Shunda Chen

The Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors (µ-ATOMS) Energy Frontier Research Center, established in late 2022, is dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of atomic ordering in semiconductor alloys. This cutting-edge research center brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts to understand the fundamental scientific principles governing atomic ordering. By combining modeling, simulation, synthesis, characterization, and measurement techniques, µ-ATOMS aims to revolutionize semiconductor manufacturing and enable the development of innovative technologies. Additionally, the Center emphasizes the importance of nurturing the next generation of researchers through its Junior Advisory Committee (JAC).

Unveiling the Secrets of Semiconductor Alloy Ordering
Semiconductor alloys, which are materials composed of two or more elements, play a crucial role in various electronic devices such as smartphones, personal computers, solar cells, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and integrated circuits. These alloys offer unique properties that can be tailored by controlling the arrangement of atoms within the material. At the µ-ATOMS Center, researchers focus on deciphering the intricate patterns of short-range ordering (SRO) of atoms within these alloys. By studying the non-random distribution of atoms over small distances, researchers have discovered that even subtle changes in atomic ordering significantly impact the material's properties, such as band structure and associated electronic transport, thermal, and optical properties, as well as topological quantum properties. (See Fig. 1 for the impacts of SRO on the electronic band structure of Si0.125Ge0.625Sn0.25 alloy [1].) This breakthrough finding has generated excitement within the semiconductor community, as it suggests that manipulating atomic ordering could lead to the creation of new functional structures and devices with enhanced performance. With 18 principal investigators from 10 institutions including a DOE National Laboratory and a HBCU (Historically Black College and University), the Center benefits from a diverse range of expertise in physics, materials science, engineering, and metallurgy. These principal investigators, together with students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff scientists, collaborate across research thrusts to achieve the Center's goals.

Fig.1 Understanding How Atoms are Arranged and Their Impact on Electronic Properties of SiGeSn Alloys. (a) Comparing how Si, Ge, and Sn atoms are structured in different ways: randomly, in regular short-range order (R-SRO), and in enhanced short-range order (E-SRO). (b-d) Changes in the energy gap between electron states: starting from 0.25 electron volt (eV) (direct) in random mixture, increasing to 0.5 eV (direct) in R-SRO arrangement, and reaching 0.75 eV (indirect) in E-SRO configuration [1].

Empowering the Next Generation
The Junior Advisory Committee (JAC): Recognizing the importance of nurturing future leaders, the µ-ATOMS Center also places great importance on the Junior Advisory Committee (JAC) (See Fig. 2). Comprised of students, postdoctoral researchers, staff scientists, and faculty advisors, the JAC plays a crucial role in supporting the Center's mission and facilitating communication within the research community. JAC members actively engage in µ-ATOMS management, providing valuable insights and fostering cohesion among researchers.

The JAC organizes a range of activities and initiatives that promote collaboration, mentorship, and knowledge exchange. For instance, they facilitate mentorship programs where experienced researchers guide and support junior researchers in their academic and professional growth. These mentorship programs provide invaluable guidance and promote a culture of learning within the Center.

Fig.2 The Junior Advisory Committee (JAC) (star) holds a central position within the µ-ATOMS EFRC Organization Chart, underscoring its significance and prominence. (Image source:

The JAC also organizes networking events and collaborative projects, bringing together researchers from different disciplines and institutions. These initiatives foster interdisciplinary collaboration, encouraging researchers to share insights, explore new ideas, and tackle complex challenges collectively. Another standout initiative led by the JAC is the organization of bi-weekly JAC/EFRC seminars. These seminars serve as platforms for researchers within the Center, as well as external experts, to present their findings, share updates on ongoing projects, and engage in stimulating discussions. The seminars not only enhance the research culture within the µ-ATOMS Center, but also provide valuable learning opportunities for all participants, fostering knowledge exchange and collaboration.

For the Center's annual meeting, JAC members play a pivotal role in organizing activities such as poster presentations, career development sessions, and networking events. These activities facilitate interactions and create an environment fostering new research collaborations. Through their active participation in the JAC and organization of these events, members contribute to the overall success of the µ-ATOMS Center and help shape the future of semiconductor research.

Broader Implications and Future Directions
The research conducted at the µ-ATOMS Center holds significant implications for semiconductor manufacturing and technology. By unraveling the mysteries of atomic ordering in semiconductor alloys, the Center's findings could pave the way for the development of novel functional structures and devices with enhanced performance. This knowledge can empower the industry to create next-generation electronic devices that are faster, more efficient, and more versatile.

Looking ahead, the µ-ATOMS Center and the JAC are committed to further advancing their research efforts. The Center will continue exploring new frontiers in semiconductor alloy ordering, investigating more complex systems, and pushing the boundaries of our understanding. Additionally, the JAC will focus on expanding its mentorship programs, organizing more collaborative projects, and creating platforms for interdisciplinary knowledge exchange. By embracing these future directions, the Center and the JAC aim to foster continuous research excellence, nurture talent, and drive transformative advancements in semiconductor technology.

The µ-ATOMS Energy Frontier Research Center is at the forefront of scientific exploration in semiconductor alloy ordering. As a relatively new EFRC, its team of experts is dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of atomic ordering and leveraging this knowledge to revolutionize semiconductor manufacturing. The Junior Advisory Committee (JAC) plays a pivotal role in supporting the Center's mission and empowering the next generation of researchers. Through their mentorship, active participation, and collaborative spirit, JAC members are instrumental in shaping the future of semiconductor research at the µ-ATOMS Center. The bi-weekly JAC/EFRC seminars further contribute to the vibrant research environment by fostering knowledge exchange and collaboration among researchers. With a vision on broader implications and future directions, the µ-ATOMS Center and the JAC are poised to make significant contributions to fundamental knowledge for facilitating the advancements in semiconductor manufacturing and technology.

More Information

[1] X. Jin, S. Chen, and T. Li, “Coexistence of two types of short-range order in Si–Ge–Sn medium-entropy alloys,” Communications Materials 3, 66 (2022).

About the author(s):

Shunda Chen is a staff scientist at George Washington University and a key member of the Theory and Modeling Thrust at the newly established Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors Energy Frontier Research Center. With a PhD in Physics from Xiamen University and six years of postdoctoral research experience at the University of Insubria and the University of California, Davis, Dr. Chen has extensive expertise in theoretical modeling, molecular dynamics simulations, high-performance computing, and machine learning. His research interests include thermal transport, thermoelectric energy conversion, and semiconductor materials for infrared optoelectronic applications, among others. ORCID: 0000-0002-5506-7507.