Tag Archives: University of Texas at Dallas

It takes more than research to change energy sources and use

Much of the talk about reducing or eliminating dependency on fossil fuels is focused on research to accomplish these goals or policies to support and promote new patterns of energy use as opposed to the details needed to implement a change in the infrastructures. For example, one frequently sees news about various energy research efforts such as this one at the University of Texas at Dallas featured in a Feb. 14, 2013 news item on Azonano,

University of Texas at Dallas researchers and their colleagues at other institutions are investigating ways to harvest energy from such diverse sources as mechanical vibrations, wasted heat, radio waves, light and even movements of the human body.

The goal is to develop ways to convert this unused energy into a form that can self-power the next generation of electronics, eliminating or reducing the need for bulky, limited-life batteries.

Beyond the more familiar wind and solar power, energy harvesting has a wide range of potential applications. These include: powering wireless sensor networks placed in “intelligent” buildings, or in hard-to-reach or dangerous areas; monitoring the structural health of aircraft; and biomedical implants that might transmit health data to your doctor or treat a chronic condition.

The Feb. 14, 2013 University of Texas at Dallas news release, which originated the news item, describes a recent energy research event and highlights some of the work being performed by the Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems (CEHMS) consortium (Note: A link has been removed),

At a recent scientific conference held at UT Dallas, experts from academia, industry and government labs gathered to share their latest research on energy harvesting. Energy Summit 2013 focused on research initiatives at UT Dallas, Virginia Tech and Leibniz University in Germany, which form a consortium called the Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems (CEHMS).

Founded in 2010, CEHMS is an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center funded in part by the National Science Foundation. It includes not only academic institutions, but also corporate members who collaborate on research projects and also provide funding for the center.  Roger Nessen, manager of sales and marketing at Exelis Inc. is chairman of the CEHMS advisory board.

Here are some examples of the research,

For example, Dr. Mario Rotea, the Erik Jonsson Chair and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UT Dallas, discussed some of his work aimed at advancing the development of wind energy systems. He represents UT Dallas in a proposed new consortium of universities and companies called WindSTAR that would collaborate with CEHMS on wind energy science and technology issues.

On the chemistry front, Smith’s [Dennis Smith, co-director of CEHMS and the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry at UT Dallas] synthetic chemistry lab is working with advanced materials that use piezoelectrics. If a piezoelectric material is deformed by a mechanical stress – such as stepping on it or subjecting it to vibrations – it produces an electric current. Smith’s lab is investigating whether the addition of nanoparticles to certain piezoelectric materials can boost this so-called piezoelectric effect.

CEHMS co-director Dr. Shashank Priya, professor of mechanical engineering and the James and Elizabeth Turner Fellow of Engineering at Virginia Tech, collaborates with Smith on piezoelectric research. Among many projects, researchers at Virginia Tech are incorporating piezoelectrics into “smart” tiles that produce electricity when stepped upon, as well as into materials that might be applied like wallpaper to gather light and vibrational energy from walls.

Other university and industry projects include:

  • Investigating how to redesign systems to require less power.
  • An intelligent tire system that harvests energy from the vibrations in a rotating tire, powering embedded sensors that gather and report data on tire pressure, tire conditions and road conditions.
  • A new class of magnetoelectric materials that can simultaneously convert magnetic fields and vibrations into energy.
  • A textile-type material that converts wasted thermal energy into electricity, which could be wrapped around hot pipes or auto exhaust pipes to generate power.
  • Flexible solar cells that could be integrated into textiles, and worn by hikers or soldiers to power portable electronic devices far away from an electric socket.

It’s exciting to talk about research, startups, and policies but at some point one needs to develop an infrastructure to support these efforts as Kyle Vanhemert points out (in an elliptical fashion) in his Feb.14, 2013 article, A Deeply Thought-Out Plan for EV [electric vehicle] Charging Stations, on the Fast Company website,

Currently, the best estimates suggest that upwards of 80% of electric vehicle charging happens at home. … If we want to see wider adoption of EVs, however, one thing is obvious: We need to make it possible for drivers to charge in places other than their garage. It’s a more complex problem than it might seem, but a series of reports by the New York-based architecture and design studio WXY will at least give urban planners and prospective charging station entrepreneurs a place to start.

