Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

A UC Riverside-led project has received $12 million over four years from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) — the largest single federal grant the campus has ever received — to improve the nation’s energy production and usage. Spearheaded by UCR Professor of Physics Jing Shi, the project, “Spins and Heat in Nanoscale Electronic Systems” (SHINES), seeks to convert excess energy in spinning electrons into electricity and increase efficient heat conduction in nanoscale computer applications.

SHINES, along with 22 other projects, has been named an Energy Frontier Research Center, which will serve as a platform for researchers to study energy storage and new technologies. Along with UCR, the project will involve a collaboration of researchers from seven universities, including two other UCs: UC Irvine and UCLA. DOE will provide a total of $100 million to ongoing research projects.

“Electrons have a spin just like (how) the planet earth is orbiting around the sun and at the same time, it rotates around its own axis. Electrons also have the same motion,” Shi said about the study of energy-related material. “We try to imitate the electrons spinning, so the excess energy stored in the electrons spinning (can be converted into energy), which has never been used before for (the generation of) electricity.”

Shi says another goal is to use nanotechnology to design better materials to conduct heat more efficiently in computer applications and chips. As an intercollegiate collaboration between the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Bourns College of Engineering, the UCR-led research team is currently based out of the Materials Science and Engineering building.

According to Vice Chancellor of Research Michael Pazzani, the grant will lead to new discoveries in energy consumption and provide students with careers in the technology industry.

“This could be new (computer) chips that require less energy than current electronics. Such inventions may be valuable in themselves and reduce electrical usage throughout the world thereby reducing emissions associated with the creation of energy,” Pazzani said.