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Edible medical devices the next thing in electronics. But which foods work best?
October 12, 2017

ASU professor makes a jump in the quest for edible electronics, cites their potential to revolutionize biomedical technologies

Electronics can be wearable and implantable. Soon they’ll be ingestible.

An Arizona State University professor has created a tool kit of food-based electronics that will be used to create edible medical devices.

Hanqing Jiang and his team of researchers last year invented an edible supercapacitor made from foods like activated charcoal, gold leaf, Gatorade, seaweed, egg white, cheese, gelatin and barbecue sauce that stored and conducted electricity.

Food as an electrical component is just beginning to be studied. Now, after exhaustive research, Jiang and his team have created a list of foods that conduct or insulate electricity and have measured to what extent they carry out those roles.

Foods with lots of salt (like butter) and water (like fresh meat and vegetables) conduct electricity well. Carbonized cotton candy and flour can be used to build resistors. Vegetables with lots of cellulose, like broccoli and cabbage, can generate an electric charge. The researchers used the Food Guide Pyramid.

“You have to do something no one has done in the past,” said Jiang, a professor of mechanical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and EnergyThe school is part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU..

The tool kit describes the properties of food-based electronic materials, how to create devices like an edible sensor and microphone, basic components and devices with integrated sensing and wireless signal transmission.

“This really does open the door for us for a much broader spectrum,” Jiang said.

ASU professor and student in lab building edible electronics
ASU Professor Hanqing Jiang and doctoral student Haokai Yang are advancing their group's research on edible supercapacitors that will one day be digested and used for non-evasive diagnostics and treatments for gastro-intestinal issues. Yang holds a large pH sensor, which will soon be made much smaller. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jiang and his team are now working on the next step: a functional device. They have two in mind: one that will study bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and another bowel implant that is dissolvable.

It’s not easy. “The human body is very complicated,” Jiang said.

The devices they have built work in proof of concept. Bowel sounds from a 70-year-old man with abdominal pain were fed to a loudspeaker and recorded with the edible microphone. It successfully reproduced the original testing sound.

Edible electronics can’t compete with silicon-based devices, but they can solve a lot of problems. Ingestible electronics need to be passed from the body. If they break, there’s a possibility of contamination. Implantable electronics require surgery. Biodegradable electronics exist, but they have low energy density and battery size is limited.

Jiang envisions doctors doing real-time monitoring of the gastrointestinal tract. Edible electronics have the potential to revolutionize biomedical technologies and devices, he believes.

Research does have one painless aspect: “We can just eat it afterwards,” said Haokai Yang, a lab member and doctoral candidate studying mechanical engineering.

You can read the paper here:

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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'Failure seems very personal': ASU community reflects on resilience.
September 21, 2017

ASU community explores grit from the perspectives of health and the arts, both through research and in the classroom

Bouncing back.

How do you recover from a setback?

It’s an age-old question that the Arizona State University community is pondering in innovative ways, looking at resilience from the perspective of research, health and the arts — and personally as well. What are the strategies that people use to get through adversity over many years, or day to day, or even hour to hour?

Last spring, ASU started a new initiative, the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, which will connect researchers, practitioners and scholars across disciplines at ASU in the study of well-being. Teri PipePipe is also dean of ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation and a research professor., ASU's chief well-being officer, said mindfullness is a skill that “will help all of us cope much better as a society.”

“Each of us face adversity in life. Resilience is the human capacity not only to 'bounce back' from life's slings and arrows, but also to become stronger and more capable of facing the next challenge,” she said. “The connection with mindfulness is that we must be alert to the opportunity to learn and grow through the experience. We have much to learn from individuals and cultures that have faced adversity; thus resilience is not only an individual capacity, but also a societal one.” 

Under Pipe's leadership, the center focuses on deepening ASU's culture of healthfulness, personal balance and resiliency among students and employees.

Here are some other ways that ASU is reflecting on the concept of resilience:

The research

Frank Infurna, an assistant professor of psychology at ASU, is interested in how people develop and change over time as a result of adversity.

“How do individuals grow as a function of various life events or adversities, such as chronic illness or unemployment or bereavement? What are the resources and strategies they use?” asked Infurna, who is a developmental psychologist.

He has found that resilience is social.

“The individual’s ability to have relationships, a good social network in place, has been the strongest predictor of whether someone is able to overcome adversity,” he said.

Infurna received a $3.4 million grant from the Templeton Foundation last year and together with ASU colleagues Suniya S. Luthar and Kevin Grimm is now working on a new research project looking at the nuances of resilience in midlife. They will follow people age 50 to 65 for two years, giving them monthly questionnaires that assess different aspects of their lives — physical health, mental health, quality of social relationships, as well as character strengths such as empathy and gratitude.

They’ll also record life events: whether they were fired, had a major disagreement with a family member, become a caregiver.

“A lot of the research within resilience follows people every three to six months or year to year. With that time frame, you lose detail in terms of the immediate changes that occur,” Infurna said. “Our primary aim is to look at the nature of the changes and what are the factors that predict better outcomes? When something bad happens, what or who are they relying on to overcome this?”

So far, the project has recruited 280 adults, with a goal of 350.

Infurna said his team is challenging the research that says resilience is the norm.

“I think under that is a lot of variability in terms of how individuals respond to adversity and that it’s OK to struggle for a period of time after something traumatic happens,” he said.

“We’re trying to adjust this cultural narrative, in the U.S., of what it means to be resilient.”

The creatives

Navigating setbacks is especially relevant to artists, so this term, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts offered a class called “Failure, Design and the Arts.”

“They’re critiqued all the time. They’re critiqued in public. Nine out of 10 times they won’t get a call back from an audition,” said Megan Workmon, the manager of student engagement for the institute, who is co-teaching the course with William Heywood, assistant director of the Design School, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Visual Communication and a clinical psychologist. Both have creative backgrounds — Workmon as an opera singer and Heywood as a photographer.

“With critique, what you produce is so tied up with your identity that it’s hard to divorce yourself, as the creative person, from your individual identity. Failure seems very personal,” she said.

Workmon and Heywood created a one-credit course that’s being offered for the first time as a 300-level elective. The 20 students span all disciplines within Herberger.

Each class session begins with a period of mindfulness.

“In class, we had a conversation about critique and how you get ‘unstuck.’ A lot of them talked about how they bottled up their emotions but it came out another time. Mindfulness is a way to check in with how you’re truly feeling about things as they’re occurring,” she said.

The course covered the “inner voice of judgment” and, a few weeks later, “the inner voice of persistence.”

“If you want to replace that voice that tells you you’re not good enough with something that will tell you you’re going to make it through no matter what, then what does it look like?” Workmon said.

The class projects are art-based, and students work in whatever medium they feel most comfortable — poetry, illustration, essays, video. For the project on the “inner voice of judgment,” a dance student did the same movements over and over to symbolize repetition.

The students answered a questionnaire at the beginning of the class and will take one at the end as well. Workmon will measure their self-efficacy, mind-set, grit and persistence, then use the results for her dissertation. She is a doctoral student in educational leadership and innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College.