The studies, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, address a major obstacle standing in the way of more ubiquitous charging–namely, that no one knows exactly what ubiquitous charging looks like. And in fairness, that’s because it doesn’t look like any one thing.  …

The WXY design studio has developed guidelines for these hypothetical EV charging stations,

The study identifies 22 design elements in all, divided into three categories: installation, access, and operation. The first looks at the infrastructural nuts and bolts of the site, including factors like physical dimensions of the station and its proximity to the power grid. Access deals with the factors that shape the basic user experience, things like proximity to traffic and building entrances, lighting, and signage. …

Vanhemert’s article includes some design diagrams, more details about these charging stations, and links to the design studio’s report and other reports that have been commissioned for the US Northeast Electric Vehicle Network.

Thank you to Kyle Vanhemert for a thought-provoking article, which raises questions about what kinds of changes will need to be made to infrastructure and everyday gadgets as we transition to new energy sources.

Robotic sea jellies (jellyfish) and carbon nanotubes

After my recent experience at the Vancouver Aquarium (Jan.19.12 posting) where I was informed that jellyfish are now called sea jellies, I was not expecting to see the term jellyfish still in use. I gather the new name is not being used universally yet, which explains the title for a March 23, 2012 news item on Nanowerk, Robotic jellyfish built on nanotechnology,

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech have created an undersea vehicle inspired by the common jellyfish that runs on renewable energy and could be used in ocean rescue and surveillance missions.

In a study published this week in Smart Materials and Structures (“Hydrogen-fuel-powered bell segments of biomimetic jellyfish”), scientists created a robotic jellyfish, dubbed Robojelly, that feeds off hydrogen and oxygen gases found in water.

“We’ve created an underwater robot that doesn’t need batteries or electricity,” said Dr. Yonas Tadesse, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas and lead author of the study. “The only waste released as it travels is more water.”

Engineers and scientists have increasingly turned to nature for inspiration when creating new technologies. The simple yet powerful movement of the moon jellyfish made it an appealing animal to simulate.

The March 22, 2012 press release from the University of Texas at Dallas features images and a video in addition to its text. From the press release,

The Robojelly consists of two bell-like structures made of silicone that fold like an umbrella. Connecting the umbrella are muscles that contract to move.

Here’s a computer-aided image,

A computer-aided model of Robojelly shows the vehicle's two bell-like structures.

Here’s what the robojelly looks like,

The Robojelly, shown here out of water, has an outer structure made out of silicone.

This robojelly differs from the original model,which was battery-powered. Here’s a video of the original robojelly,

The new robojelly has artificial muscles(from the Mar. 22, 2012 University of Texas at Dallas press release),

In this study, researchers upgraded the original, battery-powered Robojelly to be self-powered. They did that through a combination of high-tech materials, including artificial muscles that contract when heated.

These muscles are made of a nickel-titanium alloy wrapped in carbon nanotubes, coated with platinum and housed in a pipe. As the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen encounters the platinum, heat and water vapor are created. That heat causes a contraction that moves the muscles of the device, pumping out the water and starting the cycle again.

“It could stay underwater and refuel itself while it is performing surveillance,” Tadesse said.

In addition to military surveillance, Tadesse said, the device could be used to detect pollutants in water.

This is a study that has been funded by the US Office of Naval Research. At the next stage, researchers want to make the robojelly’s legs work independently so it can travel in more than one direction.

Asia’s research effort in nano-, bio-, and information technology integrated in Asian Research Network

The Feb. 29, 2012 news item by Cameron Chai on Azonano spells it out,

An Asian Research Network (ARN) has been formed by the Hanyang University of Korea and RIKEN of Japan in collaboration with other institutes and universities in Asia. This network has been launched to reinforce a strong education and research collaboration throughout Asia.

The Asian Research Network website is here. You will need to use your scroll bars as it appears to be partially constructed (or maybe my system is so creaky that I just can’t see everything on the page). Towards the bottom (right side) of the home page,there are a couple of red buttons for PDFs of the ARN Pamphlet and Research Articles.

