Magnetic Nanomaterials for Microwave Devices

Nanotechnology has already transformed the electronics industry and is bringing a new set of powerful tools and materials to developers who are changing everything from the way energy is generated, stored, and transported to how medicines are delivered and the way chemicals are produced through novel catalytic nanomaterials.

Recognizing the power of these technologies and seeking to accelerate their impact, Argonne National Laboratory has created a new collaborative center that provides an innovative pathway for business and industry to access Argonne's unique scientific resources in addressing the nation's energy and national security needs. Nano Design Works (NDW) acts as a liaison that enables companies large and small to access the full spectrum of Argonne's resources, cutting across all of the diverse scientific fields represented at Argonne. In this way, the NDW is empowering American industry to continue leading the world in nanoscale discovery while providing the high-tech jobs critical to the nation's economic prosperity.

The first example of the new technology maturation model at Argonne began in 2015 with discussions between Argonne and from Qorvo, Inc., a leading U.S. semiconductor company. A Qorvo program manager approached Argonne applications scientist Dr. Xing Chen in search of novel technologies. Later that year Dr. Chen met with Qorvo's chief radiofrequency device designer at the 2015 International Microwave Symposium in Phoenix, Ariz., to discuss the technical details of a possible working relationship. As a result of these meetings, the two parties decided to pursue a collaborative program whereby the company would use Argonne's new and unique magnetic nanofiber composite material and device designs in its manufacturing environment to produce the new generation of monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) technologies the company was seeking to develop.

In January 2016, Dr. Chen was invited to visit Qorvo's headquarters in Dallas, Texas, where he gave a presentation to Qorvo's engineers and upper-level management. During the two-day visit, Dr. Chen worked with his counterparts to carve out a statement of work that best fits Qorvo's and Argonne's interests and technical expertise. With the help of NDW, Dr. Chen wrote a proposal to obtain internal Argonne funding for a multistage demonstration program covered by a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that would result in the production of the product the company desired.

The immediate impact was a multistage CRADA with an initial investment of $200K that was signed in spring 2016, under which Argonne's new magnetic nanofiber composite material and device designs are being adapted to Qorvo's production process. Because of Argonne's technologies, the new product will be 100 times smaller than comparable products and will have much faster communications capabilities. The new MMIC will also consume less energy and be suitable for high-power military applications.

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