“Mind-set” is a continuum from “fixed” (the belief that our characters can’t be changed) to “growth” (the belief that we can learn and overcome struggles). The duality is particularly interesting for artists, she said.

“Part of fixed mind-set is talent, and growth mind-set is hard work — and in their fields, talent and hard work are equally valued.”

The final component of the class, which Workmon hopes to offer again in the spring, is a reflection. The students must do that project in a medium that makes them uncomfortable.

“Do something risky. That can give you an opportunity to interrupt those negative thoughts,” she said.

The personal journey

Lynne Nethken, an ASU mechanical engineering graduate student, talks through video chat with students from Prescott's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University about AZLoop. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Lynne Nethken led a team of Arizona studentsThe AZLoop team is made up of students from ASU, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Northern Arizona University. in the AZLoop project — a high-speed, futuristic transportation system — that garnered international attention at Elon Musk’s SpaceX Hyperloop Competition recently.

But her journey to engineering success was anything but fast, and it required an enormous amount of persistence and grit.

Nethken went to a poor inner-city high school in Memphis, where physics wasn’t even offered. After graduating, she enrolled at Memphis State, majoring in business.

“I made an attempt. It went poorly. I was not interested in my classes. I dropped out,” she said.

She worked in some retail jobs, moved to Colorado and, in her early 20s, decided to give college another try.

“I said, ‘I have to have this piece of paper.’ So I went right back into business, and, no surprise, I dropped out again,” she said.

“It was lot of trial and error. A lot of really rough patches. There were some low times. There were times I was flat broke and I had nothing.”

She found a job in health administration that paid well but wasn’t challenging. It did give her time to explore her interests, and she realized she was always fascinated by space exploration, which she mentioned to a few people.

“Nobody understood. I didn’t have a lot of support or any sort of encouragement to do that.”

Finally, in 2010 she decided to sell everything she owned, move to Arizona and pursue an engineering degree at ASU. Although her mother lived in Phoenix, the move still was terrifying.

She started classes at Scottsdale Community College, where calculus was a struggle.

“I didn’t go to good schools, and I had a poor math background,” she said. “Math scared me, but it really was about how hard are you willing to work to learn it?”

Community college is where she began to develop her power to focus on her studies, and she transferred to ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

“I had classes I was interested in, and it was like nothing else mattered. I saw this light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

At Poly, she found the support she needed from her professors.

“I was able to build relationships there to where if I was struggling with something, they could talk sense into me and encourage me,” she said.

Nethken earned her bachelor of science degree in engineering in 2016, and now, at age 33, is in graduate school in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. She hopes to pursue a doctorate.

“I had to have a crazy level of determination and to struggle along this path for 10 years before I really figured it out and said, ‘I can do this,’ ” she said.

“I think my definition of resilience is if you fail or a hit a roadblock, how hard are you willing to work to get around it? If you have determination, nothing will stop you.”

Learn more

  • The Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience is hosting a “Mindfulness in the Park” event from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, in Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix. The event is free and open to the public. Find details here.
  • A free workshop on stress and resilience will be offered by Leadership and Workforce Development for faculty and staff from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, on the Tempe campus. Find details here.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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September 18, 2017

Powered prosthetic would adapt to walking on a variety of surfaces, something current designs struggle to consistently do

For the more than 2 million lower-limb amputees in the United States, the path less traveled is usually on sand or grass.

That’s because of their prostheses. Powered ankle prostheses enable users to walk naturally and even run, in some cases. But when they switch from walking on concrete to a more compliant surface like the beach or a lawn, the ankle doesn’t understand the difference. It tries to have exactly the same motion on each surface.  

“People fall because of that,” said Panagiotis Artemiadis, a roboticist at Arizona State University.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Artemiadis and two other ASU scientists a $1 million grant to develop and test a smart robotic ankle that can adapt to walking on a variety of surfaces.

People spend 10 to 20 percent of their walking time on uneven surfaces. Using current prosthetics designs, users fall on soft surfaces about 20 percent of the time.

“It’s not a huge percent, but if you fall 20 percent of the time, it’s a huge problem,” said Artemiadis, an associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Lower-limb amputees sometimes prefer a passive spring like the blades worn by Olympian Oscar Pistorius instead of a powered ankle that will enable them to walk and run because they won’t fall when they cross an uneven surface. They know what the spring will do, and they can compensate for it.

When you step from concrete to mud or sand or grass, the mechanics of how ankles and knees move changes. Everyone knows it’s harder to walk on sand than a sidewalk, for instance. Muscles move differently on different surfaces.

“We want to create a robotic ankle that is powered but can identify differences on the walking-surface compliance, and adapt to that so that it can transition between surfaces,” Artemiadis said. “You can go from sand back to concrete and solid surfaces and transition from grass to mud and still not have any problems.”

Human-systems engineering program chair Rob Gray from the Polytechnic School will help design the system and test it from a human-factors standpoint. Height and weight play significant roles in lower-limb prostheses. Roboticist Tom Sugar will also work on designing the prosthetic.

“It’s a project that will have an impact out of the lab,” Artemiadis said.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


Form follows function in materials design

When it comes to finding the right materials, ASU researchers are turning the typical trial-and-error process on its head

July 17, 2017

Suppose you want to build something — a skyscraper or a spacecraft, a computer or a car, a water bottle or a wristwatch.

You’ll need materials to make that product, and you’ll need to choose the best materials for the job. For instance, you’ll want lightweight materials for a spacecraft so that you can afford to propel it out of Earth’s gravity. But if it will come back to Earth, it also needs to withstand the heat of re-entry.  Form follows function in materials design How do you find the right material to build the best product? ASU engineers are turning the typical trial-and-error process on its head. Download Full Image

How do you find the right material to suit your needs? Generally, it takes a lot of trial and error. You make a material and you test it in a lab. Crush it. Cook it. Stretch it. Chill it. Then do it over and over and over again. 

It is a time-consuming and expensive process. And although you’ll probably find a material that suits your purpose, it might not be the best possible material for the job.

That’s why a group of researchers at Arizona State University are working to flip the process on its head. Instead of making a material and then finding out what it can do, they are starting from the end — deciding what properties a material should have and then designing the material to have those traits. These could range from strength to flexibility to electrical conductivity and more.

A need for structure

“We already have performance in mind. So we need to ask ourselves, what are the things you can change, what can you play with to give you this performance? The thing that we play with is the material microstructure,” said Yang Jiao, an assistant professor in ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy (SEMTE).   

For example, if you look at a piece of metal, it appears to be one uniform material. But most metals are alloys made from two or more elements, such as copper and aluminum.

“You melt them together, stir and cool again. As you cool it, the distribution of the components will be different in different parts of the metal,” Jiao said. 

At high temperatures, copper and aluminum mix together evenly, but as they cool the copper forms clusters. The differences are not visible to the naked eye, but they can be seen under a microscope. This structure, with its clusters of copper, affects the properties of the material. 

Think about building a house out of bricks. If you just stack bricks on top of each other in side-by-side columns, your house will not be very strong. But if you stagger the bricks, the structure will be much stronger.

Brick walls are stronger with stagger bricks compared to columns of bricks
A metal alloy that forms clumps of one of its elements after heating and cooling is like a wall made of bricks stacked directly over one another, in columns (left). This results in a wall that is structurally weaker than one in which the bricks are staggered.

