Professor Jian-Ping Wang honored with IEEE Magnetics Society Achievement Award

Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Robert F. Hartmann Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering Jian-Ping Wang has been honored with the 2024 IEEE Magnetics Society Achievement Award. The highest honor in magnetics, the citation reads, “For pioneering contributions and inventions to magnetic materials, devices, and applications in information storage and computation, particularly on magnetic media, MRAM, and in-memory computing." 

A world-renowned expert on magnetic materials, Wang has many firsts to his name. His experimental design and fabrication of exchange-coupled composite (ECC) recording media consisting of coupled hard and soft layers represented the world's first realization of the ECC disk for magnetic recording. His work not only confirmed for the first time that ECC media could address the two key issues of writability and angular dispersion sensitivity that faced perpendicular recording, but it also successfully extended the recording areal density from the 500 Gbit/in², a limit for the traditional perpendicular magnetic recording, to 1Terabit/in² and higher. ECC media are used in magnetic recording disk products for computers and all data centers around the world. This pioneering work earned him the Information Storage Industry Consortium (INSIC) Technical Achievement Award in 2006. INSIC is the world’s largest information storage industry consortium; its members include IBM, Seagate, Western Digital, NIST, Hitachi, CMU, UMN, Stanford, UC, AU, and others. Wang's other significant accomplishment was the first experimental demonstration of the perpendicular spin-transfer-torque switchable device. This design (developed simultaneously at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies which was later acquired by Western Digital) is used in most MRAM products commercially produced today. 

For his seminal contributions to spintronics, Wang was recognized by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) in 2019 with the Technical Excellence Award. The recognition was for his “innovations and discoveries in nanomagnetics and novel materials that accelerated the production of magnetic random access memories.” Wang’s many inventions and innovations (invention of the fixed layer in perpendicular STT-MRAM cells; groundbreaking research on a programmable logic device based on magnetic tunnel junctions; invention of Computational Random-Access Memory (CRAM) for true in-memory computing to support AI applications; first demonstration of topological insulator thin films with giant spin Hall angle using an industry-compatible sputtering process for spin-orbit-torque (SOT) logic and memory) are being pursued by industry and/or are already in use current devices. 

Wang‘s vision and pioneering efforts in the field of metallic and topological spintronics for non-volatile memory, logic, and in-memory computing, especially using memory cells for computing, has successfully bridged the magnetic and semiconductor communities in US, leading to the establishment of the Center for Spintronic Materials, Interfaces and Novel Architectures (C-SPIN) and a follow-up Center for Spintronic Materials for Advanced Information Technologies (SMART) under his technical leadership. Both Centers were the first dedicated centers on spintronics research supported by Semiconductor Research Corporation, DARPA and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  

Any collection of Wang’s accomplishments is incomplete if it does not include a reference to his tenacious efforts to fully understand the underlying physics and materials science of iron nitride (Fe16N2), a magnetic material. His work led to the development of the most promising candidate for an environmentally-friendly rare-earth-free magnet which holds great promise for mass production to tackle the climate change challenge. Permanent magnets are the unsung heroes of green technologies; they are critical to electric motors, wind turbines, and other components. This particular magnet called Clean Earth Magnet consists only of iron and nitrogen, and is manufactured by Niron Magnetics, a Minneapolis-based startup company that took shape in his lab. Niron Magnetics recently received a U.S. Department of Energy grant to support the scaling up of its sustainable permanent magnets prototypes. Clean Earth Magnet was also included in TIME magazine's list of best inventions of 2023.

Wang’s academic contributions have been equally stellar. At the University of Minnesota, he has advised 38 Ph.D. students and five master's students, and supervised 18 postdoctoral associates. At the National University of Singapore, he advised 7 Ph.D. students, 15 master's students, and supervised 5 postdoctoral associates. Many of these students and postdoctoral associates are now leading successful careers in industry and academia. 

The award will be presented at the 2024 Intermag conference scheduled to be held in in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in May. 

Professor Jian-Ping Wang earned his bachelor's degree in physics in 1989 and his master's degree in magnetic materials in 1992, both from Lanzhou University, and his doctoral degree in nanomagnetism from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing in 1995. After working as a postdoctoral fellow in the electrical and computer engineering department at the National University of Singapore, Wang worked at the Data Storage Institute and National University of Singapore in various capacities including leading a large Magnetic Media Department as research program manager. He joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 2002. He was the director of the Center for Spintronic Materials, Interfaces, and New Architectures (C-SPIN) from 2012 till 2017, and of the Center for Spintronic Materials for Advanced Information Technologies (SMART) from 2018 to 2022. He was named a Fellow of IEEE in 2015, APS in 2020 and National Academy of Inventors in 2022.