The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Xia Wins DARPA Young Faculty Award

Assistant Professor Qiangfei Xia of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has received a Young Faculty Award (YFA) of approximately $300,000 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The objective of the program is “to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions and expose them to Department of Defense (DoD) needs as well as DARPA’s program development process.” This year, the YFA competition was intense -- of the 560 applications received, only 51 awardees were selected. Xia’s DARPA project is entitled “3D All-silicon-based Resistive Random Access Memory (RRAM).”

He will work on some of the most challenging technical issues facing RRAM, which is considered by many as the future for universal memory and beyond. Device reliability and device-to-device performance variation are still major roadblocks for the development and application of RRAM.

As Xia explains his approach, “We tackle the problems by using novel device structure for better performance, common materials/processing to reduce cost, and 3D stacking to increase packing density.”

Xia expects the technical impact of his work to include RRAM devices with low-power, high-density, high-endurance, long-retention, fast-access speed and negligible cell-to-cell variation. He also projects that the Si-based materials and processing he uses, together with the ultralow operational voltage he has already demonstrated with preliminary results, will make the new memory fully compatible with a low-power CMOS platform.

The YFA program provides funding, mentoring, and industry and DoD contacts to awardees early in their careers so they may develop their research ideas in the context of DoD needs. The YFA program focuses on untenured faculty, emphasizing those without prior DARPA funding. The long-term goal of the YFA program is to develop the next generation of academic scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who will focus a significant portion of their career on DoD and national security issues. (August 2012)