It’s easy to see how staggered bricks make a stronger wall. It’s much harder to figure out how the structure of a titanium alloy helps it withstand repeated stresses without breaking — also known as fatigue strength. This is the challenge that Jiao is confronting with his colleagues in SEMTE, Yi “Max” Ren and Yongming Liu. 

“You have a target property — I want a fracture strength as high as possible. Then what kind of microstructure will achieve that? Instead of evaluating existing materials, I want to find the structure that will match the property,” said Ren, an assistant professor who studies design optimization.

Making a connection

Scientists can figure out the microstructure of a material that already exists. Jiao develops computer simulations that can analyze that microstructure and determine what properties it will have. The simulations are based on data from experimental testing.

What he can’t do, yet, is go in reverse. The computer simulation can say, “This structure will give you this property, and that structure will give you that property.” But it doesn’t explain why. So the researchers don’t know what specific characteristics of a structure cause it to have the properties it does. 

This is where Ren’s expertise comes in. He is developing software to help the computer identify which features of a microstructure are important to specific properties. He is drawing on deep learning technologies, a branch of artificial intelligence in which software learns to recognize patterns. This is how Facebook recognizes your friends in a photograph and how Amazon makes personalized recommendations.

“We want the machine to learn by itself what structural features influence a material property,” he said.

The computer will analyze images of different microstructures pixel by pixel. Pulling data from Jiao’s simulations, the software will look for patterns in the images that correlate with specific properties.

“The machine sees several images and tries to make puzzle pieces of these images. You want to come up with a small set of pieces that can be used to reconstruct all of these images. Then you are free to recombine the pieces to get new images,” he said.

alloy images
Across the top, images of original samples of titanium alloy, lead-tin alloy, Fontainebleau sandstone and spherical colloids (from left to right). The computer learned from these samples and created the reconstructions shown across the bottom. Image by Ruijin Cang, Yang Jiao and Yongming Liu

The team is also working to reduce the number of pixels the computer needs to analyze. This is similar to compressing a high-resolution photo as a JPG file. Photo compression removes pixels to reduce the file size and the computing power needed to work with it, while still leaving a recognizable image. The ASU researchers want to reduce the computer’s workload in analyzing microstructures. But they don’t want to lose key information about which structures create useful properties. 

Ultimately, the process will make materials development less costly and time-consuming, potentially reducing the development cycle from about 10 years to about two.

“Another benefit is that when we do this type of study, we generate a huge database which is shared among the community. Anyone can access these,” Jiao said. 

Putting materials to the test

Once the team has identified the best structure, they’ll need to produce a sample of the material and test it out in the lab. In this case, that means pulling and releasing the material over and over to find out how quickly it gets fatigued.

Material fatigue is what caused the fuselage of a Southwest Airlines jet to rupture mid-flight in 2011, ripping a 5-foot gash in the upper cabin. (Fortunately, the pilot was able to make an emergency landing without any fatalities.)

Every time an airplane takes off, the cabin inside is pressurized so that passengers can survive at high altitude. This puts force on the body of the aircraft. With every landing, the cabin is depressurized, removing that force. After thousands of these flight cycles, the metal of the fuselage gives out and begins to develop cracks, which are often microscopic and require special tools to detect.

“Aircraft is safe, much safer than before,” noteed Liu, a professor in SEMTE. “But still fatigue is inevitable and a safety concern. We want it to be even safer. People still don’t really understand the very fundamental aspect of fatigue. The variability is huge. This could fail in one year or 100 years. People don’t really know why. One of the primary reasons comes from the microstructure.”

Liu is an expert in mechanical structures who works with a variety of tools at ASU to test and image materials. For example, ASU has a palm-size fatigue testing machine that can fit into a scanning electron microscope.

“If you don’t know what happens, you go in and see it,” he explained.

One major challenge the team faces is that it may not be possible to reproduce the ideal microstructure using current manufacturing techniques.

“It’s probably not possible at this stage to reproduce the design exactly,” Jiao said. “We can produce something similar and do the testing. We need to come up with a microstructure with a certain tolerance of uncertainty.”

Transformative ideas

Although computational materials design is a fairly new field, it’s a hot topic nationwide, spurred by the federal Materials Genome Initiative. The multi-agency initiative was launched in 2011 to support institutions in discovering, manufacturing and deploying the advanced materials that are essential to economic security and human well-being.

ASU’s work is supported through a National Science Foundation EAGER grant, which funds early-stage work on potentially transformative ideas.

“There is a growing interest in this area because people realize it will change how materials will be developed. It saves a lot of time and money. It will also bring a lot of benefit to fundamental physics and mathematics,” Liu said.

“We are lucky that we have complementary expertise,” he added. “We’re a strong team. I’m a computational person, so I know it’s extremely important for me to work with experimentalists. We have a very nice characterization group, testing group. And the microscopy facility here is world-class.”

Liu notes that ASU provides an excellent environment for collaboration, not just within a school but across disciplines. In fact, he recently won a $10 million grant from NASA to lead a multidisciplinary team in studying how to integrate the complex data sources that are driving the future of air traffic management systems.

“We’re addressing very large problems for complex systems. The problem is not too little data, it’s too much. How do you fuse this data to get what you want? You need to go beyond, working with very different schools, including human factors,” he explained. 

He added: “At ASU I don’t need to go outside. I get whatever I need from ASU.” 


Learn more about this research at: The School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy is a unit of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. This research is funded through the National Science Foundation EAGER award No. 1651147.


Director, Knowledge Enterprise Development


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July 17, 2017

Awards, which total $4.3 million, ranking the university first among recipients in the Photovoltaics Research category

Arizona State University has earned six prestigious U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Awards, totaling $4.3 million, ranking it first among recipients in the Photovoltaics Research category for 2017.  

This year’s awards, which come with grants totaling $20.5 million overall for 28 projects, supports the development of new commercial photovoltaics technologies that improve product performance, reliability and manufacturability. In this round, ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering placed ahead of other leading solar research centers — the University of Central Florida ($3.18 million), Stanford ($1.59 million) and Colorado State ($1.28 million) each earned two awards. Last year, ASU photovoltaics researchers also received the majority of SunShot PV awards, taking six of 19 and $3.75 million in funding.

SunShot was launched in 2011 with a goal of making solar cost-competitive with conventional energy sources by 2020; the program is now at 90 percent of its goal of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour and recently expanded its target to $0.03 per kilowatt-hour by 2030.

ASU’s Quantum Energy and Sustainable Technologies (QESST) NSF-DOE research center and testbed in Tempe has established ASU’s engineering program as a powerhouse in photovoltaics, playing a key role in SunShot objectives. QESST is the largest university solar research facility in the United States, drawing researchers from around the world in the mission to advance photovoltaic technologies. QESST will continue to play a major role in the photovoltaics industry as SunShot moves to double the amount of national electricity demand provided by solar.

“ASU receiving six DOE SunShot Initiative grants — many more than any academic institution on the awardee list — is a testimony to our faculty’s excellence in building innovative solutions that help power the future in a reliable and cost-effective way,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU.

