Yiyang Li receives Intel's Rising Star Faculty Award

Li was one of 15 early-career academic researchers from around the world selected for leading groundbreaking research that has the potential to disrupt the tech industry.
Yiyang Li receives Intel's Rising Star Faculty Award

MSE is pleased to announce that Assistant Professor Yiyang Li has been selected as a 2022 Intel Rising Star Faculty Award (RSA) recipient.

An international award, the RSA recognizes early-career faculty members who show great promise as future academic leaders in disruptive computing technologies in fields encompassing computer science, electrical engineering, computer engineering, materials science, and chemical engineering; and fosters innovation and long-term collaborative relationships with faculty and senior technical leaders at Intel. Li is one of 15 winners from around the world.

“We congratulate Yiyang on winning this prestigious award,” said MSE chair Amit Misra. “His willingness to tackle bold and innovative research ideas clearly made a strong impression on the Intel award committee.”

Li has the rare background in both electrochemisty (his award-winning research field as a PhD student at Stanford) and microelectronics (his focus as a Truman Fellow at Sandia National Laboratories). He now primarily studies the fundamental materials science and electrochemical properties of next-generation analog and digital memory for neuromorphic computing, beyond CMOS devices, and AI hardware.

“Since starting at U-M in 2020, Yiyang has been outstanding, and is building a materials research program that will be fundamentally disruptive to microelectronics," commented Misra. "A key differentiator of his research is his unique ability to identify and exploit electrochemical behavior for microelectronic devices,"

Li has successfully led new research directions by applying his experiences with electrochemistry onto resistive memory, or memristors. After decades of research by academia and industry, memristors are a commercial technology. However, Li observed that the field has always used Fick’s First Law to describe ion diffusion in memristors. In the battery research community, it is known that Fick’s First Law should not be used under certain conditions. Li noticed that very similar conditions that preclude use of Fick’s First Law are also observed in memristors. He has compiled a diverse series of experiments, often using tools not available at U-M, to prove his hypothesis and develop a new theory of ion transport for memristors and other new types of emerging electronic devices. Once published, it will result a holistic change in our understanding and modeling of memristors.

Li has also applied principles from microelectronics to batteries. Device-to-device variability in transistors is an extremely important metric in microelectronics. However, in the field of batteries, nobody has even been able to measure the variability between the micron-sized particles that make up a battery. Motivated by the need to measure “particle-to-particle variability,” Li has built a microfabricated array to quantify this variability. This creative approach helped him win the Battery Innovation Contest from LG Energy Solution earlier this year.

Despite starting at U-M less than two years ago during the pandemic, Li has started to become recognized as a leader in this field. In 2022, he organized two symposia, on neuromorphic computing at Materials Research Society and on ionic-electronics at Solid State Ionics. He is leading two proposals, one to NSF on the Future of Semiconductors and another to DOE on Sodium-Ion batteries, despite being the most junior member of both teams.

Li is also aiming to build broader educational opportunities between U-M and the semiconductor industry. He has revamped the MSE capstone design class by pairing every student team with an industry-sponsored design project, so that students can see how materials science and engineering is directly used in industry. Li is currently pursuing new projects with several companies in the semiconductor industry, with the goal to help train a capable workforce and encouraging students to consider careers in this critically important industry.

“I would like to thank my students for doing the work to help me win this award, and for continued support from my mentors” said Li. “As someone relatively new to microelectronics, it is an incredible honor to be recognized along the other distinguished awardees. I hope this award will open opportunities to work with Intel and the semiconductor industry on critically important challenges related to microelectronics.”