From page 2 of the ARN pamphlet, here’s a listing of the member organizations,

KOREA

Hanyang University
Samsung Electronics
Electronics and Telecommunication Research Institute
Seoul National University
Institute of Pasteur Korea
Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology
Korea Advanced Nano Fab Center

JAPAN

RIKEN

INDIA

National Chemical Laboratory
Shivaji University
Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research
Pune University
Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (In Progress)
Indian Institute of Science (In Progress)

USA

University of Texas at Dallas
UCLA (In Progress)
f d i i ( )

CHINA

National Center for Nanoscience and Technology
Peking University

SINGAPORE

National University of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University (In Progress)
Stanford University In Progress)
University of Maryland (In Progress)

ISRAEL

Weizmann Institute of Science (In Progress)
Hebrew University Jerusalem

THAILAND

National Science and Technology Development Agency (In Progress)

I was a little surprised to see Israel on the list and on an even more insular note, why no Canada?

Getting back to the ARN, here are their aims, from page 2 of the ARN pamphlet,

We are committed to fostering talented human resources, creating a research network in which researchers in the region share their knowledge and experiences, and establishing a future-oriented partnership to globalize our research capabilities. To this end, we will achieve excellence in all aspects of education, research, and development in the area of fusion research between BT [biotechnology] and IT [information technology] based on NT [nanotechnology] in general. We will make a substantial contribution to the betterment of the global community as well as the Asian society.

I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Science comic books

Some time before Christmas I came across (via Twitter, sorry I can’t remember who) a listing of comic books that focus on science. The list is on a University of Texas at Dallas web space for their CINDI educational website. From the CINDI home page,

The Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation (CINDI) is a joint NASA/US Air Force funded ionospheric (upper atmosphere) plasma sensors built by the Center for Space Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas. This instrument package is now flying on the Air Force’s Communication/Navigation Outage Forecast Satellite (C/NOFS) launched in spring 2008. On this site you will find a collection of teaching and education resources for grades 6-9 about the CINDI project, the Earth’s atmosphere, space weather, the scale in the Earth-Moon system, satellites and rockets and more.

Amongst other outreach initiatives, they’ve produced a series of ‘Cindi’ comic books. Here’s a copy of one of the covers.

)”]This particular issue is intended for students from grades 6 – 9.

The Cindi series was featured in an article by Dan Stillman for NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration). From the article,

… Cindi, a spiky-haired android space girl, and her two space dogs, Teks and Taks, are stars of a comic book series that just released its second installment. With more than enough colorful pictures to go around, the comic books serve up a hearty helping of knowledge about the CINDI mission and the ionosphere, with a side of humor.

“Science is threatening to a lot of people. And even if it’s not threatening, most people have this misconception that ‘science is too hard for me to understand,'” said Hairston, [Mark Hairston]who together with Urquhart [Mary Urquhart] dreamed up the Cindi character and storyline. “But a comic book is not threatening. It’s pretty, it’s entertaining, and it’s easy to understand. So we can get people to read — and read all the way to the end.

“It grabs their interest and attention, and once we have that, we can then smuggle an amazing amount of scientific ideas and concepts into their minds.”

Even for Cindi, it’s no easy task to explain how atoms become ions and what NASA’s CINDI instruments do as they fly aboard an Air Force research satellite. The first Cindi comic book — “Cindi in Space,” published in 2005 — breaks the ice with an analogy involving Cindi’s dogs.

Getting back to where I started, the organizers have created a list of other science-focused comic books including a series from the Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory (STEL) at  Nagoya University (Japan),which are manga-influenced. At this time, nine have been translated into English. Here’s copy of the cover from their latest,

Cover for What is the Sun-Climate Relationship? manga (STEL project at Nagoya University, Japan)

The Cindi folks also mention Jim Ottaviani and G. T. Labs, which has produced a number of graphic novels/comic books including, Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards about 19th century dinosaur bone hunters and a very bitter feud between two of them, and Dignifying Science which features stories about women scientists. I went over to the G. T. Labs website where they were featuring their latest, Feynman which was published in August 2011 (from the Feynman webpage),

Physicist . . . Nobel winner . . . bestselling author . . . safe-cracker.

Feynman tells the story of a great man’s life, from his childhood in Long Island to his work on the Manhattan Project and the Challenger disaster. You’ll see him help build the first atomic bomb, give a lecture to Einstein, become a safecracker, try not to win a Nobel Prize (but do it anyway), fall in love, learn how to become an artist, and discover the world.

Anyone who ever wanted to know more about quantum electrodynamics, the fine art of the bongo drums, the outrageously obscure nation of Tuva, or the development and popularization of physics in the United States need look no further!

Feynman explores a wonderful life, lived to the fullest.