“For the second year in a row, our faculty won more SunShot awards than any other institution in the country, reaffirming our leadership in the research, development and advancement of photovoltaic science and technology,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “Photovoltaics are a key component of tomorrow’s energy solutions, and this recognition from the Department of Energy highlights not only our faculty’s research excellence and the inherent value of their ideas, but also the breadth and depth of research in the Fulton Schools of Engineering.”

This year’s award recipients include:

Mariana Bertoni, assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, was granted two awards. 

Award 1: Spalling, or the process of exfoliating a wafer from a silicon block, has shown promise as an efficient, waste-reducing production method for wafers. Bertoni’s first study is exploring a new spalling technique that relies on sound waves and low temperatures, to mitigate contamination of the wafers, while achieving industry relevant thickness and surface planarity.

“During our previous DOE award we have shown that the technique works; now we need to fine-tune the parameters to evaluate the potential for upscaling,” Bertoni said. “This could be a disruptive technology with applications well beyond silicon.”

Award 2: Bertoni’s second project will be studying the correlation between electrical properties, structure and composition at the nanoscale in thin film modules of cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide. The team will be designing a multimodal hard X-ray microscopy approach to probe non-destructively different regions of modules under operating conditions. Detailed characterization could lead the way to improved module efficiency, lower degradation rates and longer warranties. Additionally, Bertoni is serving as co-principal investigator on Assistant Professor Owen Hildreth’s award (see below), and is co-PI on a fourth award, working in conjunction with Assistant Professor David Fenning of the University of California San Diego to develop a way to detect water present in photovoltaic modules. Using this methodology, the pair hopes to model performance degradation from water exposure.

“Understanding the origin of performance loses and how variations in illumination or temperature affect thin film modules will help us engineer high efficiency, long lasting devices,” Bertoni said.

Stuart Bowden, associate research professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is designing a novel photovoltaic cell architecture known as M-CELL. This structure is a single silicon wafer, which allows integration and interconnection of multiple cells in series to enable higher voltage and lower current than existing modules.

Owen Hildreth, assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, is researching ways to drastically reduce solar cell cost through the reduction of silver consumption. His project is investigating the how material and growth properties of reactive metal inks impact the reliability of solar cells metallized using these new inks. Hildreth’s work has potential for use both traditional silicon wafer technologies and next-generation heterojunction architectures, which currently employ costly metallization techniques due to temperature sensitivity.

“The solar cell industry currently spends more than $14 billion per year screen printing silver electrodes on the top of solar cells; this project aims to reduce those costs by a factor of 10 and reduce solar cell wafer production costs by 27 percent — making solar energy even more affordable to consumers,” said Hildreth.

Govindasamy Tamizhmani, associate research professor at the Polytechnic School, is investigating new methods for rapid and accurate characterization of photovoltaic modules in operation. Current methods are time-consuming and costly and lack the ability to account for differences between lab and field conditions — a vital component to understand the physical causes of performance variation in the field.

“Obtaining string and module I-V curves simultaneously is of great importance to plant owners and service providers to identify the underperforming modules and to determine the degradation rates and module mismatch losses,” Tamizhamani said.

Meng Tao, professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is working on a two-layer aluminum electrode to replace its silver counterpart currently used in silicon photovoltaic cells. This could reduce processing expenses and improve device lifetime and reliability while maintaining high efficiency.

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Postcards from the ledge

Hoover Dam excursion for Pakistani scholars bridges knowledge, culture

May 4, 2017

A group of 27 Pakistani engineering scholars from the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Energy, better known as USPCAS-E, set off on an adventure over spring break, learning what nature can engineer, what people can engineer and the power their imagination has to inspire innovation.

An $18 million United States Agency for International Development grant supports the project with Arizona State University as the hub for the energy component of the project in partnership with the National University of Science and Technology — Islamabad (NUST), the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar and Oregon State University. “Big dams in Pakistan are normally earth and rock fill dams, so there is a need to build concrete arc dams like Hoover Dam in Pakistan that are more impressive, efficient and modern,“  says Muhammad Ahsan Amjed, NUST. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Ahsan Amje “Big dams in Pakistan are normally earth and rock fill dams, so there is a need to build concrete arc dams like Hoover Dam in Pakistan that are more impressive, efficient and modern,“ say Muhammad Ahsan Amjed, National University of Science and Technology. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Ahsan Amjed Download Full Image

The scholars are part of the third cohort to visit the United States in order to study renewable energy at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering as part of a larger effort to boost development of solutions for Pakistan’s growing energy needs. Spring break offered a respite from their classes and lab work, and provided a chance to see engineering in action.

The scholars kicked off their journey by visiting one of nature’s greatest engineering wonders, the Grand Canyon. The canyon stood as a compelling example of the power found in nature, as seen by the river carving away at the landscape for millennia. The challenge for the scholars was to learn from nature and learn how to harness that energy.

Their next stop at Hoover Dam illustrated just that. The scholars saw first hand how the Colorado River was used as a source of renewable hydroelectric power through ingenuous civil engineering.

USPCAS-E Scholars, Left to right: Farah Akram, Anam Zahra, Maham Akhlaq, Atoofa Zainab, Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU

“The sheer brilliance that the engineers displayed in [their] era with such a megastructure was a rarity, [and] is a sight to behold. It solved the water distribution problems for seven different states,” said Haider Saif Agha from NUST.

Learning about this pinnacle of clean energy was key for the scholars because many of them are studying photovoltaic, wind and hydroelectric energy options. The USPCAS-E project set out to explore renewable energy as a means for resolving the energy crisis happening in Pakistan today, leaving the country with rolling blackouts that last 6–16 hours a day.

The dam was created for the purposes of flood control, irrigation and power production, all of which are applicable to Pakistan’s needs.

“I see a comparison with Pakistan’s Kalabagh Dam,” said Asfand Yar Ali, of the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar. Kalabagh Dam is proposed dam that could help Pakistan with flood control. “We are facing minor and major floods every year in [the] monsoon [season]. Similarly, the dam will help Pakistan rejuvenate its agriculture and overcome [the] energy crisis.“

Hoover Dam was an example of what could be implemented back home for the scholars.

“I learned that we can solve all of our country’s energy problems by just mixing innovation and engineering in the right proportions,” said Usman Salahuddin of NUST.

To shake things up, the scholars next visited the California Science Center. Atoofa Zainab of NUST had a personal favorite there – the earthquake simulator.

“I learned about the how certain buildings are made in case of an earthquake. The lesson that I learned is that Pakistan is in dire need of these types of services and technologies.”

Inspiring the heart and the exchange of culture

Inside Hoover Dam. Photo credit: Usama Khalid, NUST/ASU.

Though engineering is the primary point of USPCAS-E, other aspects of the initiative like promoting gender equality and engaging in cultural exchange are key aspects as well. The scholars expressed heartfelt thanks to be a part of a program that educates not just their inner engineer, but also cements their role as a global citizen.

“I have honestly no words to define my experience I had on spring break. It was both fun and a learning experience,” said Farah Akram of NUST. “The places we visited showed us a new face of the world. The views of the Grand Canyon, [the] innovative construction of Hoover Dam, fun and virtual reality-based rides of Universal Studios, learning at the California Science Center and [having a] playful time in Santa Monica gave us the most beautiful time of our lives.”

