Company donates $1 million reactor to College of Science and Engineering

By: 

News Reporter

State-of-the-art research equipment valued at over $1 million was donated to the College of Science and Engineering June 30 to further student and faculty research.

The equipment is a reactor donated by Nitronex, LLC, a supplier of special power transistors for wireless communications applications, said Michael Blanda, assistant vice president of Research and Federal Relations. The reactor will be housed in the Roy F. Mitte Building, home to the Department of Physics, the Ingram School of Engineering and the Department of Engineering Technology. Blanda said the reactor will lead to the production of advanced electronic components such as wireless transmitters/receivers and LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.

Nitronex produces a chemical compound called gallium nitride, which can be put on silicon wafers, Blanda said. Those wafers can be incorporated into power transistors and other types of applications for things like computers chips, he said.

The company knew of Texas State’s overall research capabilities and specific capabilities in the area of microchip manufacture, which led it to donate the technology, Blanda said. Nitronex was also aware former employee Edwin Piner, associate professor of physics, had a personal interest in the research, so a partnership began, Blanda said.

The reactor produces the microelectronic material that goes into a computer chip, Piner said. This makes a good tool for both research and prototype production. Piner is excited to be able to get back into the research he was involved in for 15 years before coming to Texas State.

Donations such as this are rare and having access to this technology will benefit faculty and students alike, Piner said.

“The students will benefit by having access to the tool and something that they can base their research on,” Piner said. “Then we can be in the process of being the producers of a state of the art production process that is the best in the industry.”

The reactor will help students by providing direct access to state-of-the-art equipment, creating mentoring opportunities with world-class researchers and scholars and gaining the entrepreneurial expertise necessary to start companies based on the new technology, Blanda said.

“I’m looking forward to the career and professional opportunities that our students are going to have provided,” Blanda said. “The students will be able to get a full spectrum of experiences.”

Students can gain the necessary experiences for future careers or to pursue higher degrees, Blanda said.

The university will also benefit by being able to attract talented people and gain an advantage in securing financial support for future research, which will make the university more competitive in this area of research, Blanda said.

Billy Covington, associate vice president for Research and Federal Relations, said the research aspect of the reactor will bring Texas State to a new level of excellence.

“As a chief research officer, one of my jobs is to increase the amount of research happening at Texas State University, so when we get a piece of equipment like this it allows us to do things we couldn’t do before,” Covington said. “This provides additional research capability for faculty and students in the area of Materials Science and allows for additional research to be conducted.”