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ASU ranks top 10 for DARPA Young Faculty Awards, ahead of Columbia, others.
'Managed research' concept expands through government, private companies.
January 30, 2017

University researchers leverage concept known as 'managed research' to drive innovation and development

During World War II, the government assembled the nation’s top scientists and tasked them with solving problems to win the war. The most famous result is the Manhattan Project, which created nuclear weapons on a windswept plateau in New Mexico.

Fast forward to the late 1950s. The Soviets launched Sputnik, catching the U.S. flat-footed. The government decided that couldn’t happen again. In response, Eisenhower created the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The object: to create and prevent strategic surprise.

In the years since, the agency has created the internet, GPS, drones and stealth technologies, among many other innovations that have trickled down to domestic use. Now called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, it's the American version of James Bond’s Q branch.

The concept is called managed research, and Arizona State University has leveraged it as well as anybody. Faculty members are working on 23 DARPA projects. Six faculty in the past three years have won the DARPA Young Faculty Awards, bestowed on rising research stars in junior faculty positions at universities. ASU is eighth out of 115 universities — MIT is No. 1, with ASU coming in ahead of such institutions as Columbia and University of California-Berkeley — with the number of awards.

DARPA projects at ASU include a brain-drone swarm control interface created by Panagiotis Artemiadis (pictured above), an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. Engineering professor Tom Sugar has created five wearable exo suits, including a jet pack that helps wearers run faster. Spring Berman, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is working on a way for average people to tell a robot insect swarm to perform a task in unpredictable environments where comms and GPS don’t work well.

A student wears a jetpack while running.

An ASU student demonstrates his speed using the jet pack from professor Tom Sugar’s Robotics Lab on the Polytechnic campus. The jet pack is designed to allow a person to run much faster for a relatively short period of time. Sugar concentrates on wearable robotics to enhance the person’s mobility, many projects of which are DARPA-related. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 

DARPA operates on tight timelines, towards tightly defined goalsCurrent projects include exoskeletons for humans to carry heavy loads, a system to store payloads on the ocean floor and retrieve them when necessary, an air-launched hypersonic boost glide missile, and a robot like an earthworm.. They basically hire expert scientists to solve specific problems. If projects don’t pan out, they get canned.

The method is spreading across government and industry, including tech giants. Google has ATAP, the Advanced Technology and Projects group. Facebook has created Building 8, a similar tech incubator. (ASU in December announced it is partnering with Facebook to supply brainpower to the Building 8 project.)

Jamie Winterton is director of strategy for the Global Security Initiative, ASU’s primary interface to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. She also chairs the university's DARPA Working Group, matching researchers with projects and shepherding them through the application process.

DARPA is high-risk, high-reward, Winterton said. “They’re not afraid of failure like a lot of the other government agencies or industry would be,” she said.

Managed research at ASU

“Sponsored research,” as it is dubbed at ASU, is an external entity with goals a university researcher is a likely candidate to solve. The client compensates the scientist to do the research. It has to be a realistic goal, with a good chance of completing the work in the allotted time frame.

Jamie Winterton

“Managed research is a good way to get money and time for things we might not be able to do on our own,” Winterton said. “Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Fundamentally you have to have a good match between the sponsor and the researchers. You have to have the same goal. If the sponsor’s goal is, ‘We want to make 50 percent more widgets,’ that’s not a good match for university researchers. That’s not the kind of basic research we do here.”

Dan Bliss, an associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, studies wireless communications, including how radio and radar can work together. He is a managed research veteran, involved with three DARPA projects and a recently completed Google ATAP project.

Managed research “is really, really effective,” Bliss said. “It’s very good at technology developments. It’s very good at getting you from ‘Gee, we need to solve this problem,’ to actually getting it done. It’s not as good at solving the problem of ‘What’s out there?’ Basic science is often about fumbling around, so it doesn’t necessarily work as well for that.”

Daniel Sarewitz, professor of science and society in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and co-director and co-founder of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, published an article in The New Atlantis in August about managed research.

He cited digital computers, jet aircraft, cellphones, the internet, lasers, satellites, GPS, digital imagery, nuclear and solar power, all of which came not from “the free play of free intellects,” but from the leashing of scientific creativity to the technological needs of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Of the 13 technological advances essential to the development of the iPhone, 11 — including the microprocessor, GPS and the internet — can be traced back to military research investments.

Managed research is not telling scientists how to do their science, however.

“I think there’s a continuum,” Sarewitz said. “What I really have in mind and was trying to explain in the article is the key point of managed research is accountability to end users for the work that’s being done.”

Government agencies outside of Defense are copying the DARPA model. Intelligence has IARPA. The Department of Energy has EARPA. It’s no accident tech is turning to the model.

“People have recognized how effective it is as a research organization and have tried to mimic in both inside the government and in the corporate environment,” Bliss said.

Fundamental research

Tech giants are seeing things they can do that rely on fundamental research, the kind that universities are really good at, Winterton said. 

“It would be cost-prohibitive, even for one of the big tech companies, to retain all these people to work on projects that may or may not come to fruition,” Winterton said. “So they come to us.

Facebook and Google are recognizing they need to get things done, Sarewitz said. Traditionally, the world has George Washington Carver expectations of science. Shut the scientist alone in their lab, and they will produce solutions.

Sometimes it works, but for the most part, Sarewitz says, it’s “a beautiful lie.”

“Historically, we know it’s not true,” he said. “When you leave science alone, there’s no way to hold it accountable.”

The high risk and tight timelines aren’t applicable to all science.