“Something that really impacted my heart was the celebration of diversity in America. America celebrates its diversity, be it in L.A., Tempe, Las Vegas or any other city. I was impacted by views on tolerance, freedom of speech, action,” reflected Haider Saif Agha of NUST.

Muhammad Ahsan Amjed of NUST ruminated that, “if you really want to understand the culture and people of any particular area, you will have to travel across that region in order to better understand their traditions, their peculiarities, cultural idiosyncrasies [and] subtle differences in their way of living. Such excursions help us renew our perspective about our research, our lives and our goals.”

The cultural exchange component of the program provides unlimited opportunity for visitors and Americans to engage with each other, allows visitors to find their place in the global community, breaks down prejudices and misunderstandings, and in the long-term expands and strengthens relationships between the two countries.

Erika Gronek

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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April 29, 2017

ASU student Garrett Fleetwood invents rock-categorizing process that could someday be used in space exploration

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

When the Apollo astronauts trained in Arizona, Ron Greeley, one of the founders of planetary geology and the father of Arizona State University’s space program, helped educate them about geology.

Early astronauts tended to be fighter jocks who weren’t terribly interested in rocks. Greeley succeeded in educating them to be more sophisticated than describing rocks as big or little, and how to differentiate between an interesting rock and a more prosaic sample.

Arizona State University student Garrett Fleetwood, about to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering from the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport & Energy in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and another degree in economics, wrote an undergraduate thesis tackling that exact problem.

The Corvallis, Oregon, native invented a computerized process to identify rock samples and put them into categories. His approach can learn from human experts and extrapolate their decision processes to identify interesting rock samples.

The thesis — “A Concept for Using Superformula and Information Theory to Identify and Prioritize Interesting Objects in Autonomous Exploration” — may someday help create a geologic scanning instrument used in space exploration.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: I’ve always known I was destined for engineering. I was the sci-fi nerd: "Let’s make this happen." ... The thing that really gets me is the idea of establishing a permanent base on the moon or Mars. That’s just something I’ve always wanted to see happen. I can help.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: One of the fun things you learn about engineering and the sciences in general is that the more you know, the less you know. You realize that really quickly.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: It was the scholarship.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: College Avenue Commons. It’s a really nice building.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Grad school.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: There’s so much to choose from. And that’s really not a lot of money. It used to be. I’m going to go generic and say world hunger. You could probably make a dent with a distribution center or something.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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XL Hybrids vehicles have gone 42 million miles, saving 788,000 gallons of fuel.
April 20, 2017

XL Hybrids sells electric drive systems to companies including Coca-Cola, which showed 20 percent reduction in fuel use in fleet

The saying about solar power is that it pays for itself, but not in your lifetime: The same thing could be said about hybrid vehicles. Yes, they run cheaper and they’re better for the environment, but the initial investment can be daunting.

If that’s true for individual consumers, consider the plight of fleet managers who oversee hundreds or thousands of vehicles. 

But a company nurtured by Arizona State University has hit upon a solution, offering systems to convert new or existing fleets to hybrid vehicles.

It’s a technology that has been snapped up by Coca-Cola, the city of Boston, the Seattle Fire Department, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas and AmeriPride Services.

XL Hybrids sells electric drive systems that use regenerative braking to cut back on fuel use. An electric motor helps slow the vehicle during braking, which charges the hybrid battery. When the driver accelerates, the hybrid battery releases the stored energy to the electric motor, helping to propel the vehicle.

To date, XL Hybrids converted vehicles have driven more than 42 million customer miles. That’s more than 87 round-trip journeys to the moon. XL converted hybrids have saved almost 788,000 gallons of fuel. That’s 49,250 fillups for an average SUV. They have kept more than 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air, and saved 6,300 hours of driver productivity by being on the road longer and not returning for gas topoffs. That’s more than 157 work weeks, or roughly a year’s work of three employees.

Companies attracted to the technology tend to have put 30,000 to 40,000 miles per year on vehicles they keep for about a decade. Add that up, and it’s the equivalent of about 14 trips from Los Angeles to New York. They can cut fuel bills for urban driving by 20 percent and CO2 emissions by the same percentage. 

“It can definitely turn into a very meaningful number when they have tens of thousands of vehicles in the fleet,” said XL Hybrids chief executive officer and founder Tod Hynes.

The XL3 Hybrid Electric Drive System installs in a day, underneath the vehicle body.

“The hybrid system is easy to deploy and easy to rollout,” Hynes said. “We tried to fit into the existing infrastructures.”

Coca-Cola converted 280 service vans with the XL3 Hybrid system. After 9 million service miles, the converted fleet showed 20 percent less fuel use than conventional vans. The move also contributed to the company’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020. The hybrid vans are expected to eliminate about 6,000 total metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that conventional fuels would produce over their 10-year life span.

Read more: View a PDF of the Coca-Cola case study 

“This technology offered an option that provided low maintenance and fuel savings,” said Tony Eiermann, Coca-Cola North America fleet assets manager. “It was also able to work with our existing fleet structure.”

Coca-Cola continues to place orders with XL Hybrids. 

“We are scaling up,” Hynes said. “Most of our sales are repeat orders.”

A new plug-in product that converts Ford F-150s — the most popular truck in the country — is getting a lot of interest from utility companies that use them.

Hynes has a background in renewable-energy sources. As the industry took off, in 2008 he wanted to catch the next big thing to compete with oil.

“The thinking behind XL Hybrids was, ‘How can we start a company that is a good competitor with oil?’” he said.

Cody Friesen, an associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and EnergyThe School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy is part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering., reached out to Hynes and said the Avnet Innovation Lab could be helpful. Friesen is a veteran of two startup companies and founded the Avnet Innovation Lab.

ASU has inspired or assisted in the formation or growth of an estimated 1,000 startups. More than 500 people are now employed at ASU-linked startups. ASU inventions have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in external funding, including $96 million in fiscal year 2016.

The Avnet Innovation Lab, in partnership with the Fulton Schools of Engineering, is designed to spur economic growth in the technology sector and enable aspiring entrepreneurs to advance their innovations.

“It really was a helpful connection for us, because we have a pretty extensive supply chain,” Hynes said.

As a startup, it’s hard to negotiate good deals. Starting a year ago, Avnet helped XL Hybrid review contracts and helped bid on some new agreements. The company continues to work with Avnet to get costs down.

“We’re open to talk if ASU wants us to make some shuttle buses more efficient,” Hynes said.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU professors submit diverse list of influences for International Women's Day.
March 7, 2017

For International Women’s Day on March 8, a range of female professors at ASU shared names of women they consider to be influential and inspiring.  

The historical figures come from all over the world. They’re writers, researchers, activists and monarchs.

Some are well-known, such as Marie Curie or Frida Kahlo, but most are less famous, though no less important.

Read on to learn about the women who ASU professors — from fields that include engineering, English, history and math — say shaped the world. The subjects have been arranged by region and era. The list is by no means complete, but it provides an opportunity to learn just how wide-ranging the impact has been.

