News

The UCSB student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer’s Photonics Society named 2016 Chapter of the Year

April 13th, 2016

group photo of the 2016 ucsb ieee photonics society
Established four years ago, the student organization of young engineers at UCSB is recognized for its effort in promoting professional growth and career development in the field of photonics. “This international award exemplifies the strength of our local photonics community and the hard work of our members to promote relationships between students and industry professionals,” said Eric Stanton, chapter president.

Guided by faculty advisor John Bowers, director of UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency, Stanton and 15 other student engineers devoted much time and energy over the past year to initiatives aimed at informing the community of the technology behind and use of photonics.

The UCSB Current – "Best Chapter" (full article)

UCSB IEEE Photonics Society – Student Chaper (website)

Assistant Professor Yon Visell’s research on touch and vibrations featured in The UCSB Current article “A Sensitive Subject”

March 28th, 2016

UCSB researchers catalog for the first time patterns of vibration on the skin of the hand that are part of how we sense the world through touch

photo of yon visell in the lab

“Most people don’t have a very clear picture of how touch sensation actually arises,” says Yon Visell, an assistant professor in the ECE Departent and in the campus’s Media Arts and Technology graduate program. While people are familiar with touch as consisting of the interaction between two surfaces — the skin and whatever it is in contact with — they are less aware of the subtle ways that touch sensing helps us to identify and navigate our surroundings, he said.

For instance, if your fingers are numb, you may still be able to move them, but be hesitant to pick up an object or send a text message, because of the lack of sensation — think of what happens when your foot or arm falls asleep. According to a study co-authored by Visell that appears in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences, our hands in particular have access to rich tactile information that travels far beyond the tips of our fingers. This may help to explain some remarkable capabilities of the sense of touch — why, for example, people whose fingers have been anesthetized are still able to feel fine surface detail, as has been demonstrated in prior research.

“The way they seem to be able to do this is by using mechanical signals, or vibrations, that travel beyond the fingers, farther up the arm,” said Visell. “The hand has specialized sensory end organs distributed widely in it that can capture such mechanical vibrations at a distance.”

Their study used a specialized array of tiny accelerometers, or vibration sensors, worn on the sides and backs of the fingers and hands. With this device, the researchers were able, for the first time, to capture, catalog and analyze patterns of vibration in the skin of the whole hand that were produced during active touch. Actions such as tapping and sliding one or several fingers over different types of material, as well grasping, gripping and indirect tapping (using an object to tap on a surface) all gave rise to distinctive vibration signatures. “We can liken this to the different ways that a bell will sound if it is struck by a metal hammer or a rubber mallet,” said Visell.

“How do those signals reflect what it is that we’re doing and what it is we’re touching? Do parts of the hand nearer to the wrist receive significant information about the shape of the object that we’re touching, what it’s composed of, or how we’re touching it? How are different parts of the hand involved in touch sensing?” Visell said of the fundamental questions that motivated his group to pursue this research. “It is possible that the hand, like the ear, is able to use vibrations produced through contact in order to infer what is being touched, and how the hand is touching it.”

The UCSB Current – "A Sensitive Subject" (full article)

RE Touch Lab

Visell's Lab Bio

Professors Steven Denbaars and Shuji Nakamura among 2016 Central Coast Innovation Award recipients

March 23rd, 2016

image of the CCI awards logo
Materials & ECE Professors Steven DenBaars and Shuji Nakamura among UCSB’s notable entrepreneurs and tech pioneers to be recognized at the 2016 Central Coast Innovation Awards.

The March 24th event, produced in partnership with UCSB’s Office of Technology & Industry Alliances (TIA), UCSB’s CNSI Incubator and the Pacific Coast Business Times, includes Startup Village (3:30-5:30) – a mix and mingle with the most promising emerging & mid-growth startup companies from the Central Coast and the Innovation Awards Reception (5:30-7:30).

