“High Potential” — Tomás Palacios investigates use of ‘extreme materials’ in electronics, which could reduce energy consumption and make computers far faster.
In 2006, when Tomás Palacios completed his PhD in electrical and computer engineering at UCSB under Professor Umesh Mishra, he was torn between taking a job in academia or industry.
“I wanted to make sure that the new ideas that we were generating could find a path toward society,” says Palacios, the newly tenured Emmanuel E. Landsman Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. “In industry, I was sure that would happen; I was not sure how it would work in academia.”
“What I found when I came here,” he says, “is that MIT is really an amazing place to get all these new ideas out and to collaborate with industry to make sure that the new concepts and new ideas coming out of the university environment find their place in real products and applications.”
According to Palacios, his research group focuses on the application of what he likes to call “extreme materials” to electronics. The 25 graduate students, postdocs and research scientists in the group are split between two major research projects: One focuses on applications of an exotic material called gallium nitride; the other on applications of graphene — a form of carbon — and other “two-dimensional materials” that consist of crystals just a few atoms thick.
“A very important difference between the effort going on in our group and the work going on other places is that we try very hard to find applications for these materials,” Palacios says. “Of course we are interested in the basic science, but we think that MIT is a place that should contribute very heavily to link basic science to applications.”