Sitar receives 2012 RJ Reynolds Award

Dr. Zlatko Sitar (left) received the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension from Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering. (Photo: Nate DeGraff)
Dr. Zlatko Sitar (left) received the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension from Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering. (Photo: Nate DeGraff)

Dr. Zlatko Sitar, Kobe Steel Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Materials Research Center at North Carolina State University, has been selected as the 28th recipient of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension. Sitar delivered his lecture Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Larry K. Monteith Engineering Research Center on NC State’s Centennial Campus. His lecture was entitled “Creation of a new technology: From atoms to devices.”

The award was established in 1981 within the College of Engineering to honor a member of the engineering faculty who has demonstrated superiority in several areas of activity that relate to the University’s three-fold mission of teaching, research and extension. The annual award is supported by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company through the NC State Engineering Foundation to recognize scientific and educational achievements in fields of engineering. The recipient is given a $25,000 prize distributed over five years.

Sitar is an international leader in the areas of crystal and thin film growth, characterization and device development in wide bandgap semiconductors, particularly gallium nitride (GaN), aluminum nitride (AlN) and diamond. His innovative research led him to co-found HexaTech, Inc., an NC State spin-off company that is leading the development and commercialization of the next-generation semiconductor, AlN. The company, which was launched in 2001, is based in Morrisville, NC.

Sitar is being cited for his groundbreaking research in III-nitride semiconductors in both academic and commercial settings. He has developed, patented and commercialized a process for growth of AlN crystals, the only commercial high-quality AlN growth process in the world; and developed, patented and commercialized polishing of AlN wafers and device layer growth processes, which are the basis for high-efficiency deep-UV lasers and LEDs. He has also developed an environmentally friendly, hydrogen-less MOCVD method for growing group III-nitrides that uses 100 times less ammonia and produces high-quality films. His innovative research has created new opportunities for device design and exploitation of polarization effects in III-nitrides.

Additionally, Sitar has generated a model for diamond growth through plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition and a process for growth of high-quality diamond films at a rate 20 times higher than previously possible. He has also pioneered the nitride molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) process through the creation of a unique electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) plasma source.

A renowned expert in his field, Sitar has directed a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative on bulk III-nitride growth, working with five US universities and two US Department of Defense laboratories. His research has also been highly influential in understanding and explaining electron field emission from carbon materials, and he has established a scientific basis for the understanding of field emission from wide bandgap materials and carbon nanostructures.

Sitar has authored 277 publications, given more than 100 invited presentations and has received four US patents and three international patents. In addition, he has served as a member of more than 40 international conference committees and has more than 2,500 citations and an h-index of 26.

Sitar’s many honors and awards include the 2004 Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award and the 2001 Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative Award. In addition, he has received 11 Best Paper Awards, a National Merit Scholarship and a nomination for the R&D 100 Award. Sitar has served as associate editor for Diamond and Related Materials and New Diamond and Frontier Carbon Technology. He has also been a proceedings editor for Diamond and Related Materials and is currently a proceedings editor for the International Workshop on Bulk Nitrides, a position he has held since 2000.

Sitar is a member of several professional societies, including the American Vacuum Society, the American Physical Society, the Society of Slovenian Scientists and the Materials Research Society, for which he held office in the North Carolina chapter as president, vice president and treasurer between the years of 1995 and 1998. He was named the Kobe Steel Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State in 2008.

Sitar has graduated seven master’s students and more than 35 doctoral students. He has also advised 15 undergraduates in his research laboratory. Sitar has participated in teaching-related activities, including being a mentor for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s (MSE) senior design projects. He has also designed and mentored the Teaching Experience for Graduate Students program. Additionally, Sitar developed four MSE courses at NC State, including Characterization of Materials by Electron Spectroscopy and Thin Film Technology I and II.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the University of Ljubljana in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 1982 and 1987, respectively, and his PhD in materials science and engineering with a minor in electrical engineering from NC State in 1990. Sitar joined the faculty at NC State in 1995.

Throughout his career, Sitar has excelled in teaching, research and mentorship. His commitment to excellence in his field makes him a deserving recipient of the R.J. Reynolds Award.