Africa - South America and Central America - Europe - Asia - United States 


 Women of Africa

education building in Africa

Fatima Al-Fihri 
late 800

This Muslim woman helped to create a center of learning more than a thousand years ago that still functions to this day (pictured above). 

“Al-Fihri founded the world’s oldest degree-granting university, Al Qarawiyyin University in Morocco. Having come into wealth through the death of her family, Al-Fihri focused her efforts on her community.” 

— Jacqueline WernimontShe is also affiliated faculty with the School of Social Transformation and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. , assistant professor in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Lizzy Abrahams

Abrahams, born in the Western Cape of South Africa, dropped out of school at age 11 to help her family. She became involved in labor politics and took on issues of apartheid at a time when activists were routinely jailed, harassed and murdered. 

“Despite the risk, she courageously helped organize strikes and protests, both overtly and covertly, and she helped to organize the United Democratic Front in 1983. With the election of a Democratic Parliament in 1994, she was elected to serve on the labour committee, where she remained until 2000."

— Denise Bates, assistant professor of leadership and interdisciplinary studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts 



Nawal El Saadawi

El Saadawi has written more than 50 titles in Arabic, graduated as a medical doctor and has advocated to end the cultural practice of female genital mutilation.

“A controversial Egyptian feminist, doctor and novelist who continues to fight the oppression of women and the poor. Her novel, 'Woman at Point Zero' (1973) broke with many traditions, revealing the realities of women’s lives, made even more difficult by state oppression.”

— Pamela Stewart, senior lecturer of languages and cultures in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Louisa Hanoune

The current leader of Algeria’s Workers’ Party and known as a political activist and feminist, Hanoune was the first female candidate for president in the Arab world in 2004.

“Louisa Hanoune is an inspiring female political leader and role model for North Africa and beyond. As a feminist and left-wing politician, her ideological platform is not in line with Islamists; yet, when the Algerian government shut down the democratic process after an Islamist party won local elections, she supported the rights of the Islamist leaders to engage in the democratic process.

— Mary Jane ParmentierShe is also affiliated with the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes and the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts., clinical associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society 


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This Nigerian author is an award-winning novelist whose writing on feminism and identity, along with a 2013 sampling on Beyonce’s single "Flawless," have led to international recognition of her work.

“Through the representations of strong and empowered female characters in her novels who deal with everyday contemporary struggles, Adichie beckons to postfeminist women in language and themes familiar to the young generation. Her message, often subtle, is loud: The goal of true gender equality has not yet been achieved.”

— Patience Akpan, associate professor of science, technology and society in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts 

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 South and Central American Women

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

Born in San Miguel Nepantla, Mexico, she is renowned for her intelligence and scholarship and immortalized in the painting above by Andrés de Islas.

"Through her writing she critiqued colonization and the notion that men were believed to be superior to women. She is considered to be an early example of feminism and is a popular archetype within Chicana literature. I am drawn especially to her religious poetry and writings as an example of her ability to practice her faith while critiquing the institution."

— Vanessa Fonseca, assistant professor of interdisciplinary humanities and communication in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Gabriela Mistral, born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga

The first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Chilean Mistral was a lyrical poet.

"She was born into deep poverty and overcame extraordinary odds to become one of the most influential Spanish-speaking women of her time. A gifted poet, literary and educational celebrity, she rose form the bottom to the top of three different professions: education, journalism and diplomacy."

— Elizabeth HoranShe is also a professor in the Partnership for Community Development and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics., professor in the Department of English 



Frida Kahlo

The famous Mexican painter was at the center of intellectual and cultural life in both Mexico and the U.S.

"Her work serves as a model for drawing upon the personal (for example: infertility, injury and depression) to express collective experiences that women grapple with. Her boldness, resilience and energy continue to inspire generations of feminists and artists today."

— Breanne Fahs, associate professor in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences


berta caseres

Berta Cáceres

An indigenous environmental rights activist from Honduras, Cáceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize and was fatally shot in her home in 2016.

"She organized indigenous communities against the Agua Zarca dam near the Gualcarque river, which is considered sacred for those communities. She was the mother of four and did not give in after multiple threats to her livelihood and that of her family."

— Valeria FernándezShe also leads the Cronkite Noticias/Mixed Voces newsroom, in an interim role, which reports on news in Spanish for the region's Latino communities., associate faculty at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication


estela de carlotto

Estela Barnes de Carlotto 

This Argentine grandmother stood up to the military government as it abducted and killed dissidents, by organizing the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo). The group advocated the return of remains of family members abducted and killed by Argentina's dictatorship and worked to reconnect the children of dissidents who were abducted and adopted to allies of the regime. 

"Since the organization was founded, they found 114 children. Among them was de Carlotto's grandson Guido, who was born after her daughter was abducted. Her daughter Laura was murdered, and her remains were returned to de Carlotto in 1978, a year after she was killed."

— Valeria Fernández, associate faculty at the Cronkite School and leader of Cronkite Noticias/Mixed Voces

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Women of Europe

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen
12th century

The German Benedictine abbess (pictured on the wood engraving above) was a noted writer, composer and church reformer and founder of monasteries.

"Besides writing theological works based on her own visionary experiences, such as Scivias (Know the Ways), she wrote an extensive group of liturgical songs and works of medicinal and natural history including Physica. As a measure of her influence, she made preaching tours and corresponded with popes, emperors and clergy."

— Lori Eshleman, instructor of interdisciplinary humanities and communication in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Margaret Cavendish

Considered the first female science fiction writer as well as a natural philosopher, the English Duchess of Newcastle worked on vitalist theories, which examined the difference between organic and inorganic compounds, that are related to today's quantum philosophers and physicists. 

"She was also a playwright and poet and her book 'The Blazing World' is one of the first science fiction novels in the Western canon. Her vision for the peaceful powers of poetic worlds is an important part of how I understand the power of fiction today."

— Jacqueline Wernimont, assistant professor in the Department of English


Rosalind Franklin

This British chemist and chrystallographer is most famous for not receiving a Nobel Prize. Franklin's work with Watson and Crick was critical to the development of the double-helix model of DNA.

"Unfortunately she died too early, of breast cancer, and the Nobel is only given to living scientists. Her work with X-ray crystallography was brilliant, and her work clearly gave Watson and Crick the idea of a double helix. She excelled in her work and succeeded in her career, but was clearly held back by being a woman."

— Jane MaienscheinShe is also University Professor of history of science, President's Professor and Parent Association Professor, as well as director of the Center for Biology and Society, related faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics., Regents' Professor in the School of Life Sciences



Gertrude Bell

Bell helped shaped British foreign policy following her work mapping large areas of the Arabian Peninsula in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Wild exploration is one of the hardest things for women to break into, and she did it. There are so very, very few women explorers! It's much easier to break the mold and work on things society doesn't support while you are alone in your drawing room or shed, but to lead expeditions staffed with men into areas controlled by other cultures ... that takes a very special brand of determination and leadership."

