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Technical Insight

ONR roadmap lights the way for semiconductor researchers

The National Compound Semiconductor Roadmap is an online resource from the Office of Naval Research that aims to accelerate compound semiconductor research, reports Richard Dixon.
The National Compound Semiconductor Roadmap (NCSR) is a Web-based document that invites parties from the compound semiconductor community to contribute to a roadmap for the industry. Conceived by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the site gives researchers a forum to discuss problems and technological hurdles facing a range of materials such as GaAs, InP, group-III antimonides and II-VIs such as CdTe and ZnO.

The site gives considerable coverage to wide-bandgap materials such as AlN, GaN and SiC. ONR is active in promoting this technology through Department of Defense (DoD) initiatives for defense applications (see Compound Semiconductor February 2001, p39). Examples include advanced sensors and high-power transistors that operate at high frequencies in potentially harsh environments, such as the radar systems used in advanced military warning installations.

ONR describes the site s standpoint as follows: "The idea is that you [the researchers] know where you are going for your specific area and may have some ideas about how your research fits with other areas."

These aims have been translated into three main targets: to create a reference on compound semiconductors for use by research and educational communities; to provide a collaborative environment for individuals to share ideas and challenges in an informal environment; and to create a roadmap of various material and device technologies, and predict their transition and implementation.

A look into the future

An interactive roadmap is the most recent addition to the website s pages. This feature has a timeline for issues relating to technological challenges in the industry. Examples include the amount of time it will take to develop conducting SiC wafers of various diameters up to 8 inches, and how quickly the dislocation density can be reduced in virtual GaN substrates used to grow GaN devices.

While the roadmap is a new addition to the site, the original portal has been around for more than a year, and includes a database of physical data and background information on the properties of materials and devices such as LEDs, lasers, pin diodes, PHEMTs and HBTs. The site has more than 500 registered users, and ONR maintains its integrity by using a network of "monitors", selected from users who express an interest in refereeing the validity of submitted material.

Mike Tinston is a systems engineer for Computer Systems Center Inc (CSCI), the company that manages the daily running of the portal for ONR. "Most governmental funding agencies are requiring [research] programs to have roadmaps," said Tinston. "Roadmapping for R&D is difficult, but the method we use encourages researchers at universities and in industry to tender their opinions. This should make future programs more accurate and reflect what can realistically be achieved and over what timescale."

Tinston engages research centers and government funding agencies to support the creation of the reference data and technology challenges, and to develop realistic milestones predicting the maturity of material and device technologies. "We are looking for participants to log on to the website, register as users and browse the information," he explained. "We hope they will then participate by entering a technology challenge related to their field, or start a dialogue with the author who has posted a challenge or area that needs to be addressed to speed development in the industry."

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