News

ECE Professor Umesh Mishra selected by the Faculty Senate as the 2017-2018 UCSB Faculty Research Lecturer

April 18th, 2018

mishra sitting on the stairs of ESB
Mishra to deliver the lecture titled “Saving Power is Cool; Really” in the fall quarter of 2018

As we hurtle into a future dominated by the Internet of Things, in which countless devices streamline our lives while producing a prodigious amount of data every second, one thing is clear: Our growing number of machines, gadgets and appliances will need to become far more energy-efficient not just to perform their functions, but also to manipulate that deluge of data.

In addition, our power grids will need to become smarter to respond to the variable needs of the expanding population even as the world works to reduce its reliance on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels. Whereas speed — faster computers, high-speed data to your phone — continues to drive innovation, higher energy efficiency or reduced waste is now equally, if not more, important.

Fortunately, the world’s increasing energy needs have been anticipated by forward-looking thinkers, among them Umesh Mishra, UC Santa Barbara professor of electrical and computer engineering. Regarded by his peers in academia and in industry as a world expert in wide-bandgap materials, particularly gallium nitride (GaN), Mishra took what was a promising yet notoriously difficult material to work with and turned it into a cornerstone of energy-efficient power electronics, from efficient microwave power transmitters to energy conversion.

In recognition of his considerable contributions in the research and development of energy-efficient microwave and energy conversion power electronics, which have resulted in a market valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars as well as added to a thriving green industry, Mishra has been selected as UCSB’s 2018 Faculty Research Lecturer. It is the highest honor bestowed upon UCSB professors by their peers and recognizes extraordinary scholarly distinction.

“The understanding of the Earth’s limited resources and human impact on the planet is changing the world, where the efficiency of electronic devices is being valued alongside performance,” Mishra said. “This enables us to be lucky to witness our Sputnik moment: The challenge of widespread deployment of energy-efficient electronics impacting a broad range of applications, from efficient microwave transmission to long-range electric cars. I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute to this endeavor in a meaningful manner and, most importantly, have fun doing it with outstanding colleagues at UCSB.”

Mishra, the Donald W. Whittier Professor in Electrical Engineering, joined the UCSB faculty in 1990. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Cornell University and is an author of more than 800 publications, with more than 44,000 citations. A partial list of Mishra’s awards include the 2007 IEEE David Sarnoff Award, the 2007 International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors (ISCS) Quantum Device Award and the 2012 ISCS Heinrich Welker Award. Mishra also is an IEEE Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors.

The UCSB Current – "The Next Big Challenge" (full article)

Mishra's COE Profile

ECE Assistant Professor Yon Visell receives an NSF CAREER award for his haptics research

April 9th, 2018

visell at work in the lab
Visell is an advocate for more research into the physical mechanisms of human touch sensing – that can pave the way for new technologies of increasing relevance to modern society from wearables to robots to virtual and augmented reality

We use touch all of the time to interact with the world around us. Yet the sense of touch is far less understood than our other senses, such as vision and hearing. Our hands and brain gather a wealth of information as we interact with objects in our environment, but the ways in which this data is captured are something of a mystery.

“Recent research has shown that even lightly touching an object with a finger excites elastic waves that travel throughout the hand, eliciting responses in the sensory nervous system that evoke the conscious experience of touch,” said Visell, an assistant professor with appointments in UCSB’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in its Media Arts and Technology graduate program.“But the physical processes that are involved are as yet unclear.”

Now, with a National Science Foundation CAREER award, Visell aims to use his expertise in haptics — the science of communicating via touch — to shed light on its wave-like nature, with outcomes that could set the stage for advances in a wide array of fields, from engineering to neuroscience, medicine and education.

We greatly appreciate the support of the National Science Foundation, and in particular of the Cyber Human Systems program, for supporting our research on haptics — an area of growing importance that contains many surprising and enigmatic challenges,” Visell said. “Everyone has a lifetime of experience in interacting with the world via touch, yet our understanding of this important modality remains limited. We are excited to have the opportunity to expand our knowledge of haptics, and to create new engineering systems that make use of it.”