Ottaviani’s Dec. 14, 2011 blog posting notes this about Feynman,

Though come to think of it, the context is sort of crazy, as in Feynman is nominated for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s [AAAS] SB&F Prize, and it was also featured on Oprah.com’s “BookFinder” last week.

Congratulations to Ottaviani and G. T. Labs. (Sidebar: The AAAS 2012 annual meeting will be in Vancouver, Canada this February.)

Aussies, Yanks, Canucks, and Koreans collaborate on artificial muscles

I received a media release (from the University of British Columbia [UBC]) about artificial muscles. I was expecting to see Dr. Hongbin Li’s name as one of the researchers but this is an entirely different kind of artificial muscle. Dr. Li works with artificial proteins to create new biomaterials (my May 5, 2010 posting). This latest work published in Science Express, Oct. 13, 2011,  involves carbon nanotubes and teams from Australia, Canada, Korea, and the US. From the Oct. 13, 2011, UBC media release,

An international team of researchers has invented new artificial muscles strong enough to rotate objects a thousand times their own weight, but with the same flexibility of an elephant’s trunk or octopus limbs.

In a paper published online today on Science Express, the scientists and engineers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Wollongong in Australia, the University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in Korea detail their innovation. The study elaborates on a discovery made by research fellow Javad Foroughi at the University of Wollongong.

Using yarns of carbon nanotubes that are enormously strong, tough and highly flexible, the researchers developed artificial muscles that can rotate 250 degrees per millimetre of muscle length. This is more than a thousand times that of available artificial muscles composed of shape memory alloys, conducting organic polymers or ferroelectrics, a class of materials that can hold both positive and negative electric charges, even in the absence of voltage.

Here’s how the UBC media release recounts the story of these artificial muscles (Aside: The Australians take a different approach; I haven’t seen any material from the University of Texas at Dallas or the University of Hanyang),

The new material was devised at the University of Texas at Dallas and then tested as an artificial muscle in Madden’s [Associate Professor, John Madden, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering] lab at UBC. A chance discovery by collaborators from Wollongong showed the enormous twist developed by the device. Guided by theory at UBC and further experiments in Wollongong and Texas, the team was able to extract considerable torsion and power from the yarns.

The Australians, not unnaturally focus on their own contributions, and, somewhat unexpectedly discuss nanorobots. From the ARC (Australian Research Council) Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong news release (?) [ETA Oct. 17, 2011: I forgot to include a link to the Australian news item; and here’s a link to the Oct. 16, 2011 Australian news item on Nanowerk] ,

The possibility of a doctor using tiny robots in your body to diagnose and treat medical conditions is one step closer to becoming reality today, with the development of artificial muscles small and strong enough to push the tiny Nanobots along.

Although Nanorobots (Nanobots) have received much attention for the potential medical use in the body, such as cancer fighting, drug delivery and parasite removal, one major hurdle in their development has been the issue of how to propel them along in the bloodstream.

An international collaborative team led by researchers at UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), have developed a new twisting artificial muscle that could be used for propelling nanobots.   The muscles use very tough and highly flexible yarns of carbon nanotubes (nanoscale cylinders of carbon), which are twist-spun into the required form.  When voltage is applied, the yarns rotate up to 600 revolutions per minute, then rotate in reverse when the voltage is changed.

Due to their complexity, conventional motors are very difficult to miniaturise, making them unsuitable for use in nanorobotics.  The twisting artificial muscles, on the other hand, are simple and inexpensive to construct either in very long, or in millimetre lengths.

Interesting, non?

There’s an animation illustrating the nanorobots and the muscles,

In the animated video below, you first see a few bacteria like creatures swimming about. Their rotating flagella are highlighted with some detail of the flagella motor turning the “hook” and “filament” parts of the tail. We next see a similar type of rotating tail produced by a length of carbon nanotube thread that is inside a futuristic microbot. The yarn is immersed in a liquid electrolyte along with another electrode wire. Batteries and an electrical circuit are also inside the bot. When a voltage is applied the yarn partially untwists and turns the filament. Slow discharging of the yarn causes it to re-twist. In this way, we can imagine the micro-bot is propelled along in a series of short spurts.

I think the graphics resemble conception complete with sperm and eggs but I can see the nanorobots too. Here’s your chance to take a look,

ETA Oct. 14, 2011 11:20 am PST: I found a copy of the University of Texas at Dallas news release posted on Oct. 13, 2011 at Nanowerk. No mention of nanobots but if you’re looking for additional technical explanations, this would be good to read.

