Local lecturer leads nanowires research

GROUND-BREAKING WORK::Chou Yi-chia, 30, recently published a paper on her team’s nanowires research, which could revolutionize the global electronics industry

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - Page 5

An assistant professor at National Chiao Tung University’s department of electrophysics, Chou Yi-chia (周苡嘉), recently became the school’s youngest lecturer to publish a research paper as the principal author in the globally renowned academic magazine Science.

Chou, 30, coauthored the paper “Atomic-scale variable and control of III-V nanowire growth kinetics” along with research fellows and academics at Lund University in Sweden.

The multinational research team has derived a growth model for nanowires that could contribute to the development of cheaper technologies for the production of the next generation of computer chips.

With the cost of building next-generation semiconductor chip factories expected to keep rising, researchers in Silicon Valley are developing new types of materials that could reshape the computing world in the next decade.

According to a recent New York Times report, semiconductor designers are developing chemical processes that can make it possible for circuits to “self-assemble,” by causing materials to form patterns of ultrathin wires on a semiconductor wafer.

They believe that combining these patterns of nanowires with conventional chip-making techniques will lead to a new class of computer chips that could be cheaper to produce.

For a range of nanotechnology applications, semiconductor nanowires will need to be grown with high precision and control.

Chou’s team studied the growth of gallium phosphide (GaP) nano-wires using chemical vapor deposition within a transmission electron microscope, and worked out conditions that could generate regular and predictable wire growth.

The team measured the growth kinetics of III-V nanowires under different conditions. They derived a growth model in self-assembling nanomaterials that is expected to contribute to the development of a new generation of microprocessor chips and inspire an upgrading in the consumer electronics industry.

Chou and her colleagues completed the experiment when she was conducting post-doctoral research at IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

She began to analyze and record the research findings after she returned to Taiwan to teach at National Chiao Tung University about two years ago. It took her one-and-a-half years to complete the paper.

Chou became enamored with scientific research after participating in a science fair as a student at Chiayi Girls’ Senior High School in southern Taiwan.

Although her parents wanted her to study medicine, she decided to pursue a career in science. After graduating from National Tsing Hua University’s Department of Material’s Science and Engineering, she went to the US to study semiconductor dynamics at the University of California-Los Angeles. She obtained her doctorate at the age of 26.

Chou said in an interview on Friday last week that “while some people say research is lonely work, I’ve never had that feeling,” adding that she never thinks research is toil even if she sometimes has to work for 12 hours straight, without even having a meal.