YSU professor earns federal patent

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For the first time in the history of Youngstown State University, a professor there has earned a federal patent for a method that improves semiconductor devices.

Tom Oder, professor of physics and astronomy, has focused six years of research on methods to improve the reliability of semiconductors that are subjected to high temperatures and high voltages and has applications in the automotive, aerospace and other industries.

Oder, working with a group of student assistants, discovered a process to produce a clean and pure bond of metal boride to the surface of a silicon carbide semiconductor at temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

“I hope that Ford, General Motors, General Electric that makes quite a few of these will be interested in it,” Oder said.

Oder’s research on wide band gap semiconductors, which eventually resulted in the patent, dates back more than a decade when he was a doctoral student at Auburn University and later a post doctoral research associate at Kansas State University. When he joined the YSU faculty in 2003, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research encouraged him to patent his discoveries.

It took five years to get through the patent process.

YSU President Jim Tressel said the patent is another step in YSU’s continuing transition into a research university, particularly in the sciences and engineering.

“Engaging in the discovery of knowledge and sharing that knowledge is central to any outstanding university,” Tressel said. “This patent reflects YSU’s commitment to scholarly activity and discovery that serves to improve the region, state and nation.”

Martin Abraham, dean of the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, said Oder’s discovery reflects the increasingly prominent and important role that YSU is playing in materials science research and invention. The patent will help to recruit new students to the program.

“Receiving our first patent is a clear sign that YSU is making significant headway in transforming into an institution where research is an integral part of our operations,” Abraham said. “It sends a strong message that YSU is serious about successfully conducting research that has important and practical applications.”

Abraham has been named interim Provost of YSU pending a formal appointment next month by the Board of Trustees. Tressel said with the patent announcement and the Youngstown Business Incubator being named number one out of 10 best facilities in world, finding candidates to fill Abraham’s position should not be difficult.

“They’ll be waiting in line to become part of this great team,” Tressel said.

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