OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of engineering

New algorithm, metrics improve autonomous underwater vehicles’ energy efficiency

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Robotics researchers have found a way for autonomous underwater vehicles to navigate strong currents with greater energy efficiency, which means the AUVs can gather data longer and better.

AUVs such as underwater gliders are valuable research tools limited primarily by their energy budget – every bit of battery power wasted via inefficient trajectories cuts into the time they can spend working.

“Historically, a lot of oceanography data sets and sampling came from using ships, which are expensive and can only really be out for a few days at a time,” said Dylan Jones, a third-year Ph.D. student in Oregon State University’s robotics program and lead author on the study. “With autonomous underwater vehicles, you can get months-long monitoring. And a way to extend those vehicles’ missions is through smarter planning for how they get from one point of interest to another.”

Jones and Ph.D. advisor Geoff Hollinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in OSU’s College of Engineering, have built a framework for the vehicles to plan energy-efficient trajectories through disturbances that are strong and uncertain, like ocean currents and wind fields.

The framework involves an algorithm that samples alternate paths, as well as comparison metrics that let a vehicle decide when it makes sense to switch paths based on new information collected about environmental disturbances.

The researchers tested the framework in a simulated environment – a data set of currents from the Regional Ocean Modeling System – and also on a windy lake with an autonomous boat.

The results, recently published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, show that the algorithm can plan vehicle paths that are more energy efficient than ones planned by existing methods, and that it’s robust enough to deal with environments for which not much data is available.

Findings also indicate that three of the framework’s five path comparison metrics can be used to plan more efficient routes compared to planning based solely on the ocean current forecast.

“We generalized past trajectory optimization techniques and also removed the assumption that trajectory waypoints are equally spaced in time,” Jones said. “Removing that assumption improves on the state of the art in energy-efficient path planning. 

“These are under-actuated vehicles – they don’t go fast in relation to the strong ocean currents, so one way to get them to travel more efficiently is to go with the flow, to coast and not use energy,” he added. “We’re building more intelligence into these vehicles so they can more reliably accomplish their missions.”

Jones notes that overcoming strong disturbances is a critical component of putting any kind of robot in a real-life environment. Past planning algorithms haven’t always considered the dynamics of the vehicle they were planning for, he said.

“Sometimes we make assumptions in the lab or do simulations that don’t translate in the real world,” Jones said. “Sometimes a disturbance is too strong to be overcome, or sometimes it can be overcome but the path deviates so significantly that it would put the robot in a danger area. We have to consider all the possible locations of a robot. There are smarter ways of considering these various disturbances, and this gives us a better way of planning paths that are least affected by disturbances.”

Any disconnect between the controller and the planner can be dangerous, Jones said.

“The way we see this work going is to bridge that gap – how do we look at paths that are easier for controllers to follow, and how do we make controllers follow paths better?” he said. “We can be more energy efficient when we consider the whole environment, planning paths so that the controller of the vehicle doesn’t have to work as hard.”

Future research will also deal with “informative path planning” – planning paths that initially gather information about the environment and disturbances that the algorithm can use later to plan more energy-efficient routes.

“How do we combine these two ideas – planning a path for energy efficiency while also trying to gather information that will inform efficient path planning?” Jones said. “There will be tradeoffs and it might come down to, do I pay five hours now to save six hours later on? Another possible research direction is to look at a multivehicle situation where one vehicle can scout ahead and relay information to one or more others – they could possibly have a low shared energy cost by intelligently assigning goals and sharing information.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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AUV paths planned by framework

OSU researcher studies cross-laminated timber as seismic retrofit tool

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Safer historic buildings and more jobs for the timber industry are the goals of a partnership between an Oregon State University structural engineering researcher and a newly formed nonprofit group in Corvallis, Oregon.

Andre Barbosa of the OSU College of Engineering is collaborating with Cascadia Seismic Strategies on a $150,000 project to study the use of cross-laminated timber panels for seismic retrofits on unreinforced masonry buildings. 

A grant coordinated through the Downtown Corvallis Association and Oregon Main Street is covering roughly two-thirds of the cost of the project, which will result in mockups of CLT retrofit systems at the 107-year-old Harding Building at Third Street and Madison Street in Corvallis.

“We’ll build prototypes that will provide details that will let engineers and construction folks see how things go together,” said Barbosa, a volunteer with Cascadia Seismic Strategies.