University of Texas at Dallas lab demos cloaking device visible to naked eye

Invisibility cloaks have been everywhere lately and I’ve been getting a little blasé about them but then I saw this Oct. 4, 2011 news item on physorg.com,

Scientists have created a working cloaking device that not only takes advantage of one of nature’s most bizarre phenomenon, but also boasts unique features; it has an ‘on and off’ switch and is best used underwater.

For the first time, I was able to see an invisibility cloak in action, here’s the video,

For the curious here’s how it works (from the Oct. 4, 2011 news release on the Institute of Physics website),

This novel design, presented today, Tuesday 4 September [Tuesday 4 October?], in IOP [Institute of Physics] Publishing’s journal Nanotechnology, makes use of sheets of carbon nanotubes (CNT) – one-molecule-thick sheets of carbon wrapped up into cylindrical tubes.

CNTs have such unique properties, such as having the density of air but the strength of steel, that they have been extensively studied and put forward for numerous applications; however it is their exceptional ability to conduct heat and transfer it to surrounding areas that makes them an ideal material to exploit the so-called “mirage effect”.

The most common example of a mirage is when an observer appears to see pools of water on the ground. This occurs because the air near the ground is a lot warmer than the air higher up, causing lights rays to bend upward towards the viewer’s eye rather than bounce off the surface.

This results in an image of the sky appearing on the ground which the viewer perceives as water actually reflecting the sky; the brain sees this as a more likely occurrence.

Through electrical stimulation, the transparent sheet of highly aligned CNTs can be easily heated to high temperatures. They then have the ability to transfer that heat to its surrounding areas, causing a steep temperature gradient. Just like a mirage, this steep temperature gradient causes the light rays to bend away from the object concealed behind the device, making it appear invisible.

With this method, it is more practical to demonstrate cloaking underwater as all of the apparatus can be contained in a petri dish. It is the ease with which the CNTs can be heated that gives the device its unique ‘on and off’ feature.

Congratulations to Dr. Ali Aliev (lead author) and the rest of the University of Texas at Dallas team!

ETA Oct. 5, 2011: I added the preposition ‘of’ to the title and I’m adding a comment about invisibility cloaks.

Comment: Most of the invisibility cloaks I’ve read about are at the nanoscale which means none of us outside a laboratory could possibly observe the cloak in action. Seeing this video demonstrating an invisibility cloak in the range of visible light and at a macroscale was a dream come true, so to speak.

US-Mexico transnational view of nanotechnology and other issues

The University of Texas at Dallas has announced its 11th annual series of lectures from the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies starting tonight (Sept. 22, 2011) and occurring intermittently until March 2012. Of special interest to me are the lectures on nanotechnology. More information can be found on the lecture series page,

“The Nanotechnology Business Incubator of Nuevo Leon
Dr. Francisco Servando Aguirre-Tostado

The University of Texas at Dallas,
Natural Science and Engineering Research Lab (RL) 3.204
Nov. 4, 10.30 a.m.

F. Servando Aguirre-Tostado is director of the Nanotechnology Incubator of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and professor at CIMAV-Monterrey.  After his postdoctoral training with the Electronic Materials Group at UT Dallas, he occupied a research scientist position to develop more stable and efficient semiconductor interfaces for next generation integrated circuits. Servando Aguirre is author and co-author of more than 30 research papers and is participating in more than 20 projects related to nanotechnology product development.

“Nanotechnology Applications in Nano, Micro and Macro-electronic Devices” Dr. Manuel Quevedo

  • Research Center for Advanced Materials (CIMAV), Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Nov. 24
  • Hermosillo, Sonora, Dec. 16

Manuel Quevedo-Lopez received his doctorate in Materials Science from the University of North Texas. In 2002, he joined the Texas Instruments Silicon Technology Development Group as a Member of Technical Staff (MTS). In 2007, he joined UT Dallas as a senior research scientist, and in 2008 he was appointed research professor at the Materials Science and Engineering Department in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. His interests include materials and integration issues for flexible electronics, including organic and inorganic-based devices

It’s very gutsy of the institutions and the academics to do this in light of the professors in Mexico who were injured in bombing incidents that took place in early August 2011 (my Nanotechnology terrorism in Mexico? posting).