UCSB 2016 Central Coast Innovation Award winners include:

  • Spirit of Innovation: Professor Galen Stucky (Materials and Chemistry)
  • Energy & Environmental Science: Soraa – the LED-based lighting company started by Professors Steven DenBaars (Materials & ECE), James Speck (Materials) and Shuji Nakamura (Materials & ECE), recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the bright blue LED
  • Most Disruptive Technology: Ecorithm – Professor Igor Mezić (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Agribusiness: Apeel Sciences (Technology Management Program – 2012 New Venture Competition winner)

The UCSB Current "Innovation Awards Will Recognize Tech Entrepreneurs" (full article)

Central Coast Innovation Awards – Registration

Professors B.S. Manjunath and Yon Visell among presenters at UCSB and Cottage Health 2016 Collaborative Research Symposium

March 10th, 2016

photos of manjunath and visell
Manjunath (imaging and big data) and Visell (wearable technologies w/ potential use in medical exams) present summaries of their work in the hope of forming collaborative research partnerships

Though UCSB doesn’t have a medical school, its abundant biomedical research has helped cultivate a strong partnership with Cottage. To open new avenues for collaboration, UCSB researchers and physicians working with Cottage gathered last week for the 2016 Collaborative Research Symposium, at which participants from both organizations shared their current lines of investigation.

More than 20 scientists each gave a timed five-minute presentation, hoping to connect with a like-minded researcher. At stake were two $15,000 seed grants designed to support collaborative initiatives between attendees from each institution.

The symposium was made possible by philanthropists Jan Dunbar and Alex Pananides, who also provided funding for the grants. Pananides is a UC Santa Barbara Foundation trustee and an honorary alumnus.

The UC Current – "A Meeting of the Minds" (full article)

Manjunath – Vision Research Lab

Yon Visell – RE Touch Lab

Professor Jerry Gibson is Scientific Advisor for Nova’s “What the Physics?!” video about texting

March 7th, 2016

screenshot from the videoLearn about what’s the science behind texting. When you hit send, how does your message leave your phone and make the journey to your friend’s phone?

What is “What The Physics?!”: Each episode explores something surprising or really interesting related to physics. Like the science behind the movie “Interstellar”… Or exploring what real parallel universes might be like… basically, things that make you go, “What The Physics?!”

"What the Physics Behind Texting? (YouTube video/channel)

Gibson profile

Gibson's VivoNets Lab

Assoc. Prof. Yasamin Mostofi’s Wi-Fi research highlighted by the University of California

February 23rd, 2016

wifi video screenshot University of California Research’s Fig. 1 Tuesday videos explore new ideas and research out of the UC System — ranging from science, technology, art and humanities. Get inside the mind of a researcher and watch Tuesday, February 23rd’s episode “Can We Use Wi-Fi To See Through Walls” highlighting the work of ECE’s Yasamin Mostofi.

We use Wi-Fi to stay connected, but Yasamin Mostofi shows that Wi-Fi can also be used to sense the world around us – even behind walls.

The world wants to be connected to the internet at all times, and as a result we’re bombarded by Wi-Fi almost everywhere we go. Yasamin Mostofi, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at UC Santa Barbara, wanted to know can we use them not just for connectivity, but for sensing?

Using nothing more than a Wi-Fi card and a receiver, Mostofi has shown that it’s possible to see through walls – useful for search and rescue – as well as sense the number and location of people in a building, which could transform smart lighting and HVAC technology.

The research highlighted in the video has been supported in part by a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

UC Fig. 1 (full article)

"Can We Use Wi-Fi To See Through Walls?" (YouTube video)

Fig. 1 by the University of California (YouTube Channel)

Mostofi's Research Group

NAE broadcasts Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s new transistor on radio series

February 16th, 2016

nae logo On Feb 14, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced and highlighted the advent of a new transistor recently invented in Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab, through its Engineering Innovation Radio Series, on air since 2003

The new transistor that employs atomically-thin semiconducting channel material and quantum mechanical tunneling lowers power dissipation by over 90% compared to the state-of-the-art silicon transistors. The breakthrough invention was reported in the October 1, 2015 issue of the journal Nature, and has triggered worldwide media coverage.

