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Alexander Balandin

Watch research video Professor of Electrical Engineering
Chair, Materials Sciences and Engineering
Alexander Balandin

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Electronic, photovoltaic and thermoelectric materials and devices
  • Graphene properties and applications
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Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007)
  • Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2002)
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2001)
  • Merrill Lynch Innovation Award (1998)
  • Associate Editor, IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology
  • Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Nanoelectronics and Optoelectronics

Research Summary

Experimental and theoretical research on advance materials and nanostructures with applications in electronic, thermoelectric and photovoltaic devices; focus areas include graphene and 2D materials; phonons and thermal transport in nanostructures.

Q&A

Q: How is your work on graphene likely to benefit society?
Graphene is a newly discovered carbon material with the thickness of just one atomic layer. It revealed a large number of unique properties, which may lead to many practical applications. Society is likely to benefit from new graphene-based low-noise transistors, ultra-sensitive sensors and faster computer chips, which generate less heat.

One important property of graphene was discovered in my laboratory at UCR. In 2008 we found experimentally that graphene has an amazingly high thermal conductivity. It can conduct heat even better than diamond. That is good news for graphene electronics. It also opens up new applications in thermal management, i.e. heat removal. The difficulty of heat removal became a show-stopper for further development of smaller and faster computer chips by electronic industry.

My research group has designed and demonstrated the first double-gate graphene transistor, which smashes the low- frequency noise barrier for practical applications in communications. The way is now clear for ultra-sensitive detectors for use in sensor devices and communications. The noise reduction in properly design graphene devices, achieved in my group, is an important step toward ultra-fast graphene transistors and ultra -sensitive graphene detectors.

Q: How did you get into this field?
During my school years, I became a science fiction fanatic, reading authors from all over the world. My sci-fi fascination with space exploration led naturally to an interest in physics and engineering. While reading a non-sci-fi book from the school library, I had a light-bulb moment that decided which university I’d attend. The documentary book described a team of scientists who in 1970 drove a rover on the moon surface in real time from a dark room somewhere in Moscow—sort-of the Avatar experience in today’s language. Since two of the scientists were graduates of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), that day I decided to study at MIPT. During my subsequent graduate studies in the U.S., I made another important switch from my original space-inspired electromagnetic field to nanotechnology and electronics—which are today enabling technologies not-only for space explorations but all other high-tech applications.

Q: What are the major issues materials scientists will address in the next 20 years?
Finding efficient ways for energy generation, conversion and storage will be a key. Solar energy has been around for a long time but its use is limited by low efficiency compared with burning fossil fuels. With the help of nanotechnology, newly engineered materials will allow us to harness light’s energy. In 20 years we will see many more alternative energy sources based on solar and thermoelectric technologies. The electronic industry will continue down-scaling computer chips by using non-silicon-based materials and 3D integration. Better nanotechnology-based materials will give us new medical diagnostic and other tools.

Q: What music do you prefer?
My car CD player is loaded with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Doors, Aquarium and Kino. The last two are Russian alternative bands that started underground in the mid-80s.
Alexander Balandin "Graphene is a newly discovered carbon material with the thickness of just one atomic layer."

— Alexander Balandin