Federal prosecutors say Xioaxing Xi, 47, a naturalized citizen, is a native of the People’s Republic of China. Former students cited current sensitive posts at the U.S. Department of Energy or NASA in their decisions to stay quiet. A person who answered the phone at his suburban Philadelphia home says he isn’t available to comment. Notes from reporters were shoved in the door frame and under the windshield wipers of a car in the driveway.

“He was nice to me, ” Tenne said of their time in the lab together.

Xi earned his doctorate in China and was a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University before joining Temple in 2009.

Superconductors transmit electricity more efficiently and can increase the power and efficiency of some technologies.

The indictment goes on to claim Xi “repeatedly reproduced, sold, transferred, distributed, and otherwise shared the device with, and exploited it for the benefit of, government entities and other third parties in China”.

Conductus merged with Superconductor Technologies Inc. soon after. It is also alleged that in return for the technology, Xi sought prestigious appointments in China. Films of magnesium diboride are particularly promising for this use, and Xi helped developed a way to make them.

The scheme did not work, and on Thursday, Xi was released on $100,000 bail. It remained unclear Friday whether he had retained a lawyer. Dr. Tyagi knows Xi and helped explain to United States the technology. Michele Mucellin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, said that the cases were not connected.

Stealing trade secrets is simply cheaper and faster than developing them in your own laboratories, he said, adding that China isn’t the only player to attempt this type of economic espionage.

Temple spokesman Ray Betzner says an acting chairman was appointed in light of Xi’s need to focus “on the matter at hand”. He later is alleged to have gotten a Department of Defense grant to finance his purchase of the device for research that was relevant to the Defense Department.

The charges sate that, starting in January 2004, Xi made efforts to obtain the technology from the company.

Inquirer staff writers Chris Palmer and Catherine Coyle contributed to this article. Such institutes have been controversial in some settings because they are in part funded by the Chinese government.

Temple University professor arrested for ‘sharing United States defense tech with China’