The UCSB Current – "Waves of Touch" (full article)

Visell's COE Profile

Visell's RE Touch Lab

UCSB honors ECE emeritus professor Larry Coldren, a giant in EE and materials science, for his work on PICs and tunable lasers

March 22nd, 2018

photo of coldren and kroemer
Some sixty people, including UC Santa Barbara faculty colleagues, alumni, and industry partners, convened at UCSB’s Loma Pelona Center on March 16 to honor Coldren

College of Engineering Dean Rod Alferness opened the event, titled “A History of PICs (Photonic Integrated Circuits) and VCSELs (Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers),” before introducing Chancellor Henry Yang, who mentioned the following as just some of Coldren’s accomplishments.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors, and a fellow of the Optical Society of America and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He was named to the latter before he even began the photonics work that would bring him worldwide renown. He spent thirteen years at Bell Labs, and came to UCSB in 1984, a move that one speaker described as “a risk he took that paid off; he saw UCSB as an up-and-coming university and wanted to help it grow.”

He spent two years as acting dean of the College of Engineering, was a co-founder of the Materials Department, and was named Fred Kavli Professor of Optoelectronics, making UCSB the first of now eighteen universities to host a Kavli Institute and named professor. He is part of the Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) at UCSB and has directed the Optoelectronics Technology Center, which he co-founded, since 1990.

Coldren has advised more than 70 PhD students, been issued more than 63 patents, and published more than a thousand papers, plus multiple book chapters and, in 1995, the seminal book Diode Lasers and Photonic Integrated Circuits, which has become a standard graduate-level text on the topic. His inventions have served as enabling technologies for some of the most widespread devices in the world, from iPhones to laser mice, to face recognition and fiber-optic networks. He cofounded two companies, Optical Concepts and Gore Photonics.

At the end of Chancellor Yang’s lengthy, but only partial, list of Coldren’s accomplishments, he said with a laugh, “I received one patent and it took ten years. I have no idea how Larry found the time to earn sixty-three and to do all the other things he did.”

Some 24 speakers including ECE professors Herb Kroemer, Art Gossard and John Bowers took the podium over several hours to honor Coldren’s legendary contributions.

COE News – "Honoring a Photonics Giant" (full article)

Coldren's COE Profile

Coldren's Optoelectronics Technology Center (OTC)

Forbes covers ECE Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s newly invented Kinetic Inductor

March 21st, 2018

forbes logo
Banerjee’s latest invention of a kinetic inductor that overcame a 200 year old fundamental limitation of the original device has received comprehensive coverage by the international business magazine Forbes

In an article titled, “The last barrier to ultra-miniaturized electronics is broken, thanks to a new type of inductor”, the magazine stated that with connected devices and the Internet of Things poised to become a multi-trillion dollar enterprise by the mid-2020s, this new type of inductor could be exactly the kind of revolution the burgeoning industry has been hoping for.

Since their invention in 1831 by the English scientist, Michael Faraday, all inductors had remained essentially the same in terms of their working principle that involved the magnetic inductance only. This, however, caused a fundamental scaling problem. In January this year, Professor Banerjee demonstrated a fundamentally new kind of inductor that exhibited sufficient kinetic inductance to beat the inherent limitations of the Faraday design for the very first time.

According to Forbes, due to this invention, next-generation communications, energy storage, and sensing technologies could be smaller, lighter, and faster than ever. Quite aptly, the article concludes, “And thanks to this great leap in nanomaterials, we might finally be able to go beyond the technology that Faraday brought to our world nearly 200 years ago”.

Founded in 1917, Forbes is the world’s leading business magazine. Published bi-weekly, it features original articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics. Forbes also reports on related subjects such as technology, communications, science, politics, and law. The magazine is well known for its lists and rankings, including of the richest Americans (the Forbes 400), of the world’s top companies (the Forbes Global 2000), and The World’s Billionaires. Their digital site receives over 27 million visitors each month.

Forbes – "The Last Barrier to Ultra-Miniaturized Electronics is Broken, Thanks to a New Type of Inductor" (full article)

Banerjee's COE Profile

Banerjee’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab

ECE professors Jonathan Klamkin and Larry Coldren research on energy-efficient photonics-based circuits featured in The UCSB Current article “Shrinking SWaP”

March 8th, 2018

illustration of swap
Engineers receive a NASA grant to design smaller, lighter, cheaper and more energy-efficient photonics-based circuits

If the parts in a satellite, a drone or other specialized device are large in size, weight and power consumption — in other words, if their SWaP is high — the device itself has to be bigger and heavier and is usually more expensive to build, launch or operate.

With a new grant, UC Santa Barbara engineers Jonathan Klamkin and Larry Coldren aim to reduce SWaP to improve performance. The pair has received one of 12 highly competitive NASA research awards to produce low-SWaP integrated microphotonic circuits for satellite-based Lidar applications. The three-year award is part of NASA’s $14 million Advanced Component Technology Program.

