Spotlights

In the lab of the School of Physics, NJU, we met Professor Miao Feng. In a dust-proof suit and a dust-proof cap, he was having discussions with his team on an electronic component which they called “sandwich.”   

 

At age 29, he was selected for the Young Overseas High-Level Talents Introduction Plan. Subsequently, he was awarded The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, National 973 Program Chief Scientist, and Young and Middle-Aged Science & Technology Innovation Leading Scientist.    


At age 36, he became chief professor at a State Key Laboratory, and a Ph.D. supervisor.    


Only by listening to his story can you feel his splendid life is hard-earned.   

 

Miao Feng in the lab   


Fascination with the “sandwich” structure   


Miao Feng warmly welcomed us. Taking off the dust-proof suit, he is gentle and handsome, like a big boy, but when talking about his research, he became calm and experienced.    

   

Most electronic devices, as we know, have high-temperature protection mechanisms which will cut off the power once the temperature is too high. Therefore, making “high-temperature resistant” electronic components is one of the problems the entire scientific community is faced with, and many scientists have been engaged in such research.      


Last February, he and his team published their latest achievement in the top international electronic journal Nature Electronics and put forward an electronic component with a “sandwich” structure. Because of this, he even became an online celebrity and many news media competed for getting his stories out.      


Why is such a “sandwich” structure so mysterious? “125 °C is the limit of the operating temperature for most electronic devices,” explained Miao. “For example, mobile phones and computers would be shut down when they are overheated. However, the new structure we have developed can work stably even at 340 °C.    


“The secret lies in the fact that the two electrodes of the component are made of graphene between which the molybdenum oxysulfide is used as a dielectric layer.”   

 

It is easier said than done. The team experienced countless failures in the course of research.    


“We had to strip the blocky material into atomic-scale materials,” he said, “and then ‘play LEGO’ in the world of atoms. To make sure the structure stays stable and functions well, we had to go through lots of trials for each figure in the experiment.”   

   

Miao said that the team was applying for a patent for the current achievement both in China and in the U.S., and it is expected to be applied in the near future.    


Such a “sandwich-like” electronic component can not only work at high temperatures, but also has high-performance storage. Its number of times of storing and deletion is a hundred times more than a normal USB flash disk.      


Dream of Science in Childhood   


Miao said he is a typical person born in the 1980s, and his dream of science also sprouted in this age.      


In the 1980s and 1990s, electronic toys were rare, but it did not hamper his enthusiasm.    


“I still remember,” said Miao, “that when I was in elementary school, it was the first time I saw a sun hat with a small electric fan. I was so fascinated that I removed the small electric fan and played with it.”    


His parents did not imagine that he finally made a small electric steamer by just adding some wooden materials.      


After that experience, he became the repairman of all electronic appliances at home even though he was only a little boy.    


Perhaps, it was the love for science in his childhood that led him to choose to become a worker in science and technology.   


Miao said enthusiasm was the most important factor for research, just like childhood interest. The outside motivation may fail to support you to go on with research, and only true love of research can help you meet all the challenges.   

 

 Miao Feng in the lab   


A Special Laboratory   


Miao’s dream is to promote the development of China’s physical electronics.   


Miao received his Ph.D. in the U.S. in 2009 and then worked at HP labs in Silicon Valley for three more years.    


In 2012, he was selected for Young Overseas High-level Talents Introduction Plan, and he chose to return to his alma mater, Nanjing University.    


“Whether pursuing my doctoral degree or working in Silicon Valley,” he said, “I had a burden in my heart: I just wanted to come back.”   


“Now, research conditions keep improving in China,” he said. “Many of our labs are better equipped than labs overseas.”    


Whether doing scientific research or making important decisions, Miao held that “following your heart” is the most important. Only by following the real thoughts in your mind and avoiding utilitarian research can you go further in the field of research, he said.      


The lab at Nanjing University is now the “base camp” for him and his team.    


He said there is a big difference in focus between basic and applied research, so generally most labs only specialize in one of the two.    


“Ours is very special,” he said. “Here, our team is doing what two teams do!”   

   

“Our lab is carrying out both basic research and also paying close attention to its applications,” said Miao. “We hope to make original achievement through basic research but also clarify its specific application.”    


He and his team have a more ambitious plan for the future. He said: “We hope that in the field of physical electronics, our achievements could ultimately make a difference in the future electronic information technology through forward-looking research on new materials and devices using new principles.”   


Source: Jiangsu Science and Technology News   


Author: Xu Yang   


Photographer: Wu Yu   


Art Editor & Executive Editor: Cui Yuxuan   


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