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 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

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

February 22nd, 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

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

ECE Electronics & Photonics researchers receive a Department of Energy (DOE) grant for $4.4 million

January 5th, 2018

illustration of a city with data movement Grant is to develop integrated photonics technology that will make it possible to incorporate photonics right onto the switch chip, eliminating the need for comparatively inefficient copper wiring

Whenever you go onto your Facebook or LinkedIn page, banks of servers at enormous kilometer-long data centers that make up the cloud spring into action, gathering data. The various types of data live on different servers, so a tremendous amount of communication takes place between servers to assemble the package you’re presented as a user. Providing that service to billions of users requires many millions of servers and a great deal of energy.

Not surprisingly, Facebook and other digital giants are always looking for faster and more-efficient ways to store, fetch, and distribute all that data, which, for much of its journey, moves at the speed of light via fiber-optic cable. But there are bottlenecks in the data-storage-and-retrieval system created by copper-wired switches that link servers to each other and to the fiber-optic system. All that copper creates inefficiencies — which in turn produce heat, which requires more electricity to remove — that waste energy and slow the speed of data transmission.

The team projects at least a 90-percent reduction in network power usage in both small- and large-scale systems, and a 200- to 600-percent increase in the overall efficiency of data-center transactions.

The team includes principal investigator Clint Schow and fellow electrical and computer engineering faculty members and co-PI’s Adel Saleh, Jim Buckwalter, Jonathan Klamkin, and Larry Coldren, plus about a dozen graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

"Switching Up" – Convergence: The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UCSB (Issue 20, Fall 2017)

Schow's COE Profile

ECE Electronics & Photonics Research

Unite to Light, the nonprofit founded by ECE Prof. John Bowers, featured in The UCSB Current article “Guiding Light”

December 20th, 2017

unite to light logo
Unite to Light to ship 9,000 solar lights to Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees – the distribution effort with RTM International, a Bangladesh-based NGO, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will prioritize midwives, pregnant women and new mothers

“Unite to Light is very fortunate to work with our partner organizations to send lights to those who need them the most,” said Bowers, who holds the Fred Kavli Chair in Nanotechnology — and who also created the solar-powered LED devices. “They have the connections on the ground to ensure that the lights reach those who really need them.”

RTM purchased the first 8,000 solar lights for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Unite to Light itself is donating an additional 1,000 through its “buy one, give one” program, and direct donations.

“Unite to Light is focused on getting light to those who could not otherwise afford it: children learning to read and study after dark, midwives and health clinics and disaster response,” said Megan Birney, executive director of Unite to Light. “Supplying solar lights to midwives, refugees and new mothers falls squarely into our mission of providing tools for those in need so that they may have a better opportunity to survive and thrive.”

By all accounts, this particular tool is most welcome and deeply appreciated. On receiving a Clean Delivery Kit — solar light included — after a prenatal checkup at a camp-based health facility, Sabekun told a midwife, “I felt so afraid and uncertain this morning, but now I feel more at peace. I feel reassured, I’m glad I came.”

By the close of 2017, Unite to Light in total will have shipped 21,000 solar lamps this year. The organization since its founding in 2011 has distributed over 90,000 lights to 65 countries, including Ghana, South Africa, Haiti and Peru.

The UCSB Current – "Guiding Light" (full article)

Unite to Light

Bowers' COE Profile

ECE Professor Dan Blumenthal named a 2017 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow

December 13th, 2017

photo of Dan Blumenthal
Blumenthal cited for “demonstrating a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.”

“Our campus is thrilled for Professor Blumenthal on his election to the National Academy of Inventors, a proud and prestigious peer recognition of his creativity in engineering,” said UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “While celebrating his commitment to innovation, this honor also acknowledges Professor Blumenthal’s important contributions to society through the creative application of his research at the frontier of technology.”

Blumenthal’s UCSB lab develops new hardware and communications technologies to solve complex communications, transmission, switching and signal processing problems out of reach with today’s technologies. Its primary research undertaking is to develop new functions integrated on small chips called photonic circuits and use them to build networks in ways that save energy and increase the scale of connectivity and bandwidth of data centers and the internet.

