Professor awarded Moore Inventor Fellowship

Wesley Story

A UT professor will receive $825,000 over the next three years to help reach his goal of creating the world’s thinnest silicon transistor.

Associate professor Deji Akinwande from the Cockrell School of Engineering was among five inventors selected by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for a fellowship program on Nov. 2. The program, new to the foundation this year, aims to recognize innovators early in their careers.

Akinwande was chosen for his cutting-edge work with silicene, a 2-D silicon structure as thin as an atom. He hopes to use the silicon structure to make transistors.

Transistors are used in virtually all electronic devices, including cell phones and computers. A hyper-thin silicon structure could provide a tenfold increase in energy efficiency for integrated circuits within those devices, according to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation website.

Akinwande said in the three-year time frame of the fellowship, his goal is to reach the next level of prototype development and generate interest among industry partners.

“We’re going to focus on what we’ve been doing, but now we’re going to take it to the applied level of development,” Akinwande said. “Commercialization could take another decade or so, but it’s too early to say.”  

Gordon Moore, one of the foundation’s founders and a co-founder of Intel, noticed in 1965 that the number of transistors per square inch on the integrated circuit doubles every year. This observation became known as “Moore’s Law” and helped set the pace for modern digital technology.

Bob Kirshner, chief program officer for science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, said the foundation wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law with the new fellowship program.

“We thought as a tribute to Gordon Moore, it would be appropriate to do something that emphasized the role of scientific inventors, of whom Gordon Moore is a very good example,” Kirshner said.

The foundation plans to invest nearly $34 million in the next ten years to support 50 Moore Inventor Fellows, and accelerate progress in scientific research

Ahmed Tewfik, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said students could have the opportunity to get involved with Akinwande’s research at the college.

“That’s one of the advantages to being in a research university as opposed to a teaching-only university,” Tewfik said.