Han Wang Receives Coveted Army Research Office Young Investigator Award

Joshua An | December 4, 2018

The USC Viterbi assistant professor, who also just received the prestigious IEEE Nanotechnology Early Career Award, hopes to advance computer efficiency and proficiency.

Han Wang, winner of the Prestigious Young Investigator Award, is working to discover new materials for electronics to improve technological function and efficiency (Photo Credit: Hugh Kretschmer)

Han Wang, an assistant professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, has received the Army Research Office (ARO) Young Investigator Award. The honor comes with a $360,000 grant. Wang’s research aims to identify new materials to develop cell phones, computers, and other devices that could operate more efficiently and powerfully than current models.  

“To me, this award is an incredible achievement and honor,” said Wang, the recently appointed Robert G. and Mary G. Lane Endowed Early Career Chair and recent recipient of the coveted IEEE Nanotechnology Early Career Award. “It is particularly special because of the research it allows us to carry out and our future explorations in this field.”

The ARO says it awards grants to attract outstanding young university faculty members; to support their fundamental research relevant to the Army; and to encourage their teaching and research careers.

Wang will use a portion of his grant to provide financial support to the graduate and postdoctoral students working in his lab. He also plans to acquire lab materials necessary for his research.

Inspired by the human brain’s efficiency and capabilities, Wang and his team of graduate students want to create new computers and technology that are more versatile than what we have now.

“All the computers we have today rely on one type of architecture. Because of this, we are facing many challenges and limitations in power consumption as well as task proficiency. They are inadequate to face today’s challenges” Wang said. “My project has the goal of laying the foundation of creating a new device concept that can enable new computational systems to perform tasks better.”

Wang and his team perform electronic and optical measurements daily on new materials, which include aluminum and titanium oxide, to find an ideal combination that could replace the less-than-optimal materials that exist today. New materials resulting from Wang’s research would allow mobile phones and computers to perform tasks without Internet access and without draining batteries, saving data and energy.

For example, Wang envisions that cell phone made with his new materials would allow users to access virtual assistant features such as Apple’s “Siri” whenever and wherever they want. Instead of relying on the Internet to carry out functions like texting, the new devices would have these capabilities “memorized,” much like our bodies uses muscle memory. Essentially, our devices would take a step toward becoming self-sufficient.

Wang has ambitious goals for his research.

“Long-term, we hope that the technology we develop here can go into chips that industries are building,” Wang said. “My vision is that we have heterogeneous integration of chips as opposed to building off a single architecture like today.”

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