Xiaohang Li wins Harold M. Manasevit Young Investigator Award

Xiaohang Li, lead of the Advanced Semiconductor Research Group and KAUST assistant professor of electrical engineering, has won the biennial 2018 Harold M. Manasevit Young Investigator Award. He will receive the award at the 19th International Conference on Metalorganic Vapor Phase Epitaxy in Japan in June. Photo courtesy of Xiaohang Li.

-By David Murphy, KAUST News

Xiaohang Li, lead of the Advanced Semiconductor Research Group and KAUST assistant professor of electrical engineering, has been awarded the biennial 2018 Harold M. Manasevit Young Investigator Award for his significant and innovative contributions in metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) growth of state-of-the-art deep UV lasers, B-III-N alloys, III-oxides and blue and green emitters. Li will receive his award at the 19th International Conference on Metalorganic Vapor Phase Epitaxy (ICMOVPE XIX), which will be held at the Nara Kasugano International Forum in Nara, Japan, on June 8.

The award was initiated in 2012 in honor of Manasevit for his groundbreaking work regarding III-V, II-VI and IV-VI compound semiconductors, and is sponsored by the American Association of Crystal Growth (AACG). Li, who is based in the University's Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences & Engineering division, will also present a plenary talk on his works at the event.

A particular honor

The Manasevit Award Committee is comprised of some of the most notable leaders in technology, including a Nobel Prize laureate, multiple U.S. National Academy of Engineering members and many fellows of various technical societies. Considering this, Li is particularity pleased to have been recognized by his esteemed peers on the award committee.

"It is very humbling to be honored and recognized. Being recognized by the award this year is really special to me because 2018 is the 50th anniversary since the invention of MOCVD made by Dr. Harold Manasevit. After 50 years of development, MOCVD is now the main tool to produce nearly all the compound semiconductor devices in almost every product using electricity today," Li said.

"It is the most prestigious award for scientists under the age of 35 in our field. I am really humbled and honored to be selected from an extremely qualified pool of candidates," he noted. "I also feel extremely grateful for the efforts of my team, my academic mentors and my collaborators. Without them, it would be literally impossible to achieve the necessary level of academic accomplishment for winning the award."

An extensive research experience

Li has extensive research experience in the field of III-nitride and III-oxide wide-bandgap semiconductors that are bringing revolutionary impacts on the optoelectronic and electronic industries. His research covers materials, devices, physics and equipment of the wide-bandgap compound semiconductors.

"I am interested in and willing to take a risk to find ways of making new discoveries and improving the status quo," Li noted. "Because of extensive investment in R&D, this semiconductor has already profoundly changed the way of generating artificial light by human beings due to the invention and development of visible LED.

"Each year, the relevant industry employs hundreds of thousands of people and produces hundreds-of-billions in revenue around the world. Because of the huge success, the wide-bandgap compound semiconductor is often referred to as the third-generation semiconductor after silicon (first-generation) and the narrow-bandgap compound semiconductor (second-generation)."

Xiaohang Li and his research group during a trip to the Wabhah Crater, east of KAUST. Photo courtesy of Xiaohang Li.

Despite the existing success, Li believes that this is just the beginning for third-generation semiconductor research and development.

"There are still enormous opportunities for studying new materials and inventing/improving devices for crucial applications beyond lighting. Some device technologies we are working on in the lab in particular can benefit the water and energy strategies of Vision 2030 tremendously," Li emphasized.

"For instance, AlGaN-based UV LED can be applied for chemical-free water purification and greatly enhance the water utilization efficiency of the Kingdom. In addition, BN-based neutron detectors are essential for oil and gas exploration and the massive nuclear power plants the Kingdom plans to build. Besides, AlN and Ga2O3-based power devices can improve the electricity utilization efficiency in the power grid significantly," he added.

Multidisciplinary support

Prior to KAUST, Li received his bachelor's degree in applied physics from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China; his master's degree in electrical engineering from Lehigh University, U.S.; and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech, U.S.

"We are also carrying out research on equipment that is unique at KAUST. We are developing an extremely high-temperature chemical reactor to produce high-quality semiconductors for emerging device technologies—it can draw on the strength of Saudi Arabia's chemical industry. As you can see, our research is highly interdisciplinary and we are collaborating with more than 20 research groups and companies around the world to address different challenges and commercialize intellectual properties," Li said.

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