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Professor in electrical and computer engineering wins junior faculty award

By Joe McAdory

Published: Jul 28, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Peng Li will receive $5,000 in seed research money from Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Peng Li will receive $5,000 in seed research money from Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

Peng Li, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, was granted $5,000 in seed money by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) to further his research.

The grant, matched by Auburn University, is part of ORAU’s Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Award, which recognizes 35 junior faculty nationally this year.

In 2019, Li established the Quantum Spintronics Device Laboratory, which is affiliated with the college’s Alabama Micro-/Nano-Science and Technology Center.

Li’s group focuses on spin-based electronic devices as a means to replace the existing complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) transistor technology. Li explained, “Spintronic devices use electron spins to represent information, and they offer advantages such as low-energy, high-density, non-volatility, which are important for developing emergent computer architectures such as neuromorphic computing."

“The key to build efficient spintronic devices is to utilize appropriate materials and device structures,” Li said. “I will explore new types of van der Waals magnets for developing more efficient devices with the support of this award.”

Contrary to conventional Neodymium magnets, van der Waals magnets are made up of strongly bonded two-dimensional layers bound in the third dimension through weak van der Waals force.

“Van der Waals magnets have some unique properties that can lead to devices with improved power efficiencies and new functionalities,” Li added. 

Robert Nelms, chair of the college’s department of electrical and computer engineering, recognized Li’s background in quantum material research and is excited for his opportunity for him to collaborate with researchers at the ORAU.

“We are excited to see Dr. Li’s opportunity to expand his academic footprint within this very important research,” said Nelms. “Part of Auburn University’s mission as a land-grant university is to drive the development of research that creates and advances knowledge. Our faculty are sources of new ideas and innovations that tangibly improve our world. We are very proud of Dr. Li, his work, and the notoriety it brings the college, the department of electrical and computer engineering, and the university as a whole.”

Li’s work beyond Auburn is widely recognized. He has served as panelist for the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research program, is associate editor for the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Transactions on Quantum Engineering, and is a senior editorial board member for IEEE Magnetics Letters.

Since the Powe program’s inception, ORAU has awarded 804 grants in excess of $4 million.

“The Powe award provides an opportunity for young faculty members to further their research careers and helps them identify potential funding avenues,” said Ken Tobin, ORAU vice president for research and university partnerships.

ORAU awards recognize faculty for their work in other technology disciplines, including applied science, life sciences, mathematics and computer science, physical sciences, management and education.

Media Contact: Joe McAdory, jem0040@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447

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