Hometown: Fremont, California, United States
Graduation date: Spring 2023
FURI | Spring 2023
Characterization of Emerging Devices that will Integrate Memristor and Transistor Functions for Brain-Inspired Computing
The implementation of neural network models in hardware has been widely researched in the field of neuromorphic computing. Drifting away from the Von Neumann architecture, neuromorphic hardware allows for higher computational efficiency and performance. In this project, an investigation of neuromorphic devices that integrate the functionality of two devices by stacks of layers of 2D materials will take place. This device combines a molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) field-effect-transistor (FET) and a hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) memristor to enable better selectivity, programmability, and may also provide gate-tunable synaptic behavior to enable innovative brain-inspired computing architectures. Electrical characterization of the individual components will be conducted to understand the performance of each device function.
Mentor: Ivan Sanchez Esqueda
Featured project | Spring 2023
Electrical engineering senior Priyanka Ravindran seeks to improve machine learning through hardware to help improve device speed and efficiency with a semiconductor FURI research project sponsored by TSMC. By exploring stacked layers of 2D materials in neuromorphic or “brain-inspired” computing with her faculty mentor, Ivan Sanchez Esqueda, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, she hopes to further the effort of increasing computational efficiency in modern-day technology.
What made you want to get involved in FURI and the project you’re working on?
I started to get more involved in Fulton Schools’ extracurriculars to gain experience, knowledge, and awareness of the field of electrical engineering. As a third-year electrical engineering student, I took interest in circuit design and hardware development, which inspired me to find a project that contained these interests. I came across Professor Ivan Sanchez Esqueda’s page on the FURI website and became interested in his lab’s vision and work in neuromorphic computing.
I chose this project for the chance to explore the hardware side of neural networks, a field that I had been doing surface-level readings about in scholarly journals and online articles.
This project is based on integrating two powerful devices into one circuit, which involves applying the fundamentals that I have acquired in my courses to analyze the overall behavior of the devices in circuits.
How will your research project impact the world?
Neuromorphic computing, or bio-inspired computing, is now being popularly researched to discover a new computer architecture. The current and widely used computer architecture involves data computed from memory to the processor and from the processor back to memory. Neuromorphic computing, which is the architecture that mimics the brain’s way of processing information, involves larger quantities of data that are being parallelly processed and placed into memory locations. There is no single processing unit or memory location in the brain. If a computer could mimic the brain’s computational ability, it would be able to perform complex computations with much-improved efficiency.
What has been your most memorable experience as a student researcher in this program? Did you have a particular “aha!” moment during your project?
My most memorable experience as a student researcher would have to be using the Kiethley Interactive Test Equipment for the first time. This is a type of semiconductor characterization equipment that runs a script containing a device testing environment.
In my project, the devices tested include the hexagonal boronitride memristor and the molybdenum disulfide field-effect transistor. Since the devices and the equipment are both so fragile, learning how to use the test equipment at first was a challenge. I learned the desired behavioral characteristics of each device through papers published by the Ivan Sanchez Esqueda lab along with other reference papers.
Individual device testing usually takes place on a single wafer, and the wafers contain several devices. Throughout the testing phase, multiple devices, unfortunately, do end up failing; I remember my one “aha!” moment was finally testing a row of devices by myself and finding a stable device to analyze with the characterization equipment.
Have there been any surprises in your research?
Since I primarily perform device testing, there is an expected output that I am always trying to find. When a device is supposed to exhibit a certain pattern and then shows a completely different output, those do come by surprise.
In terms of learning-based surprises, there are definitely new things that I’ll learn during every research meeting that I would have never learned before. Connecting it to the material being discussed in class is usually what’s exciting for me.
How do you see this experience helping with your career or advanced degree goals?
Hardware design and development is a field that I have always been able to see myself in. Pursuing research has really inspired me to gravitate toward a graduate degree in electrical engineering and establish a career in the ever-growing semiconductor manufacturing industry. Contributing to the advancement of new semiconductor devices and discovering their capabilities is something I would take great pride in being a part of. Research in particular comes with plenty of freedom as there is space to make mistakes and learn. My aptitude to learn quickly has developed while pursuing research and will continue to improve in graduate studies and industry. I am thankful for getting the opportunity to assist in this particular research within academia as it has inspired me to take my education to new heights and acquire significant skills I can apply in the future.
What is the best advice you’ve gotten from your faculty mentor?
I have learned so much from the time I first started researching here at the Ivan Sanchez Esqueda lab. Every week, I get to witness him and his team of hardworking PhD students problem-solve and tackle challenges with device fabrication, testing and analysis. The most important skill that I have acquired is the ability to locate appropriate resources. Oftentimes, when I would like to learn more about a particular device I am testing, my mentors — Professor Ivan Esqueda, and the PhD student I work with, Jing Xie — would point me toward established and reliable papers. Now, I can pinpoint the characteristics of a source that has substantial and trustworthy information that I can learn and apply.
Why should other students get involved in FURI?
The Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative is a significant step into what to expect in more advanced education and the corporate world. I would encourage other students to join this program as it promotes the ability to problem solve and motivates you to learn more within your field. Besides learning technical skills, many soft skills can be acquired as well. Skills such as patience and communication are exercised on a daily basis. With pursuing research comes needed patience due to newer developments; you won’t see what you want right away! Communication is also utilized when resources or other help is needed. With that being said, FURI is a great way to dip your foot into real-world applications.
Sponsored project | Spring 2023
Priyanka Ravindran’s FURI project is sponsored by TSMC.
TSMC is a global leader in the semiconductor foundry business. The company’s industry-leading process technologies and portfolio of design enablement solutions help its customers and partners unleash semiconductor innovation. With its recent expansion into Phoenix, TSMC sees the benefit of a strong partnership with ASU faculty and student researchers. TSMC supports the FURI program by providing additional funding for exceptional research projects related to the semiconductor industry. FURI student researchers who pursue a project related to the Semiconductor Manufacturing research theme are eligible for this sponsorship. TSMC-supported FURI students receive a $2,600 stipend and $400 to use for materials. Exceptional research proposals that align with the research theme of Semiconductor Manufacturing will be considered for this additional funding.