“It is a great honor to be nominated as a fellow of the NAI and recognized for work that has come to fruition over so many years through working with so many collaborators,” said Blumenthal, head of the ECE’s Optical Communications and Photonic Integration Group and director of UCSB’s Terabit Optical Ethernet Center. “The challenge of combining creativity and engineering to operate on the edge of technology innovation is in itself hugely satisfying. Seeing this technology take root and positively impact generations of fiber communications networks that people use in their everyday lives to be more energy efficient and communicate, conduct business and solve some of today’s toughest problems — as well as train future engineers and create jobs — continues to motivate my desire to innovate and make positive impacts on society.”

Blumenthal holds 3 degrees in EE: a B.S. from the U. of Rochester, an M.S. from Columbia and a doctorate from the U. of Colorado Boulder. He is a fellow of the IEEE and of the Optical Society. He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House in 1999, a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994 and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award in 1997. Blumenthal has authored or co-authored more than 410 papers, holds 22 patents and is co-author of “Tunable Laser Diodes and Related Optical Sources” (New York: IEEE–Wiley, 2005).

This year’s class of NAI fellows will be inducted during the seventh annual NAI Conference to be held in April in Washington, D.C. Andrew H. Hirshfeld, U.S. commissioner for patents, will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony.

The UCSB Current – "The Spirit of Innovation" (full article)

Blumenthal's COE Profile

Blumenthal's Lab – Optical Communications and Photonic Integration Group (OCPI)

ECE Professors Li-C. Wang and Clint Schow named 2018 Fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

December 13th, 2017

photos of schow and wang
COE’s Schow, Wang and Giovanni Vigna (CS) selected by IEEE for their extraordinary accomplishments in their respective fields

“Ensuring the integrity of computer chips and circuits, using opto-electronic technology to move more data faster and with greater efficiency, and securing computer systems against cybercrime are critical pursuits in the digital age — professors Wang, Schow and Vigna are playing key roles in these important areas,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering. “We offer congratulations to each of them for receiving this high honor.”

Li-C. Wang

A professor of electrical and computer engineering, Wang is an expert in computer engineering as well as electronic design automation and test, in which intelligent software tools are used to automate the processes of hardware design and verification. Modern hardware design can comprise billions of devices and integrate heterogeneous components that perform a variety of functions, involving complex algorithms and architectures in which their performance and properties must be thoroughly verified and tested to ensure product quality, reliability and safety.

Wang is a recipient of numerous honors and awards, including seven best paper awards presented at leading international conferences, and the Technical Excellence Award for his research contributions to member companies of Semiconductor Research Corporation. He was cited by IEEE for “contributions to statistical timing analysis for integrated circuits,” where his research pioneers the use of statistical data analytics to verify design timing assumptions with silicon measurement data.

This innovative methodology, also called design-silicon timing correlation, later became the foundation for developing other data mining-based methodologies in a variety of design automation and test applications such as functional verification, yield improvement and quality assurance.

Clint Schow

For rapid movement of ever-increasing amounts of data, engineers have turned to photonics, which uses light to transmit information at, well, the speed of light. Light is ideal for efficiently transmitting large amounts of information over long distances (think: fiberoptic cables), but within the confines of computers and other data devices, light becomes a challenge to manipulate.

Schow, also a professor of electrical and computer engineering, focuses his research on integrating photonics and electronics, developing hardware that can translate the information between photon and electron, between optical fiber and wire. He was cited by IEEE for “contributions to high-bandwidth optical interconnects,” which will accelerate the development of higher-performance computers and data centers that can accommodate the growing flood of data. Schow also is a fellow of the Optical Society of America.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity through its more than 423,000 members in over 160 countries, and its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards and professional and educational activities.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow Program

The UCSB Current – "High Honors" (full article)

Wang's COE Profile

Schow's COE Profile