Zhou's research aims to revolutionize semiconductor technology

The focus of the study revolves around maximizing the potential of light in semiconductor chip operations to enhance their efficiency, power, and luminosity.

Zhou's research aims to revolutionize semiconductor technology

In a groundbreaking venture into semiconductor technology, Professor Weidong Zhou from the University of Texas at Arlington’s Department of Electrical Engineering is spearheading a $2.7 million research project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The focus of the study revolves around maximizing the potential of light in semiconductor chip operations to enhance their efficiency, power, and luminosity.

Professor Zhou, a Distinguished University Professor, is joined by co-principal investigator Professor Yuze “Alice” Sun, an associate professor in UTA’s electrical engineering department. The duo aims to delve into the realms of high-brightness semiconductor photonic crystal surface-emitting laser (PCSEL) chip technology, with potential applications spanning from self-driving cars to satellite technology and space exploration.

“At the core of our research is the exploration of a new breed of semiconductor laser, situated at the intersection of chip and space technology,” Professor Zhou explained. A critical aspect of the project involves scaling the laser power output while upholding high laser beam quality.

Semiconductor lasers play a pivotal role in advancing technologies across various fields. Recent developments have given rise to a novel type of large-area, surface-emitting laser based on in-plane photonic crystal modulation and feedback. This innovation underscores the benefits of high output power, low divergence, superior beam quality, brightness, as well as compact and monolithic structures, as highlighted in Professor Zhou’s October 2023 paper in Applied Physics Letters.

Zhou’s vision extends beyond the current project, as he endeavors to establish a major consortium center at UT Arlington dedicated to advanced research in semiconductor photonics, PCSEL laser chips, and their applications in space, defense, quantum, and communications.

The ongoing work builds upon Professor Zhou’s previous leadership in various projects at the University. In 2023, UTA joined a Department of Energy-funded consortium, where researchers are developing innovative technologies and college courses ranging from radiation detection to nuclear engineering. As part of this initiative, UTA is actively engaged in crafting 2D materials that can be seamlessly integrated into new handheld photonic technologies with diverse applications.

In 2022, Professor Zhou secured a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant to explore optical laser beam modulations for 3D sensing in autonomous driving cars. The year before that, he received a $580,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to acquire a Raith VOYAGER 100 high-performance electron beam writer system.

As the pinnacle of their efforts, the 2024 annual Photonics Workshop and Showcase is scheduled for February 9 at UTA, focusing on semiconductor photonics for harsh environments. This event is poised to bring together experts, researchers, and industry professionals to exchange insights and discuss the latest breakthroughs in the field.

Professor Zhou’s relentless pursuit of innovation underscores the pivotal role UT Arlington plays in shaping the future of semiconductor technology.

The implications of his research extend far beyond the confines of academia, holding the promise of transforming industries and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realms of light-based technologies. As the project progresses, the world eagerly awaits the dawn of a new era in semiconductor advancements, guided by the visionary work of Professor Weidong Zhou and his team at UT Arlington.