Physics professor awarded YSU’s first-ever federal patent

Tom Oder

Tom Oder

Tom Oder, Youngstown State University professor of Physics, has been awarded the first federal patent in the university’s history for a method he devised that improves the performance and reliability of semiconductor devices.

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. Our congratulations to Dr. Oder and his team for their years of hard work in seeking and earning this patent.”

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.

“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.”

Oder’s research on wide band gap semiconductors that 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, Oder said that Peter Kasvinsky, then dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research, first mentioned to him about patenting his discoveries.

“I am deeply honored to be the first one to receive a patent at YSU,” Oder said. “This is a result of the grace and favor of God on the hard work that we have been engaged in at YSU. For these, I must acknowledge the support of my family and colleagues in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. With the high quality of faculty at YSU who are engaged in cutting-edge original research, I am confident that many more patents will be realized.”

Oder, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics/Mathematics from Makerere University in Uganda and a master’s degree in Radiation Biophysics from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, has been awarded three grants from the National Science Foundation totaling more than $700,000 to support his research at YSU. The most recent grant for $307,422 will allow YSU, in partnership with Fireline TCON Inc. in Youngstown, to acquire high-end equipment to help further research in materials science.

Oder’s research focuses on methods to improve the reliability of semiconductors that are subject to high temperatures and high voltages and has applications in the automotive, aerospace and other industries. Oder, working with a group of student assistants in labs on the first floor of Ward Beecher Hall on the YSU campus, 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.

Oder said he is now awaiting word on a second patent for another process he devised that involves the use of nickel gallide at even higher temperatures of nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.