UCSB has recently become one of seven universities — along with 18 companies — to make up a new national public-private manufacturing consortium designed to stimulate the economy and American innovation, announced by President Barack Obama last Wednesday.
The Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, led by North Carolina State University, is the first of three institutes President Obama proposed in last year’s State of the Union address, which will aim to put labs in closer contact with corporations in order to better apply research findings to product development. The primary function of this institute will be to create and manufacture a new semiconductor that is more efficient and cost-competitive. Known as wide-bandgap semiconductors, the materials are predicted to eliminate up to 90 percent of all energy lost by current technology.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Umesh Mishra, a director for the new consortium, said UCSB was chosen in particular because of its fame within the computer engineering field and “because of the international reputation we have, and for our work with gallium nitride.”
“It basically solidifies us in a leadership position to create the next generation device technologies and also be in a diverse position to create new industries,” Mishra said. “Being associated with a national institute is obviously very prestigious.”
According to Mishra, the planned semiconductors will help address a problem commonly seen through laptop adaptors.
“You can imagine billions and billions of adaptors everywhere in the world all wasting energy, and the waste of energy manifests as heat,” he said. “You can feel your laptop charger getting warm. That is an expression of the inefficiency of the power conversion process.”
The energy wasted during the power conversion process reflects the immense amount of energy that is consumed by the rest of the United States, Mishra said.
“It’s a huge problem,” Mishra said. “We have to fix it and that’s what we aim to do.”
Mishra also said the institute’s purpose goes beyond research, in the sense that it strives to improve the overall economy through stimulation of creativity in education.
“It’s a chance for creating new industry, educating students in a new area, having new jobs created in the industry so that students can get employment and be creative and stimulate the whole economy,” Mishra said. “It’s about education and job creation.”
According to Rod Alferness, Dean of the College of Engineering, UCSB’s participation in the institute is an honor and a reflection of the university’s prestige.
“The College of Engineering is proud to be part of the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute,” Alferness said in an email. “We believe that our participation and the leadership role that Professor Umesh Mishra will play reflects the high regard in which our pioneering work in gallium nitride semiconductor research is held.”
Alferness also said the College of Engineering is working toward scientific breakthroughs that could potentially change how energy is used around nationwide.
“UCSB has made significant advances that will help enable the development of extremely efficient power electronic devices, and therefore the potential for reduced energy consumption for the nation,” Alferness said.
Yang said he has high hopes for Mishra and his colleagues’ work and that he looks forward to the new connections that come with UCSB’s place in the consortium.
“This is a reflection of the outstanding and innovative research of our faculty and the entrepreneurial spirit of our campus,” Yang said in an email.
A version of this story appeared on page 5 of Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.