South East Wales

Diana Huffaker joins Cardiff University to lead research lab

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Media captionIt is hoped Cardiff will become a 'magnet' for companies and researchers developing nanotechnology

A "truly outstanding" professor will lead a new research laboratory at Cardiff University.

Diana Huffaker, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will become chairwoman in advanced engineering and materials.

She is the fourth appointment in the Welsh government's £50m Ser Cymru scheme.

Prof Huffaker's laboratory will research nanotechnology to be used in a range of devices.

Prof Huffaker is an expert in compound semiconductors - the technology behind devices including smart phones and computer tablets.

She also hopes to attract other researchers to the university from around Europe to use the facilities - and help to develop products for business.

She said: "My research vision is to bring the promise of nanoscale physics to collect and transmit information using light with exquisite speed and sensitivity.

"With the Ser Cymru investment, I shall build an extensive user facility for materials and nanostructure synthesis not currently available in UK."

SOMETHING BIG FROM SOMETHING SMALL

Image copyright Cardiff University

ANALYSIS from Sarah Dickins, BBC Wales economics correspondent

Thirty years ago, Inmos in Newport symbolised the arrival of a new industrial development - silicon wafer production - which were the tiny processors behind some of our favourite electronic items. Now the excitement is about composite semiconductors.

They carry information more quickly than silicon, they conduct electricity very efficiently and can convert electricity into light.

Examples are all around us, including sensors, lasers and heat detectors but they are also at the centre of a whole new generation of research.

Prof Diana Huffaker has already worked with the Cardiff semiconductors company IQE as part of her research at UCLA in California.

Now that she has come to take up this new chair just a few miles away at Cardiff University they will continue working together.

At the moment IQE has 100 highly skilled workers in St Mellons and 500 others around the world.

The company's products are in many of our domestic appliances but the hope is of mushrooming of similar firms so the next generation of technological developments - from the ideas stage right through to manufacturing and patenting - will come from Wales.

Marking director Chris Meadows says Wales could then become well placed to become a European hub for the composite semiconductor industry.

It's a big ambition but we also know that the EU is talking about re-industrialisation in Europe. If the various groups working together did manage to pull it off, it could make real long term changes to the Welsh economy.

The university's vice-chancellor, Prof Colin Riordan, added: "Prof Diana Huffaker is a truly outstanding researcher, with a record of research excellence in areas of global impact and strategic importance not only to Cardiff University, but also to Wales."

Minister for economy and science, Edwina Hart, said Prof Huffaker brings "a wealth of knowledge and expertise".

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