“If we only had the DARPA model, that wouldn’t be a good thing,” Sarewtiz said. “You want some ability for scientists to not make quick progress. It’s an irony in the academic system that the pressure to publish so fast has the worst incentives of all, because productivity is justified only by more productivity. In the service of what?”

ASU engineer posing with bio-inspired robots

ASU engineer Spring Berman's work includes developing robotic technology to perform security surveillance, search-and-rescue missions, and detection of chemical, biological and nuclear materials — supported by a grant from DARPA. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

 

The pressure can be intense to produce, Bliss said. He recalled working on a Google ATAP project.

“It was like trying to do six years of research in two years,” Bliss said. “We accomplished a lot, but it was a little stressful. We had program reviews every two months. It was intense.” He laughed.

“The model is aggressive, and it makes a professor like me a little crazy,” he said. “In a perfect world, I have a four-year grant I can sign up to, and I can hire a grad student and fund them, and I’m stable and I have no one looking over my shoulder. The problem with the DARPA model is that the program manager basically has to resell the program every year to their boss. If things aren’t going well, they’ll kill the program. There is a lot of pressure.”

Bliss has two reasons why managed research is becoming more widespread: It works, and corporate research labs have been cut.

“It seems like over the last 20 years there has been a de-emphasis on the corporate research lab,” Bliss said. “As a consequence, they need to bring in technologies from the outside, because they’re not building them as quickly on the inside.”

You either buy into small companies, or you go to universities and ask them to be a little bit more applied, and they do your research, Bliss said.

“You can see how you take a little bit of the DARPA model, which is very problem-centric, and you bring it into companies, and you do that,” he said. “Google and Facebook have both done this. Other organizations in different ways have done this.”

Bliss anticipates the model spreading. He pointed to former DARPA director Regina Dugan moving from Motorola to Google to Facebook. (“Celebrate impatience,” Dugan said at Google.)

“She champions this sort of approach, and for a lot of applications it works really well,” Bliss said.

We wouldn’t want all science to be like that, Sarewitz said.

“It’s important to keep in mind all public science is justified in trying to achieve something or another,” he said. “But you can do science that’s both patient and accountable to the end user. … The story I want to tell is that this is an empowering thing for science. It will make science better.”

 

Top photo: ASU assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Panagiotis Artemiadis, shown with drones from his laboratory, is the director of the Human-Oriented Robotics and Control Lab at ASU's Tempe campus. He has created a brain-drone swarm control interface. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

Center adds new dimension to ASU’s materials science research


January 30, 2017

A new research center, devoted to studying the structure of advanced, high-performance materials in three dimensions was established within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering this month.

Headed by Nik Chawla, professor of materials science and engineering, and funded by a collaboration between Arizona State University, Zeiss and the Office of Naval Research, the Center for 4-D Materials Science, or 4DMS, provides a unique and groundbreaking dimension to materials research — time. Researchers, stakeholders and partners view a demonstration of new equipment in the Center for 4D Materials Science, or 4DMS, to gain an understanding of the center's new capabilities for materials science research. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU Download Full Image

The foundation of materials science and engineering is the understanding a material’s structure and how that affects properties and performance. 4DMS will build on that foundation by granting researchers the ability to monitor and analyze materials in real time.

“We typically think of sectioning a material and looking at its structure in two dimensions, which can often lead to limited or erroneous results and interpretations. With the new center, we are looking at a new paradigm in materials science — studying the structure of materials in three and four dimensions,” said Chawla at the outset of a two-day kickoff event for 4DMS.

4DMS will explore materials science with multiscale modeling and characterization of materials under different stimuli, such as mechanical, thermal, electrical and more, over time. The center has new, state-of-the art equipment and capabilities, including X-ray microtomography, which boasts resolution of less than 1 micrometer and focuses ion beam microscopy with resolution at the nanometer scale. In addition, the center will house a first-of-its kind lab-scale diffraction contrast tomography system to study the crystallography of materials in 3-D and 4-D.

The cutting-edge equipment enables researchers to witness and analyze occurrences such as the deformation of microelectronic packaging in materials as it happens on a macro- or nanoscopic level. This capability will not only lead to a broader understanding of materials’ chemical and physical structures, their limitations and strengths, but will lead to the fabrication of the next generation of materials for a variety of applications.

Along with Chawla, additional faculty from the School for the Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy will be working in the Center, contributing to research projects, including Associate Professors Yongming Liu and Kiran Solanki as well as Assistant Professors Yang Jiao, Konrad Rykaczewski and Jagan Rajagopalan. True to 4DMS’ interdisciplinary nature, Professor Narayanan Neithalath of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment will bring his expertise in sustainable construction materials to the Center as well.

4DMS held a kickoff event on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, convening stakeholders and collaborators to discuss the new center and its research.

“This is about partnerships,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Fulton Schools, at ASU's University Club. “We can’t achieve big goals without partners who are really invested, and Nik’s center is a good example.”

Though a joint investment of $4 million from ASU, Zeiss and the Office of Naval Research got 4DMS started, additional sponsorship came from government agencies Los Alamos National Lab, the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and industry partners Qualcomm, Toyota and Intel.

Squires also lauded the Fulton Schools faculty as integral to the future success of 4DMS and its research: “The scale and the depth of what they’re working on is impressive. It’s as good as any place else, and I think that was an attractor for Zeiss. Everyone here is working at the top of their field.”

Arno Merkle, of the Materials Science Group at Zeiss, echoed Squires’ thoughts on the importance of partnership.

