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ND Researchers Receive Grant to Develop Two-Dimensional Memory

Nina Welding • DATE: July 17, 2014

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Notre Dame faculty members Susan Fullerton and Alan Seabaugh have been awarded $368,000 as part of the National Science Foundation’s “Grant Opportunities of Academic Liaison with Industry” (GOALI) program.

In their proposal, titled “GOALI: A low-voltage nonvolatile single transistor flash memory device based on ion transport in 2D electrolytes,” Fullerton and Seabaugh propose a new device that relies on the movement of ions to control electron transport in graphene—a single layer of carbon atoms. A main focus of the study is the exploration of new 2D materials through which the ions can move.

“The materials that comprise the device are two-dimensional, requiring us to engineer ion transport at the limit of scaling the thickness,” explains Fullerton, research assistant professor in NDnano/electrical engineering and lead PI on the project. “Our ultimate goal is to move ions back and forth between two graphene sheets that are separated by a few nanometers. In comparison, the lithium ions in your cell phone battery move more than 10,000 times this distance during charging and discharging.”

The NSF GOALI program promotes university-industry partnerships and supports high-risk/high-gain research with a focus on fundamental research. Notre Dame will partner with Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in the development of memory technology.  During the three-year grant, Micron will provide expertise, wafer fabrication, characterization, mentoring, training, and hosting summer interns at their facility in Boise, Idaho.  

“We are looking forward to this opportunity to work with Micron and gain from their expertise in memory and manufacturing,” says Seabaugh, professor of electrical engineering and co-PI. Regarding the research, he explains that “ions are slow movers compared to electrons and are not utilized as charge carriers in microelectronics. However, across nanometer distances and under intense electric fields, transit times can reach the nanosecond time scale—a competitive switching speed for flash memory. What we lack are nanometer-thick, electrically insulating ion conductors.”

Fullerton highlights the interdisciplinary nature of the work. “This project represents the intersection of several disciplines. My background in polymer physics and soft matter combined with Alan’s background in semiconductor device physics will benefit the students who work on this project. Completing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. and internships with an industrial partner will give these students a competitive advantage in the job market.”

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