Barbosa is one of the original members of the group, named after the subduction zone that lies off the coast of Oregon. The major Cascadia earthquake that experts say is on the horizon would be particularly damaging to vintage masonry structures like the Harding Building, the cornerstone of the original Third Street business district.

“The DCA is concerned about the potential devastation that a Cascadia Subduction Zone mega-quake would wreak,” said Cascadia Seismic Strategies spokeswoman Roz Keeney. “Members of the DCA’s design committee recruited structural engineers, historic architects and other building professionals to join in a conversation about earthquake preparedness and historic building preservation. This group went on to form Cascadia Seismic Strategies, which is now focused on this cutting-edge project to develop a low-cost reinforcement method using local wood products and off-the-shelf steel connectors.”

Engineering work is scheduled to start in August. The grant for the 34-month project underwrites multiple design and construction strategies for dealing with weaknesses in unreinforced masonry buildings, as well as production of a video demonstrating how to implement upgrades that can serve as a guide for other communities wanting to use similar strategies in preservation and retrofitting efforts.

“This project identifies seismic retrofits for historic buildings that improve their safety performance without compromising their historic integrity,” said project manager and historic preservation architect Sue Licht. “It also demonstrates that historic rehabilitation can create local, site-specific jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Barbosa notes that OSU is a leader in developing new wood products such as cross-laminated timber and in growing forest-products jobs amid reduced harvest levels.

“It’s important to bring jobs back to the timber industry in Oregon and to find new applications for mass timber,” he said. “This could potentially be one of them, while improving the resiliency of downtowns and the older buildings that give us liveliness and history.”

Portland firm KPFF Consulting Engineers will handle most of the structural engineering, led by Reid Zimmerman, with Barbosa lending his expertise in cross-laminated timber and seismic retrofits.

“This comes from what we’ve been learning by visiting different earthquake sites, like Napa (California) and Nepal,” Barbosa said. “We keep learning and try to bring back that knowledge and share it with communities, including by creating a model for affordable seismic retrofits for historic buildings. This is a grass-roots, community-driven solution for a big problem, a huge Cascadia quake.” 

The primary funding organization, Oregon Main Street, is a Main Street America coordinating program administered by the State Historic Preservation Office. It works with Oregon communities to “develop comprehensive, incremental revitalization strategies based on a community’s unique assets, character and heritage.”

Its goal is to build “high-quality, livable and sustainable communities that will grow Oregon’s economy while maintaining a sense of place.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Timber research

Cross-laminated timber

Oregon State alum, noted philanthropist to give OSU commencement address

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Hüsnü M. Özyeğin, who headed to Oregon State University in 1963 with only $100 in his pocket and graduated to become a highly successful business leader and philanthropist in Turkey and throughout Europe, will return to his alma mater to give the 2017 commencement address.

OSU’s commencement will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 17, at Reser Stadium. Tickets are not required; more information is available at: http://commencement.oregonstate.edu//

Özyeğin, who was born in Turkey, came to the United States after graduating from Robert College, an elite academy in Istanbul. He graduated from OSU with a degree in civil engineering in 1967 after serving as president of the Associated Students of Oregon State University his senior year, and went on to earn an MBA at Harvard University.

The OSU alumnus has made significant contributions to the global community with extensive work in social entrepreneurship, education, women’s rights, equity, child and youth development, and arts and cultural preservation.

Scott Ashford, dean of OSU’s College of Engineering, said he “is thrilled” Özyeğin is returning to Corvallis.

“He’s been a gracious host to me in Turkey, and very willing to provide me with advice for the college as an industry mentor,” Ashford said. “Corvallis is still dear to his heart – in fact, he keeps a photo in his office of him and Bobby Kennedy at the Corvallis airport. Every time I’ve traveled to Turkey, he’s made time for me and asked my advice on his new university.

“Our OSU students have spent summers doing research at his university, and we have hosted his students here.”

After completing his degrees, Özyeğin returned to Turkey and began his career in banking. In 1974, he was appointed managing director of Pamukbank, and in 1987, he founded Finansbank, which quickly become one of Turkey’s most prominent and respected banks. He served as chairman of the bank between 1987 and 2010, during which it grew substantially in size and influence.

Özyeğin today is chairman of Fiba Holding A.S., Fibabanka A.S., and Credit Europe Bank (Suisse) S.A. in Geneva.

