James Hanson, Department Chairman

Auburn, Rutgers, and Purdue Universities jointly receive grant for power electronics research

II-VI FoundationThe II-VI Foundation will sponsor a three-year, up to $1 million, Block Gift Cooperative Research Initiative between Auburn University, Rutgers University, and Purdue University, coordinated by John Williams, (pictured standing, second from right) Auburn University professor emeritus of physics.

Known for funding individual institutional efforts, this is the first time the II-VI Foundation has designated a gift for a Cooperative Research Initiative. Williams has maintained longtime collaborations with Sarit Dhar, (pictured standing, second from left) who is the primary Auburn investigator on the project, Leonard Feldman at Rutgers University, and James Cooper at Purdue University. It is Williams’ experience and knowledge that helped make the Cooperative Research Initiative possible.

The project is titled SiO2/4H-SiC Interface Optimization for Next Generation Power MOSFETs. The initiative will support efforts in the realm of advanced power electronics development and, specifically, oxide semiconductor interface passivation studies for silicon carbide devices.

“The Block Gift Cooperative Research Initiative is different than anything we have ever done before,” said Carl Johnson, II-VI Incorporated chairman and co-founder of the II-VI Foundation with his wife, Margot. “We recognized that the work being done at Auburn, Rutgers, and Purdue provides three different viewpoints on the same tough problem, and we have a coordinator in John Williams who really understands the strengths and dynamics of each contributing program. In the past, we would have had to fund and administer these programs separately, but with John as the coordinator, we were able to combine efforts for the first time.”

After a 37-year career at Auburn, Williams officially retired in December 2011. During his tenure, he directed the development and growth of the Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Physics Program. The program was started in the early 1990s, and research collaboration between Auburn and others now involved in the CRI dates back to 1998. Williams’ research efforts focus on technology development of advanced, energy-efficient semiconductor materials and devices, which are used in high-power systems such as large industrial motors and hybrid-electric vehicles.

In addition to Williams, others involved in the collaboration from Auburn include Sarit Dhar, primary Auburn investigator on the project and assistant professor of physics, Claude Ahyi, assistant research professor of physics, and physics graduate students Aaron Modic and Chunkun Jiao.

During the course of the collaboration, Auburn, Rutgers, and Purdue will submit a joint proposal each year, and available funding will be appropriately applied to the research efforts being performed by the respective groups. The program also aims to educate and train young scientists and engineers in interdisciplinary technology development of advanced power electronics.

The II-VI Foundation grant comes to Auburn as a charitable gift through the Auburn University Foundation. The Auburn University Foundation frequently receives charitable gifts in support of Auburn University research and outreach from corporations and foundations, in addition to those philanthropic contributions made by alumni and friends of the university. To learn more about charitable gifts, contact the COSAM Office of Development at 334.844.2931, or visit