The NAE works with WTOP Radio, the Washington, D.C. region’s most listened-to radio station, and the WFED 1500 AM, the nation’s only radio station specifically dedicated to covering news related to the federal government, to provide weekly features highlighting engineering innovations and stories that add technical context to issues in the news. The podcasts of such news are also made available by the NAE in their Radio News Archive.

Professor Banerjee’s transistor has provided a new platform for next-generation energy-efficient computing and sensing, and could potentially accelerate emerging application paradigms such as the Internet of Things that promises unprecedented connectivity of people and information.

NAE Radio News Archive“Reinventing the Transistor”

Nature (full article) - "A Subthermionic Tunnel Field-effect Transistor with an Atomically Thin Channel"

UCSB CoE (news release)

Nanoelectronics Research Lab

Nature Materials publishes Prof. K. Banerjee’s study on electron/spin injection into atomically-flat materials

February 1st, 2016

Nature Materials logo
Realizing good electrical contacts is critical to harnessing the full potential of emerging two-dimensional materials including graphene and various transition metal dichalcogenides for electronics, optoelectronics, and spintronics applications. The study examines the nature of such contacts and illuminates pathways to optimizing the injection of both charge and spin into atomically-thin semiconductors.

Members from ECE’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab, in collaboration with researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne (EPFL), have recently published a comprehensive study on the nature of charge and spin injection into atomically-thin two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors in the prestigious journal Nature Materials.

2D materials belonging to the graphene family, various transition metal dichalcogenides including molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) and tungsten diselenide (WSe2), as well as other 2D semiconductors such as monolayer Black Phosphorus have displayed unique potential in overcoming the limitations of conventional bulk materials (such as silicon and III-V semiconductors) for a number of exciting applications in electronics and optoelectronics, as well as spintronics and valleytronics. However, ensuring low-resistance or optimal contacts to such materials is the primary hindrance to using this technology.

Professor Banerjee’s group have made seminal contributions toward advancing the understanding of contacts to 2D materials and have also spearheaded the use of these materials for overcoming power dissipation and other fundamental challenges in nanoscale transistors, interconnects and sensors.

With an impact factor of 36.5, Nature Materials is the #1 ranked research journal in materials science covering all areas of materials including their nanoscale, biological and energy aspects.

Nature Materials (full article) - "Electrical Contacts to Two-dimensional Semiconductors"

Nature Materials – About the Journal

Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL)

Professor Arthur Gossard receives the nation’s highest honor in science and technology – the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

December 23rd, 2015

photo of art gossard
Gossard, a research professor and professor emeritus of materials and of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara, is among eight recipients named to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and nine recipients of the National Medal of Science. All will be feted at a White House ceremony early next year.

Announced at the White House on December 22nd, President Obama said, “Science and technology are fundamental to solving some of our nation’s biggest challenges. The knowledge produced by these Americans today will carry our country’s legacy of innovation forward and continue to help countless others around the world. Their work is a testament to American ingenuity.”

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce. A distinguished independent committee representing the private and public sectors submits recommendations to the president.

“I am thrilled and honored to join with our colleagues in congratulating Professor Gossard on his selection for the prestigious National Medal of Technology and Innovation,” said UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “His creative approach to solving problems, combined with his wide-ranging expertise, relentless curiosity and lifelong passion for frontier-expanding research, has led to remarkable accomplishments that have profoundly influenced the current direction of semiconductor science and technology.

“Mobile phone communications, satellite reception, quantum computation and high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells for electricity generation are just some of the exciting fields that exemplify the rich consequences of his work,” Yang continued. “We are so very proud to see Professor Gossard’s achievements and contributions, especially his pioneering development of molecular-beam epitaxy, recognized in this meaningful way.”

Noted Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering at UCSB, “Professor Gossard’s work in the area of materials growth is at the foundation of ground-breaking scientific and technological advances in semiconductor molecular layered materials. He and colleagues have leveraged this work to make fundamentally new optoelectronic devices, including the lasers and high-speed electronics that make the global Internet possible. The application of his discoveries and inventions has profoundly touched the daily lives of people worldwide.”