The Oregon State alumnus has not forgotten his academic origins, and in 2008 he and his foundation established Özyeğin University in Istanbul, building and fully staffing the institution from the ground up. The state-of-the-art undergraduate and graduate university is re-envisioning higher education as both highly entrepreneurial and financially accessible, and already has become Turkey’s fourth largest private university.

Özyeğin is involved in numerous civic activities, including chairing the Hüsnü M. Özyeğin Foundation, serving on the board of the Mother and Child Education Foundation, and serving on the board of dean’s advisers for the Harvard Business School.

Oregon State will present Özyeğin with an honorary doctorate in civil engineering at commencement. The Oregon Stater alumni magazine profiled him in 2012: http://bit.ly/2qX33uH

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808, steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

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Hüsnü M. Özyeğin

Hüsnü M. Özyeğin

OSU College of Engineering establishes institute for robotics, intelligent systems

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s College of Engineering has established a new research institute to advance the theory, design, development and deployment of robots and intelligent systems able to interact seamlessly with people.

It’s called the CoRIS Institute, short for Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems.

Institute director Kagan Tumer said the new center would conduct research in robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as machine learning, vision, sensors, devices, and new materials. The institute also will explore public policy and ethical questions surrounding the deployment of robots and intelligent systems.

Tumer said the institute would enable research in oceanography, forestry, agricultural science and other fields, as well as identify and facilitate possible partnerships with companies around the globe to bring algorithms, software, hardware and integrated systems into everyday use.

“The CoRIS Institute will cement Oregon State’s position as a national leader in robotics and artificial intelligence,” said Scott Ashford, dean of the College of Engineering.

“The institute is poised to become a venue for exploring not just the technological advancement of robotics, but also all of the other dimensions of the robotics revolution. It will investigate the promise and the risks of robotics in the real world today, tomorrow and well into the future and help us plot a course through uncharted territory.”

The college offers a top-tier artificial intelligence program, as well as one of the five doctorate-granting robotics programs in the U.S. Those two programs received more than 500 student applications for the 40 openings available in fall term 2016.

“Our robotics and artificial intelligence faculty have a strong reputation for conducting cutting-edge research, holding key leadership positions in international organizations and drawing the best students from Oregon, the nation and the world,” said Tumer, a professor of mechanical engineering with a background that spans computer science and electrical engineering. “Research at Oregon State focuses on robotics and intelligent systems as a whole, exploring both the interaction between technology and human beings and the impact that technology will have on society.”

The institute’s core faculty are 25 researchers in robotics and artificial intelligence. Collaborators include more than 40 other researchers from across OSU who are looking to apply robotics and AI concepts to their own work.

“I can think of no better place than Oregon State for the home of the new CoRIS Institute,” Ashford said. “Our visionary robotics program already is recognized as one of the nation’s best and most progressive, and OSU’s deeply rooted culture of collaboration provides an ideal environment for this interdisciplinary institute to thrive and grow.”

Tumer notes that the moment a robot exits a lab and enters the everyday world, the large, complicated issue of human-robot interaction is at play in full force.

“You have to look at the big picture,” he said. “You have to think about how that robot is going to interact with people months down the road, years down the road. There are technical issues to putting robots in homes and also ethical issues. For example, what are the privacy issues of having a robot in your home 24-7? What is the emotional impact of interacting with that robot daily? It’s fair to say our emphasis on societal impact is one of the unique aspects of our institute.”

Early on in the field of robotics, Tumer said, a robot was typically a “big mechanical device on a factory floor, caged away, unpredictable and dangerous, not designed to be interacting with humans in a way that was natural to them.”

“But in the future, a robot might be sitting with you, working with you with some level of interaction,” he said. “Oregon State didn’t have a robotics program 10 years ago, which is in some ways liberating because we’re not saddled with the legacy of what a robotics program ought to be. We have a lot of young faculty who are looking at where the field is going and are not in any way stuck with how things were perceived in past. They’re looking at how robotics ought to be rather than how robotics was.”

Tumer’s leadership team includes three associate directors: Julie A. Adams, for deployment and policy; Alan Fern, for research; and Bill Smart, for academics. Adams and Fern are professors of computer science, and Smart is an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Funding sources for research by the institute’s core faculty include federal and state grants, industry grants, and philanthropic gifts.

The institute will be located within existing research space within the College of Engineering.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Cassie the robot

Cassie the robot

Research aims to protect eagles from wind turbines

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New research from Oregon State University will aim to make eagles less likely to collide with wind-turbine blades.