— Lindy Elkins-TantonShe is principal investigator for a mission to explore Psyche, an asteroid composed primarily of nickel and iron, ASU's first deep-space NASA mission. , director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration


maria montessori

Maria Montessori

Italian physician and educator Montessori's methods are in use in Montessori schools across the world. Although Montessori was able to attend the University of Rome, she was originally unwanted at the institution. The university gave her students they considered unable to learn in any capacity.

"She studied them and decided that if these children were given child-size tools they could learn to work them. Being wealthy she was able to have miniature plates, forks, spoons, brooms, water pitchers, trays, etc. made for use by the children. First she taught them simple living skills, then taught them to read and write. She created a pedagogy that is used worldwide today and identified by her name, Montessori."

— Heide McIlwraith, lecturer of science and mathematics in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Maria Sklodowska Curie

Better known as Marie Curie, this Polish physicist was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in any field.

"Her first prize was in physics in 1903, shared with her husband Pierre Curie, and her second was in chemistry in 1911. She is still the only person to receive the Nobel Prize in more than one science. Because of her many achievements, on par with or superior to those of any man of her time, she made it acceptable to be both a woman and a scientist."

— Valana Wells, associate professor in the School for Engineering for Matter, Transport and Energy in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


victoria kent

Victoria Kent

This first female lawyer in Spain, in 1928, was also one of the first three women to be elected to serve in Parliament when Spain became a republic in 1932.

"When the Spanish Civil War broke out, she worked to create asylums in France for children orphaned by the war and to move refugees to safety in Mexico and elsewhere. She survived WWII, hiding in Paris, working with the Resistance and lived more than 40 years in exile in New York until Spain returned to a democratic government."

— Elizabeth Horan, professor in the Department of English 

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 Women of Asia

Empress Theodora
6th century

The Byzantine empress born to a bear-keeper of Constantinople's hippodrome worked as a performer and advocated for women after her position was raised with the ascension of her husband, Justinian, to emperor. 

"She supported the Monophysites against her husband, Justinian, in their struggle with orthodox Christianity and was instrumental in passing laws that expanded women's rights including property rights, guardianship of children and prohibition of forced prostitution."

— Lori Eshleman, instructor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Unnamed female physicians
18th century

These female physicians worked in the 18th century treating women of the Harem of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul while the term "physician" was reserved for men. These early female practitioners cared for women and received salaries.

"Drawing on a female health team that included a patient's 'mistress' and assistant, the warden of patients and the female physician, or hekime kadin. Harem women depended on these female health providers to handle their general well-being as well as reproductive medicine."

— Jacqueline Wernimont, assistant professor in the Department of English


Clemencia Lopez

In the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, effectively thwarting the Philippine Revolution. Lopez was involved with the Anti-Imperialists who were critical of the U.S. policies in the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

"She resisted American imperialism in her homeland ... also arguing for the release of her brothers after their arrest and imprisonment due to their resistance to the American presence. She headed to the U.S. to argue for their release becoming the first Filipina to visit the White House, meeting Theodore Roosevelt in 1902."

— Pamela Stewart, senior lecturer in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


qiu jin

Qiu Jin

Jin, an activist and publisher, spoke out for women's rights and worked toward the abolishment of the practice of foot binding.

"She is perhaps the most well-known advocate for women in China during her short life, pursuing an education and starting a women's magazine. Her life experience, including her father noting about daughters, 'What rotten luck; another useless thing,' led her to ask, 'Why is there no justice for women?' She was beheaded in 1907 due to her involvement in revolutionary circles hoping to overthrow the Qing Dynasty."

— Pamela Stewart, senior lecturer in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

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 Women of the United States

Sarah Redmond Parker

Sarah Redmond Parker

The 19th-century African-American abolitionist and physician (pictured above) lectured throughout England about the inhumanity of slavery but found medicine as her calling.

Denied entry into medical schools in both the United States and England, "she emigrated to Italy where she studied Italian and graduated from the Santa Maria Nuova Hospitalin Florence. She was a practicing physician in Italy for 20 years, never returning to the U.S. Redmond followed her bliss and refused to have her potential as a scientist diminished just because she was a woman."

— Angelita Reyes, professor of African and African-American studies in the School of Social Transformation and in the Department of English


mary garrity

Ida B. Wells

Wells, born in Mississippi, was a journalist, publisher, activist and one of the founding members of the NAACP. Seventy-one years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Wells sued the Memphis and Charleston Railroad train after she was forcibly removed from a first-class train car.

"While too few know her story, her investigative journalism crusaded for justice throughout her life, developing and employing tactics that would be the foundation of many civil rights movements as she resisted Jim Crow laws and fought for federal anti-lynching legislation. Her autobiography, 'Crusade for Justice,' and anti-lynching pamphlets demonstrate her unrelenting arguments."

— Pamela Stewart, senior lecturer in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


grace hopper

Grace Hopper

The U.S. Navy rear admiral was also a trailblazer who fought to be admitted to the Navy as she was below the weight limit to enlist.

"She is widely credited with creating the first compiler, which essentially means that without her, we would still have to write our code in assembly language, which is not fun. It is because of her that we have high-level languages enabling all sorts of software applications, and compilers were considered an early form of AI, so she did AI way before it was cool."

— Nadya BlissShe is also a professor of practice in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and is related faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation and Society., director of the Global Security Initiative 


Maya Angelou

The poet and civil rights activist has been influential in contemporary women's history.

"When many students read Dr. Angelou's poetry or her classic autobiography, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' they are so drawn to her wisdom for living and her belief in the oneness of the human family. Even my male students become engaged with her profound autobiography and obstacles she had to overcome in her youth."

— Angelita Reyes, professor in the School of Social Transformation


audre lorde

Audre Lorde 

The African-American poet and social justice activist was well known for her poetry.

"She wrote very specifically in the context of black rights, women's rights and LGBT rights movements of the 1960s, and she wrote for and about as well as to artists from whom all else but the word has been taken. It was a very important statement at the time, but today we realize it has become timeless, crossing the decades and oft-invoked. Each generation encounters it, renews and revises its relevance."

— Cynthia Hogue, professor in the Department of English 


Valerie Solanas 

Solanas became famous for shooting and nearly killing pop artists Andy Warhol and was the author of "SCUM Manifesto," a (maybe) satirical manifesto calling for the elimination of all men.

"A symbol of women's rage in the late 1960s, Solana's life and work asks us to consider: In what ways are women driven mad by a patriarchal society? What role does satire and linguistic reversal have in exposing and challenging sexist and misogynistic thinking? How can we better legitimize women's anger? Her work is one of the most fascinating examples of an outsider, pro-violence text written by an unlikely champion for women's legitimate 'complaints.'"

— Breanna Fahs, associate professor in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences


wilma mankiller

Wilma Mankiller

The first female chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. 

"She ushered in many positive changes having to do with community development and helped to grow the tribal rolls exponentially by elevating that tribe's visibility and welcoming many Cherokee people back into the community's fold. She really inspired a whole generation of Native women across the country to step into leadership roles within their own tribal communities, which has had a positive impact."

— Denise Bates, assistant professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Graciela Gil Olivarez

The Arizona-born Olivarez was the first woman to earn her law degree from Notre Dame in 1970, served in President Jimmy Carter's administration as director of community services and was the first female DJ at a Spanish-language radio station where she also served as a radio engineer and announcer.

