Industry and academia collaborate

07 January 2011

A major new industrial collaboration is set to drive forward the research and manufacturing of cutting-edge electronics at The University of Nottingham.

A new partnership in the area of microwave semiconductor devices has been unveiled by e2v and academics at the University. The aim of the partnership is to develop and manufacture advanced semiconductor devices for use in microwave and terahertz applications, helping to keep the East Midlands at the forefront of a field with scores of applications in industrial, commercial and domestic markets.

Funding of £1m from e2v will see a new purpose-built cleanroom at the School of Physics and Astronomy on University Park, housing the e2v semiconductor fabrication facility.

e2v engineers will also have access to the existing nano-fabrication facilities within the school, as well as the range of advanced materials characterisation instruments available on campus. Equally, physicists at Nottingham will also have access to the e2v fabrication tools.

Dr. Chris Mellor, Principal Investigator of the new collaboration for the University, said: “This enables the manufacture of cutting edge electronics in the East Midlands to continue. We look forward to working with e2v to develop the next generation of devices based on our existing expertise in III-V semiconductor physics.”

e2v has been manufacturing electronic devices in the East Midlands for almost 50 years. Following a restructuring of its manufacturing operations in Lincoln, microwave semiconductor device fabrication will be conducted in the new facility at The University of Nottingham. This will enable close collaboration with researchers in the School of Physics and Astronomy and help e2v to develop the next generation of microwave electronic devices. An example is a range of devices known as P-i-N diodes, which are used in sensitive microwave receiver systems. The collaboration’s initial focus will be to develop new devices that have a much faster response time than currently available and can work over wider frequency ranges.

RF/microwave frequency sources used in radar imaging, as well as mixers and detectors used in the receive chain, are also high on the agenda. Applications of these sources include motorway traffic monitoring, large area security imaging and lightweight radar systems for unpiloted airborne vehicles (UAVs). In addition, the scope of work on novel devices will extend to sub-millimetre wave and beyond, where there is a strong interest in devices for high-resolution imagers which can ‘see’ through other materials such as clothing or buildings.

Professor Laurence Eaves, of the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “This is an exciting development for physics at Nottingham. Having an internationally-recognised company working in our lab here offers exciting prospects for translating fundamental research in semiconductor materials and devices into new technology.”

The collaboration will see a financial contribution of more than £1 million from e2v, with significant match funding from the University, and will position the two partners at the forefront of developments in microwave device fabrication.

Dr. Nigel Priestley, Chief Engineer at e2v, said: “This is an excellent example of industry and academia making the decision to collaborate at both the research level and device realisation level. We will now be able to harness specialised semiconductor knowledge from both organisations and work together to provide new exciting solutions for the e2v business and customers.”

Professor Richard Bowtell, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy added: “The collaboration with e2v is an important development for research in our School, while the strong link with an industrial partner should open up new opportunities for our undergraduate and postgraduate students.”

The collaboration extends e2v’s relationship with the University, where the e2v centre for industrial microwave processing (CIMP) focuses on the commercialisation of innovative technologies developed at the University.

It further strengthens The University of Nottingham’s portfolio of successful technology transfer partnerships, which currently includes Rolls Royce, Siemens, and BAE Systems.

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