“We have a thousand ideas, and we can only invest in a few to do them well,” Merkle said. “Part of our process of doing that is going out to Nik, who is one of the leaders in the community and seeing beyond the next five, 10 years and really validate a certain modality will have utility for the science in the future.”

During the event, Chawla noted that Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer of Knowledge Enterprise Development, was instrumental in getting the center started. He recalled walking into Panchanathan’s office years ago to pitch him the idea.

“Many people walk into my office,” Panchanathan said. “But it’s very easy to invest in initiatives when you know the idea is fantastic, when you know we have a fantastic leader with a fantastic team.”

Researchers, partners and stakeholders in the Center for 4-D Materials Science, or 4DMS, gather before Old Main on the Tempe Campus for a group photo during the center's two-day kickoff event. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU

Director of the Advanced Materials Initiative at ASU Bill Petuskey’s remarks centered around the university’s status as a leader in materials science.

“ASU has had a long history in developing new technologies and applying them in characterizing materials at very fine scales,” said Petuskey, pointing to the LeRoy Eyring Center For Solid State Science as a particular example of the university’s excellence in the field.

Holding up his mobile phone, Petuskey said, “We can think of this as a collection of many materials that are slapped together to create functionality, but in a sense, it’s one very complex material that consists of individual components, interfaces as well as the software that is embedded. Looking at making materials more complex gives us that functionality we need.”

Jim Sharp, president of Carl Zeiss Microscopy LLC, spoke of the importance of keeping close ties with researchers working with his company’s equipment.

“Typically, the day we ship a new machine, we know more about it than anyone else in the world. About six months later, guess who knows more about that machine than we do? You do,” he said to the room of researchers. “Because you’re doing things with it we couldn’t possibly do. And if we don’t stay collaborative with you, we’ll go out of business.”

The second day of the event consisted of interactive sessions hosted by representatives from both Zeiss and ASU in the 4DMS facilities housed within Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4. 

“This truly reflects what ASU stands for, which is bringing together a transdisciplinary group of people to work,” said Panchanathan, pointing to the array of disciplines involved in 4DMS, from materials science, mechanical and civil engineering to chemistry, physics and computer science. “Problems are not one-dimensional. It requires inspiration from multiple disciplines to bring real solutions to problems, and that what ASU prides itself on.”

Pete Zrioka

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-5618

ASU's first Churchill Scholarship awarded to chemical engineer


January 26, 2017

Today Christopher Balzer became the first student from Arizona State University to ever receive the prestigious Churchill Scholarship.

Since 1963, the Churchill Scholarship has been awarded to exceptional science and engineering students to fund graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. Christopher Balzer, the first ASU student to receive the prestigious Churchill Scholarship, works in chemical engineering assistant professor Bin Mu's lab. Balzer credits his research experience with Mu as a contributing factor to receiving the scholarship. Photo by Robert Mayfield/ASU Download Full Image

After graduating from the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy with his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in this spring, Balzer will make the trip across the pond to the United Kingdom in September. He’ll begin pursuing his master’s degree in advanced chemical engineering come October.

Scholars are chosen based on outstanding academic achievement, personal qualities and a demonstrated interest in research. The Churchill Scholarship was established to honor Winston Churchill’s vision of U.S.-U.K. scientific exchange with the goal of advancing science and technology and helping to ensure the prosperity and security of both nations.

Balzer, a student in Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, said he first heard about the opportunity from the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at Barrett. ASU has been participating in the scholarship program run by the Churchill Foundation for only the past four years.

“I’m the first but definitely not the last,” Balzer said of receiving the scholarship. “It’s an honor to be first, considering some of the great scholars who have applied from ASU in the past few years. Someone had to be first, and I’m happy I get the chance to represent ASU at Cambridge.”

A component of the scholarship revolves around research, which Balzer is no stranger to as a three-semester participant in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative. At Cambridge, he’ll work with professor David Fairen-Jimenez, who heads the university’s Advanced Materials Research Group. Balzer will contribute to ongoing work with modeling metal-organic frameworks for carbon capture.

“While alternative technologies are developing, carbon-capture technology can be implemented into current systems to ‘stop the bleeding’ in a way,” said Balzer, who noted that his future work will align closely with his current research in chemical engineering assistant professor Bin Mu’s lab.

In fact, Balzer credits his extensive experience under Mu as a factor in his success.

“It’s clear that my research experience in Dr. Bin Mu’s lab has put me in the position to be competitive for a program like this,” he said. “I’ve had incredible support along the way, especially from doctoral student Mitchell Armstrong and Dr. Mu. They’ve trusted me to take on my own projects and work on a lot of different projects. Not many undergraduates get the chance to present at several conferences, be a part of publications early on, and even first-author a publication. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that without their help.”

Balzer also credits support from internal ASU scholarships, as well as the Goldwater Scholarship for allowing him to focus on his research and studies. Balzer was one of three ASU engineering students to receive the Goldwater Scholarship in 2016, which recognizes excellence in science, math and engineering.

Christopher Balzer

Balzer said he’s interested to see the difference in curriculum at Cambridge.

“While the core classes in the program are mostly the same as they would be in the U.S., some of the electives focus more on the managerial and business aspects of chemical engineering, which is something you don’t really see in U.S. graduate programs,” he said. “I’m excited to get a new perspective from the classes as well as from the diverse instructors and students at Cambridge.”

In addition to looking forward to the research and educational opportunities of the scholarship, Balzer is also excited to study and live in the United Kingdom.