"I chose her because it's important to shed light on the history of Chicana radio and media producers as innovators of communication technologies. Women like Olivarez learned the importance of advocating for marginalized communities."

— Monica De La Torre, assitant professor in the School of Transborder Studies

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Portrait credit in order of appearance by: Anderson Sady, Gigi Ibrahim, Andrés de la Islas, Guillermo Kahlo, Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Presidencia de la Nación Argentina, engraving of Hildegard von Bingen, Gertude Bell Archive, The New Students' Reference Work, Mundo Gráfico, The Yorck Project, unknown photographer of the Qing Dynasty, unknown photographer, Google Cultural Institute, U.S. Navy, K. Kendall and Phil Konstantin. 

ASU center helps Southwest manufacturers improve energy efficiency

March 7, 2017

In business, a better bottom line means better profitability, competitiveness and overall success. For energy-intensive businesses in the manufacturing sector, improving energy efficiency can reduce costs and send those savings straight to the bottom line.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy seeks to help make the U.S. manufacturing industry more energy-efficient, productive and secure through a nearly $35 million Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) program. Mechanical engineering undergraduate student Katilin Kreck takes a measurement in a manufacturing facility. Arizona State University received $1.5 million over five years from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to create an Industrial Assessment Center to help make the U.S. manufacturing industry more energy-efficient, productive and secure. Faculty and students from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering perform free site-specific, independent evaluations as part of this initiative, and students like manufacturing engineering undergraduate Kaitlin Kreck get hands-on experience performing industrial assessments. Photo courtesy of Sarah Johnston Download Full Image

IACs make site-specific recommendations to improve efficiency while providing undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity for firsthand exposure to industry manufacturing processes, energy assessment procedures and energy management systems.

Arizona State University is one of 28 universities the DOE tasked with establishing IACs in 2016. The DOE awarded ASU $1.5 million for the five-year project. The ASU IAC is led by faculty in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering: director and industrial engineering associate professor Rene Villalobos, assistant director and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Pat Phelan, and manager and assistant research technologist Jon Sherbeck.

Villalobos and Phelan — faculty members in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, two of the six Fulton Schools — bring their experience running an IAC at ASU for more than 15 years, a center that ended its work in 2006 after completing more than 400 assessments. Over the 40 years the DOE has funded the IAC program, centers have provided more than 17,000 assessments and more than 130,000 recommendations for improvement.

A large and growing manufacturing state

Arizona’s total manufacturing output in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, was at the highest value ever recorded at $21.9 billion. Between 2009 and 2013, manufacturing exports increased by 25 percent, representing about 84,000 jobs.

The state’s top five manufacturing industries, ranked by their contributions to the state’s gross domestic product, are computer and electronic products, transportation equipment, food and beverage and tobacco products, miscellaneous products and chemicals, according to In Business Greater Phoenix magazine.

The ASU IAC serves an area beyond Arizona into southern Nevada/Las Vegas and western New Mexico, an area “which is not served by any other IAC,” Phelan said.

The area also represents the states with fast-growing populations relative to the country as a whole, driven in part by high job growth — Arizona was ranked eighth and Nevada sixth in 2014 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  

A mutually beneficial service

ASU’s IAC and the 27 others conduct free assessments for small manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees, gross annual sales below $100 million and energy bills between $100,000 and $2.5 million per year.

“ASU, as an independent and experienced third party, provides an unbiased assessment that plant managers can use to justify capital expenditures for energy-efficiency improvements, or to seek out specialists from the private sector to perform a more in-depth analysis,” Phelan said.

In addition to energy efficiency, the ASU IAC also assesses a manufacturer’s cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses, making recommendations on security measures such as using two-factor authentication to protect them against cyber attacks.

The IAC assessment team includes not only faculty members but students in undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs who help take measurements, come up with improvement ideas, and calculate cost savings.

During the one-day assessment visit, Sherbeck said the team looks for opportunities to improve energy efficiency as well as to reduce water consumption and waste streams.

“We look at their manufacturing processes and try to suggest productivity improvements, which might be how to track quality so you have fewer scrap parts, or how to arrange your processes so that there’s a minimum amount of travel of the hardware,” Sherbeck said.

It’s also a way for companies to get a fresh set of eyes on their operations and to break them out of the lull of “this is the way we’ve always done it,” Sherbeck said.

Sherbeck brings valuable experience to the team from his years of hands-on manufacturing experience, having put himself through university by working as a machinist and later full-time building all kinds of systems in industry.

After the assessment, the IAC team develops recommendations and delivers a confidential report to the client within 60 days.

“We attempt to determine how much cost the company can save, how much it’ll cost them to implement improvements and determine what the payback period would be,” Sherbeck said.

Six months after the assessment, the team conducts a follow-up visit and reports to the Department of Energy what improvements the company implemented.

In its first year, the ASU IAC plans to do 13 assessments, followed by 20 assessments in subsequent years.

The team has already started conducting assessments and is ramping up a marketing campaign to increase the manufacturing community’s awareness of these free services.

Community partners round out the team

The ASU team partners with other local organizations to identify potential clients and works with power companies to identify energy-efficiency improvement opportunities.

RevAZ, a business improvement and training organization that is part of the Arizona Commerce Authority, also helps identify potential clients for the ASU IAC.

Lincus Inc., a sustainability and efficiency evaluator, helps the ASU IAC with energy-saving alternative practices.

Outside Arizona, Nevada Industry Excellence helps with industrial business productivity and productivity recommendations.

Educating the next generation of engineers

Besides the costs of measurement equipment purchases and travel to and from industry clients, the nearly $1.5 million in funding supports student involvement in the program.

“These funds are used to support a large number of undergraduate and graduate students, mostly from engineering, who identify the clients, perform the assessments, develop the analysis and, finally, prepare and deliver the reports,” Phelan said.

Students involved get a “tremendous educational experience” where they can apply coursework to real manufacturing facilities, Phelan said, and soon they also will be able to participate in a new planned educational program in “clean-energy manufacturing.”

Both students and faculty get to learn what really matters to industry through the experience.

“Participating companies are helping ASU students and faculty become more knowledgeable about industrial practices and problems, which in turn helps make ASU’s engineering research and educational programs more relevant and impactful,” Phelan said.

Mechanical engineering doctoral candidate Nicholas Fette said his involvement in the ASU IAC has been a great learning experience. After a few months as student lead of the ASU IAC, he said he has a better understanding of manufacturing issues in Arizona in addition to better insight into how the university conducts business and the challenges of planning and communicating effectively with large organizations.

“Now having conducted a few site visits, I feel I have been exposed to many more aspects of this industry than were touched on in my academic training, and I’ve found some problems and unanswered questions worthy of research effort,” Fette said. “It has been a great experience, and I hope that we can develop more hands-on opportunities for students like this one.

Sherbeck notes that the experience will help lead to better-qualified graduates.

“The DOE considers that there are not enough qualified people to do this kind of [assessment] work,” Sherbeck said. “The program is intended to help small manufacturers, but it’s also intended to lead to more graduates capable of doing this kind of work.”

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering