Vanier winner powers energy efficient transistor research

EXPERT INVESTIGATOR: UAlberta PhD student Elham Rafie Borujeny has been awarded a $150,000 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her work in improving energy efficiency of transistors.

(EDMONTON) Elham Rafie Borujeny was on a family vacation when she and her brother Reza received e-mails informing them they’d both been awarded prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for their PhD studies. 

“We looked at each other and said ‘I got it!’ We were both so excited,” said Elham. “This is such a great honour, especially considering the very competitive nature of this scholarship.” The $150,000 Vanier scholarship recognizes doctoral students at Canadian universities who demonstrate academic excellence, research impact, and leadership. 

Originally from Iran, Elham and Reza both completed their Master’s degrees in the University of Alberta Faculty of Engineering. Elham completed her MSc in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering in 2014 and worked for more than a year before choosing to pursue her PhD. She is now carrying on with her research into power transistors with materials engineering professor Ken Cadien, at the University of Alberta. 

Elham says the U of A is known internationally for its nanotechnology facilities and—importantly—for its people. She chose to do her PhD here because her supervisor, Cadien, is a world leader in materials research. “He is a globally recognized expert in thin films and semiconductor fabrication and has collaborations with world-class device scientists.”

She’ll invest her time working toward the development of new materials that could lead to more energy efficient transistors.

“I’m investigating the possibility of building more efficient transistors from advanced materials and by means of a low-temperature process, using a technique called atomic layer deposition,” she said. “This will lead to energy efficient electronic devices, not only in performance but also an energy efficient fabrication process. 

“About 20 per cent of the energy is wasted by power transistors in use today, and that’s due to properties of the materials,” she said. “The impact of my research is that it could improve the efficiency of power conversion by preventing the energy from turning into unintended outputs, such as waste heat. This means preventing a significant amount of electricity from being wasted, which will have a large effect on improving the energy accessibility.” 

Elham is one of two Faculty of Engineering students and 10 at the University of Alberta to be awarded the Vanier scholarship. Elena Zabolotnii, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has also been awarded the scholarship, supporting her research into the stability of dams at mining operations. Elham’s brother Reza is Pursuing his PhD at the University of Toronto.