“I’ve never studied abroad before,” said Balzer. “With the breaks between terms being so long, I plan to travel to some of the countries I’ve always wanted to go to — mostly to see historical sites and museums that I’m interested in.”

After completing his studies at Cambridge, Balzer plans on pursuing his doctoral degree.

In addition to his research colleagues, he extends gratitude to Kyle Mox, Brian Goehner and Laura Sells at the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at ASU for all their help with both the Goldwater and Churchill scholarships.

“Other than that, I’d like to thank my family for their support of all of the opportunities I pursue,” Balzer said. “No one gets these scholarships alone — it’s something built over years of support.”

Pete Zrioka

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-5618

 
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Flexible, unbreakable X-ray detector could benefit doctors in rural areas.
August 15, 2016

Researchers building durable X-ray detector with broad health-care implications

Imagine a medical clinic operating in a remote foreign village. It's the only place within hundreds of miles where people can go to receive health care, and the doctors treat 40 or more patients per day. They have one X-ray machine.

Traditional X-ray detectors are made of glass. If they break, they're rendered useless and must be replaced. For isolated, low-income sites, it could be devastating.

One solution would be to build an X-ray detector that’s virtually indestructible. That is the goal of a project led by Arizona State University’s Flexible Electronics and Display Center, where researchers are building a durable, rugged and flexible X-ray detector.

The center was founded in 2004 through a partnership with the U.S. Army. Center experts collaborate with government, academia and industry to provide comprehensive flexible electronics capabilities that bridge the high-risk, resource-intensive gap between innovation and product development.

Located at the ASU Research Park, the facility offers unique manufacturing pilot lines in a Class 10 clean room. It provides an information-secure environment for process, tool and materials development and evaluation.

With a normal digital X-ray machine, even a small bump could chip the edge of the glass and shatter it.

“With our X-ray being plastic, you could bump into it all day, and it’s not going to ever break,” said Mark Strnad, associate director of the center.

That would be hugely beneficial to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, which provides health care to thousands of people each year at rural sites in developing countries.

In addition to being durable and rugged, flexible X-ray detectors have the ability to bend and conform to a curved surface. This allows them to give a more accurate reading than current detectors, which are flat and rigid. One potential application could lie in helping companies that have long pipelines with welds or seams that must be monitored for leaks. Whether the pipes hold water, gas, oil or some other substance, having a flexible X-ray could mean catching a leak early and preventing a potentially catastrophic accident.

The Army is interested in using flexible X-ray detectors to detect bombs. The size, weight, and ruggedness of the device make it much more practical for explosive ordnance detection in military missions.

The Flexible Electronics and Display Center is also one of the only places in the United States that produces flexible displays. In 2012, researchers at the center created the world’s largest flexible full-color organic light-emitting diode (OLED), which at the time was 7.4 inches. The following year, the center staff broke their own world record, producing a 14.7-inch version of the display.

Compared to previous devices, these flexible displays are thinner and much more lightweight.

“It’s as thin as a sheet of paper. Think of a display that you could roll up and tuck away somewhere or put in places you can’t normally find displays because they’re big and heavy and bulky,” said Nick Colaneri, director of the center.

The Army is also interested in flexible displays because they are ideal for integrating into soldiers’ clothing, where they can provide real-time information to enhance safety. This was a key design feature the Army asked center researchers to consider as they built the displays.

Flexible display in Army jacket

Flexible displays have the potential to be integrated into military clothing.

 

“As long as displays are big, heavy, bulky and made out of glass that can break, it’s obviously not ideal for a soldier that already has 100 pounds of stuff that he or she has to carry around,” Colaneri said. “The Army funded this project because they had an interest in pushing for displays that are thin, lightweight and don’t break. They imagine more and more electronic devices that are going to allow soldiers to do their jobs or keep them safe on the battlefield.”

Building highly complex flexible displays and X-ray detectors requires expertise in many areas. That’s why the center brings together industry partners in one central hub.   

“Think of it like building a car,” Strnad said. “You’ve got the engine, transmission, suspension, electronics, all these things. Everybody has a piece of it, but nobody could put it all together by themselves.” The Flexible Electronics and Display Center works with about 50 partners to make these cutting-edge technologies a reality.

Ito America Corporation is an engineering sales group that specializes in semiconductor packaging and LCD assembly. As one of the original partners of the center, Ito brought expertise, equipment and a tool set that is used for the assembly of the flexible displays.

“We’re helping out the future of soldiers in harm’s way with a way to communicate. We thought that was a noble effort,” said Tim Martinez, technical sales manager at Ito.

In addition to producing devices that could help soldiers stay safe and work more effectively, the Flexible Electronics and Display Center (FEDC) offers unprecedented hands-on experience to the next generation of engineers through its internship program.

Zachary Hartke is a junior in ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. He is majoring in chemical engineering, minoring in materials science and is an intern at the center.

“I’ve been working on integrating new materials into the processes that we already have here,” Hartke said. He tests new chemicals and substances to see how they might work better for the products that FEDC develops, including OLEDs, X-ray detectors and electrophoretic displays.

Specifically, Hartke is finding ways to make their materials more flexible and easier to manipulate. This work allows him to apply some of the concepts he’s learning in class, as well as gain valuable professional experience.

“Before I worked here, I hadn’t done anything related to my major at all. My first job was actually at Men’s Warehouse,” Hartke said, referring to a chain of men’s clothing stores. Despite being new to the field, Hartke has been an asset to the team, according to his supervisor Emmett Howard.

“My expectations were exceeded," Howard said. "He’s done very well.”

