Oct 5, 2021 - News

University of Arkansas to open new research facility

An Arkansas Razorbacks sign on campus of the University of Arkansas. Photo by Lance King/Replay Photos via Getty Images

University of Arkansas engineering researchers will operate a new silicon carbide research and fabrication facility, the university announced Monday.

  • Huh? We'll explain: Silicon carbide is a semiconductor of power that works well in higher temperatures.

Why it matters: The facility will produce integrated circuits, sensors and devices that can be used for military and industrial purposes as well as for construction equipment and electronics for cars.

  • And it's the first in the U.S. to be open — as in researchers and businesses not affiliated with U of A can use it to build and test prototypes, says Alan Mantooth, the professor leading the research team.
  • "This is very important when you're trying to bridge the gap between research and commercial products. That’s the bridge we’re building," he tells Axios.

Context: Bloomberg reported last week that silicon carbide might be the answer to making electronic vehicles that charge faster and keep a charge longer, which consumers demand.

  • Mantooth explains that silicon carbide can help make electronics more efficient. Its ability to operate in high temperatures eliminates the need for water cooling.

Details: A $17.87 million grant from the National Science Foundation will pay for infrastructure, equipment, technology installation, three full-time staff members and a postdoctoral researcher for four years, according to the university news release.

  • The university also received $5.4 million from the U.S. Army, including $4.4 million for equipment and $1 million for research, Mantooth adds.

What's next: The facility will open in an existing temporary space on campus as soon as the equipment arrives, but the research team is hoping for a new 15,000–16,000-square-foot building, Mantooth says.

  • He expects that will be up for Board of Trustees discussion this fall.

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