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UH Researchers Win Grant to Create Superior Class of Magnetic Materials

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Rashda Khan
Stanko Brankovic, a globally-renowned electrodeposition authority at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, and Robles Hernández, an associate professor at the UH College of Technology have teamed up for the Semiconductor Research Corp.– funded new materials research project.
Stanko Brankovic (L), a globally-renowned electrodeposition authority at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, and Robles Hernández (R), an associate professor at the UH College of Technology have teamed up for the Semiconductor Research Corp.– funded new materials research project.

The Semiconductor Research Corp. awarded a three-year, $240,000 grant to University of Houston researchers to design a new electrodeposition process and solution to create a new alloy with superior qualities and broad applications.

Stanko Brankovic, a globally-renowned electrodeposition authority at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, is the Principal Investigator on the project. Robles Hernández, an associate professor at the UH College of Technology who specializes in materials characterization using transmission electron microscopy, is the co-PI.

“This research will bring new way of synthesizing magnetic materials using electrochemical process,” said Brankovic, professor of electric and computer engineering as well as chemical and biomolecular engineering.  

Electrodeposition – the electrochemical process of synthesizing a thin layer of metal on top of a different substrate, or conducting surface, to modify its external properties – is a cost effective approach to creating new alloys. It’s already used to fabricate microelectronics and magnetic recording technologies.

“We combine the parameters of the solution – such as pH, composition and temperature – with fundamental process at the electrochemical interface, such as additive incorporation, metal deposition, thin film growth, stress control and more,” he said. “This should result in a superior design and synthesis of magnetic materials for applications at the field frequencies beyond 1 GHz.”

Growing use of magnetic thin films and inductor chips for analog circuits in everything from mobile phones to defense sector technologies is increasing the demand for new alloys with low energy losses to serve as the core material during the electromagnetic induction process.

“Our goal is to design magnetic material which will have very good magnetic properties, such as saturation magnetization, magnetic softness (ability to change magnetization direction at very small external fields), and at the same time be able to support magnetization (permeability) and high electrical resistivity,” Brankovic said. “These are all necessary to create new class of magnetic materials which will have very low energy losses during electromagnetic induction at high-field frequencies.”

The new alloys and their electrodeposition/synthesis process developed by the researchers could foresee an immediate and direct implementation in future product designs and development and can be easily integrated in an existing manufacturing schemes.

Brankovic is also director of the Electrochemical Nanofabrication and Nanomaterials Synthesis Group at the Cullen College. His research team focuses on better understanding of the physical and chemical processes that occur at the electrochemical interface and their uses in producing materials and nanostructures with novel functionality and applications.

“This new research is a continuation of the magnetic materials research ¬carried out by my group for the last 15 years,” he said. “It is based on long standing ideas proposed and proved by my previous fundamental work, which has gained support and validation from industrial partners.”

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