The Materials Research Society awarded Walter A. de Heer, professor of physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the MRS Medal at its annual fall meeting in Boston today. De Heer was cited by the society for his "pioneering contributions to the science and technology of epitaxial graphene." The MRS Medal recognizes an exceptional achievement in materials research in the past ten years. The MRS Medal is awarded for a specific outstanding recent discovery or advancement that has a major impact on the progress of a materials-related field.
"I am very pleased and encouraged that our research to develop epi-graphene for electronics is recognized already in this early stage. This will certainly stimulate others to join us in this important endeavor," said de Heer.
De Heer and his lab at Georgia Tech are known worldwide as the first to conceptualize the use of graphene for electronics, back in 2001. Currently de Heer's lab is working on developing epitaxial graphene as a replacement for silicon in electronics.
"Because epi-graphene may be able to surpass the speed limitations of silicon, while also allowing for less heat to be generated in a smaller chip, we believe that graphene shows great promise in being able to replace silicon in electronics for applications such as ultra-high frequency electronics, where these attributes will be needed most," said de Heer.
"Walt de Heer is a global leader in graphene research, and we congratulate him on this latest recognition of his important work," said Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson. "The interdisciplinary research that he and his colleagues are doing at Georgia Tech has the potential to dramatically change the electronics industry by enabling the use of this promising material in future generations of high-performance electronic devices."
De Heer earned a doctoral degree in physics from the University of California - Berkeley in 1986. He worked at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland from 1987-1997.
Currently a Regents' Professor of Physics at the Tech, de Heer directs the Epitaxial Graphene Laboratory in the School of Physics and leads the Epitaxial Graphene Interdisciplinary Research Group at the Georgia Tech Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.
De Heer and his research groups have made significant contributions to several areas in nanoscopic physics. In 1995, de Heer's research turned to carbon nanotubes, showing that they are excellent field emitters with potential application to flat panel displays. In 1998, he discovered that carbon nanotubes are ballistic conductors, which is a key property for graphene-based electronics.
In 2001, his work on nanopatterned epi-graphene electronics led to the development of graphene-based electronics. This project was funded by Intel Corporation in 2003 and by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2004. His paper, Ultrathin Epitaxial Graphite: Two-Dimensional Electron Gas Properties and a Route Towards Graphene-Based Electronics, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry, laid the experimental and conceptual foundation for graphene-based electronics. De Heer holds the first patent for graphene-based electronics that was provisionally filed in June 2003.