Yuhao Zhang. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.
Yuhao Zhang. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

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Tech group wins NSF award for semiconductor research

Principal investigator Yuhao Zhang and three other professors from the Virginia Tech Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems flagship program, ASCENT.

Otherwise known as Addressing Systems Challenges through Engineering Teams, ASCENT is focused on future semiconductor technologies. Zhang and his team are proposing a first-of-its-kind semiconductor technology that is optically driven for use in grid power electronics.

Key collaborators in this project include faculty from the Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES) in Arlington and Blacksburg and the Center for Photonics Technology (CPT). Both of these research centers are based at Virginia Tech and are world leaders in their areas of focus.

Working with Zhang, an expert in the areas of power electronics, micro/nano-electronic devices, and advanced semiconductor materials, are Assistant Professors Dong Dong and Christina DiMarino and Associate Professor Xiaoting Jia.

DiMarino explained the current setbacks of electrical semiconductors and the potential for optically driven devices. She said when electrical noise occurs, devices can transition on and off very quickly, also known as false triggering, which creates a disturbance. For multiple devices, the nonsynchronous driving also will lead to false triggering. This can cause problems like short circuits and eventually system failure in the grid.

Optically driven semiconductors operate on the principle of photo-generation, using a light source from a laser fiber to turn the switch on and off. This approach provides more noise immunity because photons, or light, are being used instead of electrons. The fast speed of light allows for an ideal synchronization for driving hundreds of devices, and the number of required electrical components can be reduced.

Implementing these devices into the semiconductor power grid would drastically simplify the complexity of grid scale power, resulting in greatly improved scalability, efficiency, interactivity, and resiliency.

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Roe-Hoan Yoon. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Tech’s Yoon named fellow of National Academy of Inventors

Roe-Hoan Yoon, a University Distinguished Professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering and director of the Center of Advanced Separation Technologies, has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). 

Yoon is internationally known for significant contributions to advancing the technology and science of mineral processing, fine particle separation and dewatering, column flotation, chemistry of sulfide mineral flotation, fine particle dewatering, and colloid and surface chemistry. 

With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, Yoon developed and patented the microbubble flotation process, which has been marketed commercially under the name Microcel. The coal industry regards it as one of the best technologies for separating fine particles.

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Bonnie Graham at right. Courtesy of New River CC.

New River Community College professor named as Early Childhood Champion awardee

New River Community College Program Head and Professor of Human Services and Early Childhood Bonnie Graham was recently recognized by the Community Foundation for the New River Valley’s First Steps as a 2022 Early Childhood Champions awardee. 

First Steps recognizes individuals and teams serving young children and families through the Early Childhood Champion Awards. Five award recipients are selected overall, including one early childhood champion of the year, one runner-up, and three honorees. Each awardee receives a cash prize made possible by the Community Foundation. Graham was this year’s runner-up. 

Other honorees from NRCC’s early childhood education program included Chelsea Naughton Sharlow, a current NRCC early childhood student and director of Heart ’n’ Hand Early Learning Center, and Judy Shelor, an NRCC early childhood graduate and center director of Valley Interfaith Child Care Center.

The following nominees are also NRCC early childhood education students and/or graduates: Lori Dobbins, office administrator at Radford Head Start; Alea Lacoste, lead teacher at the Virginia Tech Child Development Center for Learning & Research; Sheila Morrison, director of Imagination Station; and Stefi Schafer, early childhood teacher at Blue Mountain School.

For more information about NRCC’s early childhood development programs, visit https://www.nr.edu/ecd/