Physics professor part of $1.3 million grant

Daily Sundial

CSUN physics professor Nicholas Kioussis, along with three UCLA professors, recently received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to further explore nanoscale technology.

“This is the first Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams (NIRT) grant received by the university,” Kioussis said. “They were based on quality of proposals, scientific research record and merit of the proposal. It is a very competitive and prestigious honor.”

The research team is a combined venture between CSUN and UCLA. Along with Kioussis, the team consists of three UCLA researchers: Nasr Ghoniem, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor; King-Ning Tu, materials scientist; and Jenn-Ming Yang, materials science and engineering professor.

According to a university statement, the grant will support the researchers’ efforts to improve the microscopic technology used in products such as cellular phones, iPods, laptop computers and video games

Since electronic chips are decreasing in size, the team’s goal is to decrease the sizes of the wires, Kioussis said. He said with the project, the researchers would provide products with stronger wires that could lead to the reduction of sizes of actual material. He also said the research would improve and strengthen the materials interconnecting the package components.

According to Ghoniem, each professor would bring a specific function and expertise to the research. He said the project’s goal is to improve current technology using their research.

Kioussis and Ghoniem said the main objectives of the research were to strengthen copper wires, which are used in most electronic products, and improve reliability, since copper loses electronic stability when reduced in size. Kioussis said in a statement 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.

“Professor Ghoniem was the connection of both schools (UCLA and CSUN),” Tu said. “He has been collaborating with Professor Kioussis. It’s a combination of ideas, both theory and experiments.”

Tu added that together with Yang, the team would be responsible for doing the experiments, while Kioussis and Ghoniem would focus on modeling and simulations.

According to both Kioussis and Ghoniem, they have been collaborating for about three years and have written several articles about multi-scale modeling. Ghoniem added that through their previous collaborations, they came up with the idea to make stronger materials, which later led to the proposal submitted to National Science Foundation.

According to the NSF website, NSF is the only federal agency whose purpose is to support all fields of fundamental science and engineering to give United States a lead in the field of discovery.

“Nanotechnology very much works with existing technology. Our research would be very useful to the electronic industry,” Tu added.

He said the research would involve students, but the students have to apply to be part of the team. He added that part of the selection process and qualifications requires a good grade point average and some experience with scientific research.

“The grant will provide an opportunity for students to be part of it,” Kioussis said.

Ghoniem said the project is in its initial stages and that basically the team is working on the computer simulations and how to design the wires.

“We would like to see student involvement even from undergraduates. They (students) don’t see this very often. We want them to see for themselves the connection between science, technology and economy,” Ghoniem said.

Along with the four-year long research, the professors are also working on joint courses wherein UCLA students would get a chance to attend classes at CSUN at the same as CSUN students. However, UCLA has already been approved to have a class in fall 2006 that is connected to the research.

“Two graduate courses on nanotechnology related to the project would be offered to students. The UCLA committee had approved last spring, and actual classes would start in the fall 2006,” Ghoniem said.

Joanne Angeles can be reached at