22 01 2013

As promised, here is the update for the exciting news in 2013.

At the end of 2012, we joined the space exploration project being run by JP Aerospace in California and launched some pongsats with our local scouts. We flew all kinds of stuff, from bouncy balls to a troll (don’t ask) in our balls, but perhaps the most interesting was the six axis solar intensity monitor. This was built by a work experience student, who managed to make it onto the BBC local news back in October. This was so successful, we got the bug and when we saw the ‘Ideas Take Flight‘ strapline for the upcoming British Science Festival, the thought was ‘how high?’

This has resulted in a big project, with some twenty teams developing cubesats to launch up to around 100,000 feet sometime in June

British Science Festival space cubesat ideas

Ideas Take Flight … to the Edge of Space

So far, we have held a big kick off event in the Discovery Museum and followed this up with visits to schools and this last week, schools visiting us. Next step, is that we need to think carefully about the circuitry before we all meet up again to squeeze it all in to a 2″ cube.

The last update for today, is that I received my new toy in the post yesterday. Molybdenum Disulphide, potentially the next graphene, is being touted as the next wonder material. A trip to the clean room tomorrow and hopefully we should be up and running in this exciting field by this time next week.

MoS2 Molybdenum Disulphide crystal 2D electronics

Natural Molybdenum Disulphide Crystals


Electronics, Sensors, Photonics KTN Meeting

3 05 2012

Just back from the Advances in wireless sensor networks for hostile environments meeting hosted by the Electronics, Sensors and Photonics KTN. A long day out from Newcastle (even though we are halfway up the UK) on the train, the event was held in the old LMS training facility.

Calidior Altior Durior

There was plenty of interest in our work and loads more of interest to think about, from ideas on the development of design rules for wireless sensor networks, to the challenges of instrumenting gas turbines and oil wells. The poster I presented can be downloaded from here as a full size (A0) pdf file KTN Poster

This week …

2 05 2012

More good news from Omid, his paper entitled ‘Design and Performance Evaluation of SiC MOSFET/JFET Based DC-DC Converters for PV Applications’ has been accepted at the upcoming 2012 IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. The reviewers have been very complimentary about the work and hopefully this will result in an oral presentation! As one of the most prestigious conferences in the field, the papers are linked to IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, which is arguably the place to publish research results in power electronics.

Monday saw the extended abstract deadline for the European Conference on Silicon Carbide and Related Materials (ECSCRM) 2012. We managed to get eight abstracts in for the deadline, which is no mean feat, covering almost the entire breadth of what we do, from graphene growth to the characterisation of oxide layers on SiC CMOS! Without time to catch our breath, the next deadline is Friday, the IEEE Sensors 2012 abstract deadline. This time, we are looking to submit three, graphene sensors, our SiC sensor array and recent work on self starting boost converters for powering sensor nodes.

Tomorrow sees me in Derby to give a presentation at the Electronics, Sensors and Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network meeting. Containing our results and vision for wireless sensor nodes, the slides can be downloaded from here KTN Talk – 3rd May 2012. I am also showing a poster outlining our work, which will hopefully attract lots of attention.

And now for something completely different …

6 10 2011

One of the great joys of being our PGR director, is that the job involves supporting the students in what they want to do, as well as persuading them to conform to the University expectations. As part of this, yesterday we had our (first) annual team building day, where the decision was taken to summit Catbells in the Lake District. In what can only be described as ‘typical Lake District weather‘ thirty of us managed to brave the conditions to stand at a height of 451m, in the middle of some stunning landscape.

PhD trip Lake District Extreme weather

Lucy sees the funny side as she finally gets some direction from her supervisor during her PhD

This seems to have been a popular choice and on the way home, there were requests for another day out and the chance to have a go for ‘something bigger‘ next time. In the meantime, we are claiming to have set a new world record, having 29 PhD students on top of a Lake District mountain at the same time!

Welcome to 2011

22 09 2011

That’s the 2011 academic year at any rate …

Tomorrow is the last day of the ‘summer holidays’ and the new students turn up on Monday next week. One big innovation for us this year is the decision that we should enthuse the first years as to the joys of research early in their time with us. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to find the demonstrators we built to show off our DC-DC convertors, high temp radio and the amplifier. Whilst the biggest challenge has been in making sure the batteries are charged, the decision to run the flamethrower ‘test’ live will no doubt be memorable, but the challenge of finding the computer and software is proving difficult.

On a related note, Simon has submitted his thesis and we are looking forward to his viva, which has been confirmed for the 9th of November.

New EPSRC project in Active Sensor sTructures for extReme envirOnments (ASTRO)

12 09 2011

We found out recently that our proposal for a project to develop active gas sensor modules in Silicon Carbide technology has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the body which funds a substantial amount of fundamental research in the UK. This starts on the 1st of October, runs for three years and is a joint project between us, Raytheon UK and BAE Systems. The first job is finding a PhD student, who is looking for something to start on the 1st of October (this year!) which is no mean feat and then it’s down to deciding on the initial research targets.
Details of the grant can be found on the ‘Grants on the Web‘ portal, hosted by EPSRC, by searching for grant number EP/I037660/1.

Throwing some light on interface traps

14 06 2011

We’ve been looking to put some more data in preparation for our abstract being accepted for ICSCRM. Chris, one of our third year undergraduate students has been looking at the behaviour of the SiO2/SiC interface under illumination and we sent this off as an abstract. Since then, he’s finished his exams and called in for the day to run some more tests, with a view to understanding the data he took before. The data shows that using sub bandgap illumination, you can photoexcite a trap level in the bandgap, which shows as a second peak in the conductance data.

Conductance trap SiC MOS illumination

Conductance data under illumination

The capacitance data also shows an effect on illumination

Capacitance MOS data trap SiC

Capacitance data under illumination

Whilst none of this data is corrected for the artefacts from the measurement system, it appears that we are causing a big change in DIT with this illumination and the next job is to extract this using the Terman method to find out what we are looking at.

Having photoexcited these traps, we have gone to look at their decay rate, as one of the critical issues in SiC MOS interfaces is the existence of so called ‘slow states’ By looking at the decay of the capacitance and conductance with time, we found that these traps are still releasing carriers some 24 hours after the illumination is removed. It looks like we need to set the system up to run for longer this weekend in the hope that we can get back to the un-illuminated condition!