Lidar is a light-based remote-sensing method that uses a pulsing laser to map environments. Ultra-low SWaP photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are intended for precise measurements of atmospheric constituents such as carbon dioxide.

“Photonic integrated circuits can reduce SWaP dramatically — by several orders of magnitude — so they can be deployed on smaller spacecraft that cost much less and launch more frequently,” said Klamkin, an associate professor in UCSB’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The upshot is significantly more scientific measurements at substantially reduced cost.

“We are shrinking down a very capable system from the size of a small refrigerator to pocket size and making it perform even better,” he added. “That opens up a lot of doors, not only for space missions but also for other applications. For space specifically, you could map Earth’s carbon dioxide — or methane or other gases — by putting our technology on CubeSats — modular satellites consisting of one or more 10-by-10-by-10-cm cubes. Today, systems like this don’t fit on even large satellites.”

The UCSB Current – “Shrinking SWaP” (full article)

To learn more read: UCSB College of Engineering News – "Smaller SWaP, Bigger Performance" (full article)

Coldren and Kamkin's Optoelectronics Technology Center (OTC)

ECE Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s research highlighted in The UCSB Current “Reinventing the Inductor” and other publications

March 8th, 2018

illustration of the intercalated multilayer-graphene inductor

A new materials-based approach by Banerjee yields a smaller, higher-performing alternative to the classic design

A basic building block of modern technology, inductors are everywhere: cellphones, laptops, radios, televisions, cars. And surprisingly, they are essentially the same today as in 1831, when they were first created by English scientist Michael Faraday.

The particularly large size of inductors made according to Faraday’s design are a limiting factor in delivering the miniaturized devices that will help realize the potential of the Internet of Things, which promises to connect people to some 50 billion objects by 2020. That lofty goal is expected to have an estimated economic impact between $2.7 and $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.

A team at UC Santa Barbara, led by Kaustav Banerjee, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has taken a materials-based approach to reinventing this fundamental component of modern electronics. The findings appear in the journal Nature Electronics published paper, “On-chip intercalated-graphene inductors for next-generation radio frequency electronics”

The UCSB Current “Reinventing the Inductor” (full article)

To learn more read UCSB College of Engineering News“Reinventing the Inductor — 200 Years Later”

Additional related articles:

Banerjee's COE Profile

Banerjee's Nanoelectronics Research Lab

ECE Assistant Professor Jon Schuller’s research on steering light beams w/out moving parts featured in The UCSB Current article “Pointing Light”

March 1st, 2018

schuller lab research illustration
Schuller takes a materials approach to the application-rich area of steering light beams without moving parts

Without the vast, nearly infinite web of crisscrossing electromagnetic waves that travel invisibly through the air, the modern world would cease to exist. Transmitting digital data and sensing and returning information about the environment at the speed of light, these waves are important in many emerging applications, including autonomous vehicles, Lidar and holographic displays, where the ability to direct and steer light beams over time is crucial to mapping surroundings or to immersion in an augmented reality.

UC Santa Barbara engineer Jon Schuller aims to manipulate specialized semiconductor materials and devices to control light without using mechanically moving parts — an achievement that could have wide-ranging applications. He is pursuing ways to use sub-wavelength interactions involving any element smaller than the wavelength of light (about one micron) to not only steer light, but also to enable faster, more efficient sensing. He also hopes to shrink the size of the system and improve its performance — all at a lower cost.

To read the full article go to The UCSB Current – "Pointing Light"

Schuller's COE Profile

Schuller Lab

UCSB researchers and Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC) receive industry attention for changing how we use light

January 30th, 2018

photo of chowdhury, nakamura, denbaars and mishra UCSB ECE alumna Srabanti Chowdhury M.S. ’08, Ph.D. ’10 and Materials/ECE Profs. & SSLEEC co-directors Shuji Nakamura (Nobel Prize ’14) and Steve Denbaars, and ECE Prof. Umesh Mishra’s research featured in UCSB Coastlines article “Illuminating International Interest”

Researchers showcased their groundbreaking work to create light without heat and save significant energy during the Center’s 4th Annual Review Conference held on campus in November. About 130 participants including industry investors, sponsors and visiting researchers from throughout the United States, Asia, Europe and the Middle East as well as faculty and students listened as researchers presented the latest updates on their work.

