung GRO Award. After receiving her Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory and Associate Lecturer at Newnham College, both at the University of Cambridge, UK. She joined the University of Michigan as research faculty in 2009 and as tenure-track faculty in Fall 2013.

Prof. Peterson was presented with the award at the DARPA Young Faculty Award kickoff meeting, October 3, 2014, at DARPA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

About the DARPA Young Faculty Award

According to DARPA, “The objective of the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) program is to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions.”

“The long-term goal of the YFA program is to develop the next generation of academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians in key disciplines who will focus a significant portion of their career on DoD and national security issues.”