Campus: CSU Northridge -- October 11, 2005

CSUN Physics Professor Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Cal State Northridge physics professor Nicholas Kioussis, along with three colleagues from UCLA, has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation as part of an interdisciplinary research team that is studying nanoscale technology.

The grant will support the researchers' efforts to improve the microscopic technology used in such products as cellular phones, Ipods, laptop computers and video games. "We are, of course, very honored to receive the grant. The National Science Foundation NIRT (Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams) grants are very competitive and prestigious," said Kioussis. This is the first NIRT grant CSUN has ever been awarded.

Kioussis explained that as electronic products decrease in size, the transistors or wires that carry the electrical currents must also decrease. Today's electronic products use wires made mostly of copper, which loses electrical stability when reduced to a certain dimension. The displacement of atoms in copper causes voids between the wires, and this interrupts the flow of electricity and the performance of electronic equipment.

The research team's goal is to identify the factors that cause displacement and discover how to prevent it. The team consists of Kioussis and three UCLA researchers, materials scientist King-Ning Tu, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Nasr Ghoniem, materials science and engineering professor Jenn-Ming Yang.

Kioussis will do his research in CSUN's W. M. Keck Computational Materials Theory Center. He is enthusiastic about the opportunity for Northridge students to assist his work.

"Our students are the next generation and it is important they have the opportunity to work on nanoscale technology now," said Kioussis, who believes the transition from micro to nanoscale will happen within the next five to ten years.

Kioussis said the U.S. needs to emerge as a leader in downsizing the scale of microchips to stay competitive in the microelectronic industry. "Our research could have a broader impact and enhance the U.S.'s global position in producing electronic products."

Cal State Northridge will work with UCLA to develop classes on nanoscale structure and provide students with comprehensive training in all scale sizes. "CSUN and UCLA each have different areas of expertise. We want to teach students how to link the separate approaches," Kioussis said.

He said the results of the research could have a significant impact on consumer products. The Intel Corporation has already shown an interest in the findings, he added.

Kioussis pointed out that discovering how to strengthen copper wires at the nanoscale level and eliminating displacement would result in electronic products that have an increase in memory capabilities, while the products themselves continued to decrease in size.

The ultimate solution, according to Kioussis, would be to have free-standing wires. "Now we need to work hard and prove ourselves," he said.

Anil Puri, dean of the College of Business and Economics at or 714-278-2592;
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at or 714-278-4852

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