“The Department of Energy expects that there will be a 50 percent reduction in high power needs in lighting with $250 billion in savings. That’s equal to 50,000 megawatts of power in the U.S. This research truly has the ability to transform the world,” said UCSB Vice Chancellor for Research Joseph Incandela.

Among the conference presenters ECE alumna Srabanti Chowdhury, associate professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis, is developing solutions for next generation electronics. All electronics including lighting, air-conditioning, computers and motion control devices rely on energy conversion in order to operate. Her research focuses on the use of diamond, gallium oxide and gallium nitride materials for next generation power and other emerging electronics to reduce the energy wasted as heat during conversion. “We’ve had big milestones that prove that diamond is a promising candidate,” Chowdhury said. “It has challenges, but we are seeing development from when I first started this work. Diamond’s performance is solid.”

In addition to Chowdhury, other researchers including Nakamura, DenBaars and Mishra presented their latest findings on laser lighting; green and UV LED lighting; and LiFi technology, high speed networked wireless communication, among other projects.

UCSB Coastlines (Winter 2018) – "Illuminating International Interest" (full article)

Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC)

ECE Professor Mark Rodwell leads $27.5 million center for converged terahertz communications and sensing

January 18th, 2018

illustration of networking in a metropolitan area
UCSB is the lead institution for ComSenTer that will explore terahertz-range communications and sensing

Imagine a roomful of 1,000 students all simultaneously experiencing an augmented reality lecture and demonstration. Or, how about riding in an autonomous vehicle that can detect, in real time and despite inclement weather, an accident or obstacle miles ahead? For those scenarios to be possible, we need a new, enhanced generation of wireless communication.

“Our center is simply the next next generation of communication and sensing, something that may become ‘6G’,” said Ali Niknejad, ComSenTer associate director and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

The fifth generation (5G) in mobile communications is currently under active investigation by industry, with expected deployments ahead of the 2020 Olympics. This emerging network will employ higher frequency bands, more spatial multiplexing and higher throughputs than those available to consumers today.

ComSenTer’s research will go further, laying the foundation for the next generation by utilizing extremely high frequencies in the range of 100 GHz to 1 Thz. According to the researchers, this will allow for the extreme densification of communications systems, enabling hundreds and even thousands of simultaneous wireless connections, with 10 to 1,000 times higher capacity than the nearer-term 5G systems and network.

Augmented reality and next-level imaging and sensing with a terahertz imaging radar are only some of the potential applications that ComSenTer seeks to make a reality. Other possibilities include chemical sensors and new medical imaging modalities.

“We are delighted and extremely proud that Professor Mark Rodwell will be leading the ComSenTer,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering at UCSB. “We believe that expanding and leveraging our team’s advances in terahertz and sensing technologies to direct very-broadband information signals to thousands of users offers great promise in addressing the ever-increasing future demands for wireless services.”

ComSenTer is part of the new $200 million, five-year JUMP (Joint University Microelectronics Program), a consortium of industry research participants and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), administered by Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). The partnership will fund research centers at six top research universities: UCSB, Carnegie Mellon University, Purdue University, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame.

The UCSB Current – "Beyond 5G" (full article)

Rodwell's COE Profile

Rodwell Group

Nobel laureate Shuji Nakamura is awarded the 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP)

January 18th, 2018

photo of Shuji Nakamura The materials and ECE professor, who is also the research director for UCSB’s Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center, recognized in the Lifetime Achievement category for his outstanding record of achievement in the renewable energy and sustainability sectors”

“The 2018 Zayed Future Energy Award recognizes the global impact of solid-state lighting technology on both the climate and the citizens of our planet, and I am honored that my work in this field is again being highlighted,” Nakamura said.

A winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, Nakamura is one of three individuals credited for creating he highly sought bright-blue LED. That advance paved the way for the white LED — technology that is now at the heart of many energy-efficient applications, including interior and exterior lighting, displays and automotive headlamps. The use of LED lights has revolutionized energy savings, making it possible to reduce fossil fuel use and carbon footprints. Their durability has also enabled the provision of lighting under inhospitable conditions and in places where traditional energy infrastructure is not available.

“It is altogether fitting that Shuji Nakamura should continue to receive recognition in the form of prestigious awards, such as the Zayed Future Energy Prize, for his enormous contributions to energy-efficient solid-state lighting,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering. “He continues to bring tremendous energy, creativity and diligence to his work, and to provide indispensable mentorship to UCSB graduate students.”

Nakamura received his award at a ceremony held in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

The UCSB Current – "An Outstanding Record" (full article)

Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP)

Nakamura's COE Profile