Professor AKM Newaz demonstrates how to use the photodetector at SF State in San Francisco CA., Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Chris Myers / Golden Gate Xpress) (Chris Myers)
Professor AKM Newaz demonstrates how to use the photodetector at SF State in San Francisco CA., Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Chris Myers / Golden Gate Xpress)

Chris Myers

SF State student makes breakthrough discovery in photodetector technology

The research was in collaboration with an SF State professor and a team from Stanford.

April 4, 2023

A graduate student made a breakthrough discovery in their first solo research project at SF State’s lab.

Hon-Loen Sinn, in collaboration with professor AKM Newaz and a team from Stanford led by Eric Pop, revealed new photodetector properties with improved sensitivity to UV light range. 

Photodetectors are used in applications ranging from cameras, communications, microscopes and night vision. A provisional patent for the device is pending while the team works on the application for the main patent.

Sinn was accepted to SF State for the Fall 2021 term and started his project at the beginning of 2022. 

He initially came across a published research paper that noted a strange interaction between a semiconductor and a metal. Usually, the amount of current acquired from a battery is proportional to how much is being put in, but that’s not always the case with semiconductors. One of the things the study revealed was a large increase in current when exposed to the UV light range. 

The team finished most of their research in the first five months and spent the remaining few polishing things up for publication. A team from Stanford provided the materials for the research. 

This was Sinn’s first solo project and his study observed how currents in semiconductors reacted to different light sources. He described the project as grueling but rewarding overall.

“This was my first solo project and I endured a lot of ups and downs during this project,” Sinn said. “It was very rewarding to get the work done but also make sure this is the best possible work I can do.”

Sinn found the project while going through the list of professors and research labs at SF State and reached out to professor Newaz, who determined that he would be a good fit for the lab. He said that being a graduate student and undergraduate physics courses helped give him a better understanding of the fields he’s interested in.

Sinn described his exposure to the lab as crucial in gaining experience and developing specific interests. He also noted that being involved in a lab doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working on a project, and it’s more about having a general interest in the area of the lab because projects come and go.

“I highly encourage any undergraduate or grad student to get out there and put their best foot in,” Sinn said. “I saw the opportunity and said if I don’t do this now it’s never gonna happen. I’ve worked with many professors at SF State and they’re very kind and helpful with finding you a project that interests you.”

Santosh Bagjain, a master’s student in physics at SF State, said that he chose his field because of his interest in the professor’s lab and that he’s currently working on a project for the lab.

“I’m a second-semester student,” said Bagjain. “I chose this field because I’m interested in it, the professor is nice and I’m fascinated by what I’m working on.”

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About the Contributors
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Ishaan Pratap, Copy Editor
Ishaan Pratap (he/him) was born in New York and is a 4th year print and online journalism major at San Francisco State. In his free time he enjoys video games, hanging out with friends, and watching soccer. He joined the journalism program because he's passionate about social issues like housing and city politics.
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Chris Myers, Staff Photographer
Chris Myers (he/him) is a photographer for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a photojournalism major with a minor in buisness administration. Currently based out of San Francisco and his current hobbies consists of snowboarding, golf and softball. He is really appreciative of the hundreds of inches of snow that the Sierra Nevada has recieved this Winter.

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