Hartke was able to work full-time at the Flexible Electronics and Display Center for a semester through the internship program, something that was important to the center.

“In the efforts that Zachary is involved with, one day’s activity might be critical at 10 a.m., the next day it might be at 2:30 p.m. — it’s not something that can be easily scheduled,” Strnad said.

The immersion also allowed Hartke to be fully integrated into the team and become an active participant in engineering projects.

“He’s gone from sitting and listening in the meetings to actually making presentations at a couple of them,” Strnad said.

Hartke was grateful for the opportunity to work in a professional environment. He said his coworkers provided guidance and support, but also gave him the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.

“One thing I appreciated right away is that I wasn’t really treated like a student. I was treated more as an engineer,” he said. With this experience, Hartke was able to figure out what he loves and is now better positioned to pursue his dream job in the electronics industry. 

As a world-class manufacturing facility with a high level of research activity, the Flexible Electronics and Display Center is not only an asset to students seeking hands-on experience, but also to ASU as a whole.

“I think the fact that the university can provide things that potentially make a better society is a very unique opportunity,” Strnad said. “To not only do the research, but also supply some of the sub-components, gives ASU an even higher level of visibility.”

 

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Knowledge Enterprise Development

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ASU engineers' edible supercapacitor can wipe out E. coli or power a camera.
Interdisciplinary invention a recipe that cracks a number of problems.
May 17, 2016

ASU engineers create edible supercapacitors with range of health-application possibilities

Health food just took on a whole new meaning.

Engineers have created an edible supercapacitor that can wipe out E. coli or power a camera from inside the body.

Foods like activated charcoal, gold leaf, Gatorade, seaweed, egg white, cheese, gelatin and barbecue sauce can store and conduct electricity. Sandwich them together, and you have a supercapacitor — a high-capacity electrical component that can store electrical energy temporarily.

“We know it’s possible to make devices from food,” said Hanqing Jiang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Researchers proved in the lab that the devices (seen above) can kill E. coli. “We’re trying to kill other bacteria as well,” Jiang said.

They also proved the devices can power a camera while in the stomach.

“The main application is to pass through a (gastrointestinal) tract, doing whatever a GI doctor needs,” Jiang said.

The supercapacitor could replace endoscopies with real-time monitoring of the gastrointestinal tract.

You wouldn’t want to pass them around at a party. Asked what the combination tastes like, Jiang replied, “It is cheese.”

The paper (not the recipe) was published Monday in Advanced Materials Technologies (not Bon Appetit). Recipes usually don’t read like this:

“The slurry was coated on the current collector by doctor’s blading followed by overnight drying in ambient environment and 6 hours drying in room temperature, low pressure (10 Pa) chamber to avoid thermal stress as well as remove the water in the electrode.”

Ingestible electronics do exist, but they need to be passed from the body. There are other concerns as well, Jiang said.

“The concern is that it’s not digestible,” he said of the previous ingestible electronics. “If it breaks, there is a possibility of contamination.”

The invention cracks a number of problems. Implantable electronics require surgery. Biodegradable electronics exist, but they have low energy density and battery size is limited. Edible materials proposed in the past have toxic components that can cause stomach pain and nausea.

Jiang and his team went interdisciplinary, weaving together the food industry, material sciences, device fabrication and biomedical engineering.

Carbon is already used in supercapacitors. Jiang chose activated charcoal and gold leaf because they both have high electrical conductivity and chemical stability. Gold is used extensively in Indian cuisine, and the European Union classifies gold as a drug. It acted as a current collector in the research.

Edible supercapacitors.

Hanqing Jiang (left) and his students, chemical engineering student Wenwen Xu and mechanical engineering student Xu Wang, with the ingredients for the supercapacitor "recipe" in Jiang’s lab on May 10 on the Tempe campus. Photos and video by Ben Moffat/ASU Now

 

The devices were made by hand. In future they’ll be made by 3-D printers and will be much smaller than the “sandwiches” made by Jiang and his students, which are a little bit bigger than a soy sauce packet.

Jiang and three students have been working on the project since August. Currently he is discussing the next steps in application with Mayo Clinic officials.

Meanwhile, business operations managers thought Jiang was catering a party on the university dime when he filed his expense report.

“The funny thing is when we got all the materials in, I had a hard time getting reimbursed,” he said. “It was all food.”

Professor Shelley E. Haydel, Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, the Biodesign Institute, and professor Lenore Dai, director of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, collaborated with Jiang on the research. Other co-authors were 2016 ASU grads Prithwish Chatterjee, currently working at Intel Corporation; 2016 ASU graduate Zeming Song; mechanical engineering PhD student Cheng Lv; and PhD student in Biodesign John Popovich.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

ASU engineer to join high-powered leaders in Aspen Institute fellowship


May 7, 2015

ASU associate professor Cody Friesen doesn’t fit the usual profile of those selected for the high-profile Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellows.

Only 20 people – mostly civic and business leaders, not academics and researchers like Friesen – are chosen each year to participate in value-based leadership training with a focus on solving society’s biggest problems. Cody Friesen materials science and engineering Download Full Image

“Many of the fellows are in the corporate world, where you succeed by being very careful and not making mistakes,” said Friesen, who is on the faculty of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“But in what I do, my way is to make as many mistakes as possible as quickly as possible. That’s a very different approach to doing things than most of the other people who will be on this team.’

As part of the institute’s 2015 fellowship team, he will engage in a series of seminars, workshops and retreats over the next two years that build leadership skills and help guide Crown Fellows in employing their expertise and talents in enterprises to serve their communities and beyond.

