Park’s research focuses on applied physics

For the last nine years since he joined the Department of Physics, Professor Minseo Park’s research has been focused on applied physics of wide band gap semiconductor (GaN and ZnO) materials and devices. He is interested in power electronic, optoelectronic, and bioelectronic applications of wide band gap semiconductors.

“It is very important to generate energy efficiently. However, it is also very important to use the energy efficiently,” said Park.

Energy efficient power electronic semiconductor devices are required in power electronic systems such as power converters in hybrid/electric vehicles (HEVs). Therefore, it is of necessity to use the devices that will reduce the energy loss in power conversion. Silicon (Si) has been widely used as a material for power electronic devices. However, it is difficult to reduce those losses in Si-based devices. By using wide band gap semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN), energy-efficient power electronic devices can be produced.

In collaboration with Kyma Technologies, Inc., Park and his team have developed an energy- efficient, ultrafast bulk GaN-based vertical Schottky diode with high-breakdown voltage. This work was funded by the United States Missile Defense Agency through their
SBIR/STTR program.

Currently, Park and his students are working on fabricating an AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistor, or HEMT, for energy-efficient device applications. Chungman Yang is a visiting student from Hanyang University in Korea, and is sponsored by the WEST program. He mentioned, “I have learned a lot about semiconductor device fabrication and testing while I have been working at Dr. Park’s lab. I strongly believe that my experience will help me find a job in the state-of-the-art semiconductor industry.”

Organic solar cells have been considered as alternatives to costly inorganic counterparts. However, they suffer from drawbacks such as low carrier mobility, short exciton diffusion length, limited optical absorption, and rapid degradation in operation. To alleviate some of these weaknesses endemic to organic photovoltaic devices, inorganic nanostructured semiconductor materials (ZnO) are incorporated. Recently, Park’s graduate student, Fei Tong, successfully demonstrated device operation of flexible organic and inorganic hybrid solar cells based on ZnO nanorod and polymer semiconductors. The work was funded by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH).

Fei said, “I am enjoying working in Dr. Park’s lab. I really like multidisciplinary aspects of the solar cell research, which has widened my academic horizon.”

Another area Park has been involved in is so-called bioelectronics. As an active member of Auburn University’s Detection and Food Safety Center, directed by Professor Bryan Chin, Park and his graduate students have been working on developing sensors for the detection of food- borne bacteria such as salmonella. Sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, Park’s former doctoral graduate student, Resham Thapa, demonstrated highly specific detection of DNA hybridization via an AlGaN/GaN HEMT-based biosensor with amine-based bio- functionalization. The work was published in Applied Physics Letters, and Resham is currently working for Intel.

Park has been teaching several courses in the physics department, including engineering physics, solid state physics, nanotechnology, and physics of music, a new course where students learn how musical sound is created, manipulated, and detected. As an example of hands-on activities, students make a natural trumpet out of PVC pipe and analyze the sounds that are generated.

Further information regarding his research and teaching activities can be found at www.auburn.edu/cosam/faculty/physics/park/.

About Park

Minseo Park received his bachelor of science and a master’s from Yonsei University in ceramic engineering and from Iowa State University in materials science and engineering, respectively. In 1998, he received his doctorate in materials science and engineering, with a minor in solid state sciences from North Carolina State University. Upon graduation, he continued as research associate and research assistant professor at North Carolina State University. He joined the Auburn University Department of Physics in 2003. In 2008, he was tenured and promoted to associate professor. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Missile Defense Agency, Army Research Office, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, among others. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Park now lives in Waverly, Ala. He is married to Soohyun Baik who works as a real estate agent in Auburn, and they have two children: Michelle, 16; and Joshua, 12. He and his family also live with three rabbits. When not conducting scientific research or teaching, he composes music and posts his work on YouTube at http://www.youtube. com/user/CompuMuze.