“I am honored to join the group of other scientists, engineers and technologists who have previously received this award,” Gossard said. “I want to thank my family, teachers and colleagues for their huge contributions. And I am pleased by the recognition that the award bring to UC and especially to UCSB.”

The UC Current – "Science and Technology's Highest Honor" (full article)

The White House (press release)

ECE Professors John Bowers and Umesh Mishra elected to the 2015 National Academy of Inventors (NAI)

December 16th, 2015

photo of John Bowers and Umesh Mishra Four UC Santa Barbara engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for 2015. Recognized for their “highly prolific spirit of invention,” ECE Professors John Bowers & Umesh Mishra and Materials and Chemistry & Biochemistry Professors Craig Hawker & Galen Stucky are among the newest fellows elected by the organization.

They join 164 other new NAI members for 2015, bringing the total of NAI fellows to 582, representing more than 190 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutions.

“Each of these prestigious members of our faculty have made discoveries and then translated them into applications that change the world, from energy efficiency in electronics, to innovative polymers, to life-saving biomedical technology,” commented Rod Alferness, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering. “Society is benefiting from their intellectual contributions right now, and their work propels us into a bright future. We are tremendously proud of the recognition by NAI.”

ECE Professor John Bowers
An expert in photonics and optoelectronics, electrical and computer engineering professor John Bowers’s research focuses on the use of light to transmit data. By integrating electronic and photonic elements on the same silicon-based chip, the next generations of computers and telecommunications devices will be able to receive and transmit data at much faster speeds and with a fraction of the energy that is being used today.

Bowers is the founding director of the UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency and a cofounder of the campus’s Technology Management Program, as well as the West Coast lead for the federally funded American Institute for Manufacturing of Photonics. A veteran of industry who worked at Bell Laboratories and Honeywell before joining UCSB in 1987, Bowers has published 466 journal papers, received 54 patents and consults with numerous photonics manufacturing companies.

“It is very gratifying when new products or new companies come out of good research,” Bowers said of the “creative research” required to bring forth advanced technologies and bring them to the market.

Bowers is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Optical Society of America (OSA) and the American Physical Society, and a recipient of the OSA Holonyak Prize.

ECE Professor Umesh Mishra
A whopping $40 billion in unused energy is wasted in the United States annually, and it’s not coming from the more obvious places in our energy infrastructure. Rather, the energy dissipation happens at the point of conversion, with the adaptors in our various devices changing the voltage that arrives through power outlets to be compatible with the smaller requirements of our machines, and losing the rest as heat.

Electrical and computer engineering professor Umesh Mishra has made it his mission to put an end to that waste of energy and money, and in doing so, help to update the country’s outdated and inefficient energy infrastructure. His research expertise is in gallium nitride (GaN) electronics, utilizing the fine control offered by the wide-bandgap semiconductor material over the flow of electrons, enabling more efficient power distribution in various industrial and commercial systems, as well as opening the way to better integration of renewable energy sources.

“The impact of gallium nitride-based electronics is to radically improve the efficiency for radio-frequency power generation used in wireless base stations and also all forms of power conversion including data servers, solar inverters and electric and hybrid car motor drives,” said Mishra, who is “honored” to be inducted into NAI. “This is an important step in the journey toward ultra-low wasted energy in these functions, which reduces cost, mitigates environmental impact and takes the shackles off system design while creating jobs.”

Mishra, who joined UCSB in 1990, is a member of the campus’s Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center and holds the Donald W. Whittier Chair in Electrical Engineering. He is also leading research efforts as part of PowerAmerica, a federally funded national research and manufacturing consortium established to accelerate research and development of GaN and other wide-bandgap semiconductor technologies.

The UCSB Current – "Academy of Inventors Honors UCSB Engineering Faculty Members" (full article)

Bowers' Optoelectronics Research Group Bio

Mishra's CoE Profile