Friesen does fit in with the group by virtue of his entrepreneurial drive – the key trait the Aspen Institute considers in selecting new Crown Fellows. Entrepreneurship “is in my DNA,” Friesen said.

His research has produced technological innovations that are the foundation of two growing business start-ups.

Promising start-ups

Fluidic Energy is based on advances in battery technology. Friesen has developed the first rechargeable metal-air battery, one that significantly decreases the cost of storing energy. 

This has led to the batteries being deployed in emerging markets at commercial sites where the power grid has very low reliability. Fluidic Energy’s batteries have already covered more than half a million power-grid outages, many lasting for more than 10 hours.

The second start-up, Zero Mass Water, uses technology Friesen’s team has developed to produce potable water, using solar energy to power the machinery that performs the process.

The system could potentially enable water supplies to be produced locally and affordably without the need to be connected to infrastructure systems, Friesen said.

Both ventures are attracting investors and partners, and Zero Mass Water is setting up pilot projects in locales in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East where water is scarce.

Friesen’s promising work has brought four grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy – an especially high number for a single researcher.

The early success of the two companies has led to the establishment of Zero Mass Labs at ASU, which Friesen said he hopes will lead the way in establishing a more advanced platform for university research labs to move emerging technologies to product development and then into the marketplace.

Maximizing potential

Friesen is looking forward to his experience as a Crown Fellow to give him an “immersion in leadership culture at a high level that will help me evolve into the kind of leader I will need to be to maximize the potential positive impact of the technologies we are developing,” he said.

His fellowship team members “are fascinating people with very impressive accomplishments, and I am excited to get to work with them.”

Friesen graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering and went on to earn a doctoral degree in the field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He joined the ASU faculty in 2004 and has since been named one of the Fulton Entrepreneurial Professors in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, as well as a Fulton Professor of Innovation. He also is a senior sustainability scientist with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Friesen has 32 worldwide patents and 11 U.S. patents, and in 2009 he was named one of the leading innovators in the world under the age of 35 by MIT Technology Review magazine.

Recently, he began a second term on the U.S. Manufacturing Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Read more about the Aspen Institute, the Henry Crown Fellowship program and the 2015 fellowship team.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

ASU grant supports 'biomimicry' as a way to solve human challenges


May 6, 2015

The emerging field of biomimicry – in which researchers emulate the natural world to develop products – may help make life better for people with visual and mobility impairments, thanks to a grant from Women & Philanthropy, a philanthropic program of the ASU Foundation for A New American University.

Women & Philanthropy will give its largest annual award, $99,072, to the project "Life in Motion: Exploring Biomimicry-based Mobility for People with Visual and Mobility Impairments." Download Full Image

The funding will enable researchers working out of the InnovationSpace Biomimicry Center, within The Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, to study models from the natural world in order to engineer new technologies that improve the lives of those with disabilities.

The grant was one of five announced by Women & Philanthropy. In total, the group awarded five grants totaling $324,301. Since 2003, Women & Philanthropy has awarded almost $3 million to 79 programs and initiatives in four categories: education innovation, community outreach, student scholarships and health care at ASU.

Women & Philanthropy is one of three engagement programs housed within the ASU Foundation for A New American University. Its grants are generated from the individual contributions of investors, who now number 255. Each member's annual contribution – a minimum of $1,000 – is pooled with others to allow the group to have a greater investment impact on ASU programs and scholarships.

Grant proposals are solicited and reviewed each year by the Women & Philanthropy investment committee and narrowed to a handful of finalists. The entire membership then votes on those that they believe best demonstrate ASU’s leadership and national standing in academic excellence, research and discovery, and local and societal impact. This structure empowers each investor to steward her gift and witness its impact.

The remaining 2014-2015 Women & Philanthropy grant recipients are:

Development of Next Generation Therapeutics to Combat Alzheimer's Dementia and Neurodegenerative Disorders

New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences
$67,929

Development of Next Generation Therapeutics seeks to eradicate diseases associated with neurodegenerative disorders, including the widely prevalent Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s diseases. Researchers aim to re-engineer an FDA-approved drug for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma that is currently being evaluated in two human clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease. They also will explore potential collaborations with other groups at ASU who possess expertise that could benefit the project’s goal of designing and identifying a potential drug compound to treat Alzheimer’s disease. 

Scholarships for Needy Students to Pursue Research in Mathematics and Statistics

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
$61,050

Academically-qualified students with financial need will receive the scholarship support they need to pursue research under the guidance of mentors from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. This grant will support ten mathematical science majors who have a GPA that exceeds 3.0 and who have financial need of at least $5,000 – the approximate cost of in-state tuition and fees for the fall 2014 semester. An additional $5,000 will fund student travel to professional conferences so recipients can present their work.

Optimized Prenatal Supplement for Preventing Autism

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
School for Engineering of Matter, Transport & Energy (SEMTE)
$59,953

New research has demonstrated that the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorders can be reduced by 40 percent by folic acid supplementation within one month of conception. Folic acid is known to be important for preventing other birth defects, and now the evidence is strong that it also helps prevent autism. This study will examine the effectiveness of folinic acid, an active form of folate, in reducing the risk of autism.

Bridging Success Early-Start Program for Former Foster Youth Entering ASU

Office of the University Provost
University Academic Success Programs
$36,297

Arizona now offers a tuition waiver to former foster youth up to 23 years old. To enable their success at ASU, the Bridging Success Early-Start program will offer former foster youth the opportunity to begin their experience in a welcoming community with peers who have had similar challenges and to gain access to support that will ease their transition to the university. Bridging Success will bring together services from across the university and government spectrums, including academic workshops, tutoring, and specialized activities to support former foster youths’ unique needs.

