2004 Winner: Leaders of Tomorrow
Graduate Student’s New Approach To Emerging Nanoelectronic Technology
It isn’t everyday that a graduate student gets invited to write the definitive textbook in his or her subject. But Konrad Walus isn’t your everyday grad student. A PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary, Walus has taken an innovative approach to an emerging nanoelectronic technology called quantum-dot cellular automata (QCA).
Revolutionizing Circuit Technology
QCA is one of several technologies that have the potential to replace classical micro-electronic technology, the foundation of every computer device. When his advisor suggested he look at potential uses of QCA technology, Walus took a major leap and created a project on the technology itself. He came up with the novel idea of developing a design tool that could be used to evaluate the technology at the system design level, with the goal of establishing QCA’s potential as a replacement for modern integrated circuit technology.
The result was QCADesigner, a computer-aided design (CAD) tool similar to those used for designing integrated circuits, but using QCA technology. This was risky because QCA has not yet been verified as a manufacturable replacement for current technologies. In order to remedy this manufacturing problem, Walus has proposed a novel QCA device that has the potential for being fabricated using standard techniques.
Walus contacted other research groups who were working on QCA technology and made QCADesigner available to them through his web site. The microelectronics group at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, which first developed QCA devices, has resurrected their QCA research program using QCADesigner and are collaborating with Walus on applications of his software. Researchers at other universities, including Southern Methodist University, University of Pisa and Northwestern University, have also used QCADesigner. An undergraduate student at the University of Calgary is working on a QCA project under Walus’ supervision.
Walus has received many awards for his innovative work, including the Microsystems Design Award at the 2002 Canadian Microelectronics Corporation annual workshop, and a best paper award at the 2003 Micronet NCE Workshop. He also earned a postgraduate scholarship from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada with a matching award from the Informatics Circle of Research Excellence (iCORE).
Walus has published several papers on QCADesigner and other QCA related work in prestigious journals and has introduced the software at international nanotechnology conferences. Springer-Verlag, a leading academic book publisher, invited him to write a graduate textbook on QCA. The first-ever book in this field, it is slated for publication in 2005. Walus is spearheading the effort in Alberta to develop QCA technology for commercial application and has a strong interest in continuing his work here after he receives his PhD.