Changemaker Challenge winners reach out to those expressing thoughts of suicide on social media


April 27, 2015

Expressions of suicidal thinking or intent should never be ignored. But what happens when a message of desperation is lost in the noise of internet chatter?

ARKHumanity – which came about at a hackathon co-sponsored by ASU – was inspired by this question and developed technology that scans Twitter for messages that suggest a risk of self-harm and connects the author with immediate support. The project has won the Arizona State University Changemaker Challenge’s top prize of $10,000 seed money. Download Full Image

Two facts drove the creation of ARKHumanity: In the U.S., one person dies by suicide on average every 13.3 minutes, and the incidence of suicide lowers when someone takes an empathetic interest and cares about a person’s well-being when he or she is in crisis. ARKHumanity extends this effort further by connecting people to resources such as a lifeline chat or hotline.

“It is an unfortunate reality that messages indicating distress in social media often receive no reply. This failure to respond can greatly exacerbate feelings of worthlessness and isolation that contribute to suicidal thinking,” said Jordan Bates, ARKHumanity’s team leader and an ASU doctoral student. “Technology is rapidly changing how we interact, and we should make sure we don’t lose our humanity along the way. Every person matters. No call for help should go unanswered.”

The $10,000 prize from Changemaker Challenge will significantly help the project by covering server costs, legal expenses and conference presentations to introduce it to local, state and national organizations. The group's goal is to make the technology available to select mental-health professionals by October 2015 and to update the technology as necessary to be able to expand response capacity. Ultimately, the team wants to develop an impactful platform that can be adopted by mental-health organizations locally and globally.

Kelli Donley, project manager and suicide prevention coordinator for the Arizona Department of Health Services, is a community supporter of the project.

“This technology is greatly needed to identify the warning language often used as cries for help before suicide attempts," Donley said. "Using social media to identify suicidal ideations is a creative idea that should be supported."

ARKHumanity was conceived in September 2014 at the Hacks4Humanity hackathon, a 36-hour event co-sponsored by ASU Project Humanities and EqualityTV. The goal of the program was to engage creative thinkers, artists, programmers, designers and anyone interested in creating technologies for the greater good.

The five-member team of ASU graduate and undergraduate students and community members came from varying backgrounds. They had never met beforehand and worked together over the two-day period to develop a working prototype of the innovative technology. They also won first place in that competition.

Under the guidance of faculty mentor and Project Humanities director Neal Lester, the team entered the Changemaker Challenge in November.

“This technology has proved an excellent demonstration of cross-disciplinary community-building and the impact that collaboration can and does have,” Lester said. “The ARKHumanity team members have become very close.”

The team says it’s important to include the humanities when trying to solve social problems, and believes outreach cannot be automated and still have the same positive effects. Ultimately, people will be needed to review a flagged tweet to verify it needs a response, and then separate, trained responders to do the outreach from existing partner organizations.

Teen Lifeline, an Arizona crisis response hotline that also uses social media to reach its demographics and which is also rolling out a text-message lifeline, is on board as a community partner. In describing the value of ARKHumanity, Clinical Director of Teen Lifeline Nikki Kontz remarked, “With hundreds of millions of people online, this has high potential to save lives.”

About the ARKHumanity team

Jordan Bates is a doctoral student at ASU in the Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences program. He is  working with the Center for Policy Informatics and was a fellow at Data Science for Social Good in 2013. He received his B.S. in computer science from Purdue University.

Bin Hong Lee is an undergraduate student at ASU majoring in software engineering. He has served as a judge for the First Lego League series in 2014 and is a former member of the Global Shapers Community Georgetown Penang.

Pat Pataranutaporn is a first-year student majoring in biological sciences at ASU. He is a researcher at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and a member of the Gifted Young Scientist Society.

Ram Polur is an epidemiologist at the Office of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Ram has bachelor's in biology with a minor in biochemistry, a bachelor's in computer science with a minor in applied physics, and a Master of Public Health.

Kacie McCollum is the doctoral chair for the School of Advanced Studies and a faculty member for the College of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Phoenix. She is also the CEO of Shiny Bird Farms. She received her bachelor's in political science from Benedict College and her master's and doctor of education in STEP/curriculum design and instruction from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Logan Clark

Media Relations Officer, Department of Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU engineering student awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship


April 24, 2015

For her impressive achievements in the classroom, in the laboratory and in community service, Arizona State University chemical engineering student Morgan Kelley has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship – considered the premier undergraduate scholarship for mathematics, science and engineering majors.

From more than 1,200 nominees she is one of 260 students – and one of 68 engineering majors – selected to receive the award that provides up to $7,500 per year to support completion of undergraduate studies. Morgan Kelley Goldwater Scholarship Download Full Image

The Goldwater Scholarship Program, honoring the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, is intended to encourage outstanding students to pursue graduate studies and careers in engineering, science and mathematics fields.

Kelley, who grew up in Glendale, Arizona, said she more or less decided in the sixth grade to become a chemical engineer when her mother “just told me that is what I should be, though I don’t think she had much of an idea of what chemical engineers do.”

Finding purpose

She graduated from Xavier College Preparatory High School in Phoenix three years ago and was accepted into ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College, enrolling in the chemical engineering program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“But when I came here, I didn’t want to go to graduate school,” she recalled. “I just wanted to get through school and get a job right away. But then I fell in love with research.”

The opportunity to work in the lab with graduate students and be mentored by professors about how to do research has broadened her perspective on what she might be capable of achieving.

“With a four-year degree I could get a good job, but with a graduate degree and research experience I feel I could get to do something that gives me a more meaningful purpose, that I might be a part of a some really important discovery or breakthrough someday,” she said.

Taking on challenges

Now finishing her junior year, she is set on earning a doctoral degree. Getting a Goldwater Scholarship should help open doors to that pursuit. The award has traditionally served as a stepping-stone into top fellowship programs that support graduate students.

Kelley is in the Grand Challenge Scholars program, which maps out courses of study that train students to take on what the National Academy of Engineering deems the biggest challenges for engineering in the 21st century.

She’s preparing for that role by performing well in more than class assignments and tests.

Through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) she is delving deep into research aimed at engineering more effective ways to keep oceans and other water environments cleaner and healthier.

Her FURI research project was the basis for the research proposal that helped Kelley win the Goldwater Scholarship.

Branching out

Through the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, she has led or been co-leader on student projects to develop and deliver portable technologies to provide nighttime lighting to students in Fiji and Uganda, places where electrical power is limited and unreliable. She is also serving as a teaching assistant to help fellow students develop their EPICS projects.

She has won awards in student science and engineering competitions, including a semi-finalist award in the national Dell Social Innovation Challenge.

In 2014 Kelley completed an internship in research and development for the Henkel Corporation, a major consumer goods manufacturing company.

She has been serving as a Fulton Ambassador, giving campus tours to prospective ASU engineering students and visiting local high schools to tell young students about college engineering studies and careers.

She’s been a peer mentor to fellow students and a counselor at E2, the Fulton Schools of Engineering freshman experience.

Opportunities to grow

“Morgan is an outstanding student in all aspects of her studies and efforts outside the classroom,” said professor Lenore Dai, chair of the chemical engineering program and Kelley’s research mentor. “She is especially talented in research. She is co-author of a paper published in a prominent research journal. As a junior, she presented her research at an annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. These are unusual accomplishments for an undergraduate.”

Winning a Goldwater Scholarship “is recognition of Morgan’s exemplary accomplishments in the classroom, in the lab and in community service,” said Kyle Squires, director of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. “It’s really gratifying to see students like Morgan capitalize on all the opportunities we are working to provide our students to help them grow as scholars, researchers and leaders in the community.”

Gaining confidence

Kelley plans to graduate with her bachelor’s degree next spring and begin graduate school soon after.

That will mark a new stage of higher education for her that only a few years ago she wasn’t expecting to reach.

“When I began college I didn’t think I was one of the really smart people and wasn’t sure how I would do,” Kelley said. “But I found myself at ASU. I came to understand the style of learning that works for me, and I’ve gained confidence.”

Scott Shrake, director of the EPICS program, foresees Kelley continuing to expand on her achievements.

"Morgan is without a doubt academically gifted, but her strengths go well beyond that,” Shrake said. “She’s incredibly well-rounded, with an affable personality, a big heart and the desire, drive and skill set to have a huge impact. She’s going to be one of those people who makes a dent in the world, and I can’t wait to see it.”

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

Advancing first-generation college students up the ladder


March 27, 2015

Arizona State University has launched a new program for first-generation undergrads that emphasizes the benefits and opportunities in advancing to graduate school.

The program, First Generation Pathways to Success (1stGPS), joins the many resources at ASU that encourage persistence in achieving a degree. ASU faculty Terry Alford, Eduardo Pagan and Marlene Tromp Download Full Image

As the first in their families to aspire to a four-year or graduate degree, first-generation college students often face unique challenges.

Parents who have not completed college themselves may lack the ability to guide them through the process. Students from low-income families must work during college and can take longer to complete their degree. They may spend less time interacting with faculty or mentors who can support their career and graduate school aspirations.

Despite high motivation, the obstacles can create a higher drop-out rate.

At the first program event, first-generation faculty and graduate students talked candidly about their life stories, obstacles and challenges faced, and how it is possible to succeed in graduate school and career. Read more on these faculty stories.

“If I stopped at every obstacle that came along, I never would have made it,” said Eduardo Pagán, a vice provost in ASU’s Office of Academic Excellence and Inclusion and a history professor. The first in his family to achieve a degree, he advised, “you empower yourself by asking questions. You can’t learn if you don’t ask about what you don’t know.”

The keys to success emphasized throughout the conference were finding a good mentor, taking advantage of financial support available through scholarships, networking with fellow students, and utilizing resources at ASU.

First Generation Pathways to Success is supported by Graduate Education, the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, First-Year Success Center, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, School of Social Transformation and School of Community Resources and Development. Funding was provided by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Academic Excellence and Inclusion. For more information on the program, please contact gradinfo@asu.edu.

Some of the resources available to help first-generation ASU students achieve success include:

First-Year Success Center: A coaching program for freshman and sophomores to help them adjust to college life.

Shades Multicultural Peer Mentoring Program for undergraduates and graduate students to network and be matched with a personal mentor.

Academic Excellence and Inclusion has resources, events and news for ASU’s diverse student population.

Your Future: Finance is a guide to financial services, resources and advice from ASU for undergraduate and graduate students.

Pay for your graduate education with fellowships, work opportunities and loans.

Explore Graduate School Seminars provides prospective graduate students with tools and resources, including free and low-cost test preparation courses.

Editor Associate, University Provost

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