The U.S. Department of Energy Wind Technology Office has awarded Roberto Albertani of the OSU College of Engineering a 27-month, $625,000 grant to develop technology for detecting and deterring approaching eagles and for determining if a blade strike has occurred.

A growing energy source in the U.S., wind power uses towers up to 300 feet tall typically equipped with three blades with wingspans double that of a Boeing 747. At their tips, the blades are moving close to 200 miles per hour.

Wind power is generally regarded as green energy, but danger to birds – particularly bald eagles and golden eagles – is a concern.

Albertani’s team will work on a three-part system for protecting the eagles. “We’re the only team in the world doing this kind of work,” said Albertani, an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The team includes Sinisa Todorovic, associate professor of computer science, and Matthew Johnston, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

If successful, Albertani said, the system that he and his colleagues develop will be a major breakthrough in a safer-for-wildlife expansion of wind energy worldwide.

The system will feature a tower-mounted, computer-connected camera able to determine if an approaching bird is an eagle and whether it’s flying toward the blades. If both those answers are yes, the computer triggers a ground-level deterrent: randomly moving, brightly colored facsimiles of people, designed to play into eagles’ apparent aversion to humans.

“There’s no research available, but hopefully those will deter the eagles from coming closer to the turbines,” Albertani said. “We want the deterrent to be simple and affordable.”

At the root of each turbine blade will be a vibration sensor able to detect the kind of thump produced by a bird hitting a blade. Whenever such a thump is detected, recorded video data from a blade-mounted micro-camera can be examined to tell if the impact was caused by an eagle or something else.

“If we strike a generic bird, sad as that is, it’s not as critical as striking a protected golden eagle, which would cause the shutdown of a wind farm for a period of time, a fine to the operator, big losses in revenue, and most important the loss of a member of a protected species,” Albertani said.

Albertani’s team includes two collaborators from the U.S. Geological Survey, biological statistician Manuela Huso and wildlife biologist and eagle expert Todd Katzner. An external advisory board includes Siemens Wind Power and Avangrid Renewables.

Primary field testing will take place at the North American Wind Research and Training Center in Tucumcari, N.M., and the NREL National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colo. Field work will also be done in Oregon and California.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are roughly 143,000 bald eagles and 40,000 golden eagles in the United States.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Wind turbines

Technology to improve rockfall analysis on cliffs could save money, lives

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in the Pacific Northwest have developed a new, automated technology to analyze the potential for rockfalls from cliffs onto roads and areas below, which should speed and improve this type of risk evaluation, help protect public safety and ultimately save money and lives.

Called a “rockfall activity index,” the system is based on the powerful abilities of light detection and ranging, or LIDAR technology. It should expedite and add precision to what’s now a somewhat subjective, time-consuming process to determine just how dangerous a cliff is to the people, vehicles, roads or structures below it.

This is a multi-million dollar global problem, experts say, of significant concern to transportation planners.

It’s a particular concern in the Pacific Northwest with its many mountain ranges, heavy precipitation, erosion of steep cliffs and unstable slopes, and thousands of roads that thread their way through that terrain. The evaluation system now most widely used around the world, in fact, was developed by the Oregon Department of Transportation more than 25 years ago.

The new technology should improve on that approach, according to scientists who developed it from the University of Washington, Oregon State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Findings on it were just published in Engineering Geology.

“Rockfalls are a huge road maintenance issue,” said Michael Olsen, an associate professor of geomatics in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, and co-author of the report.

“Pacific Northwest and Alaskan highways, in particular, are facing serious concerns for these hazards. A lot of our highways in mountainous regions were built in the 1950s and 60s, and the cliffs above them have been facing decades of erosion that in many places cause at least small rockfalls almost daily. At the same time traffic is getting heavier, along with increasing danger to the public and even people who monitor the problem.”

The new approach could replace the need to personally analyze small portions of a cliff at a time, looking for cracks and hazards, with analysts sometimes even rappelling down it to assess risks. LIDAR analysis can map large areas in a short period, and allow data to be analyzed by a computer.

“Transportation agencies and infrastructure providers are increasingly seeking ways to improve the reliability and safety of their systems, while at the same time reducing costs,” said Joe Wartman, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington, and corresponding author of the study.

“As a low-cost, high-resolution landslide hazard assessment system, our rockfall activity index methodology makes a significant step toward improving both protection and efficiency.”

The study, based on some examples in southern Alaska, showed the new system could evaluate rockfalls in ways that very closely matched the dangers actually experienced. It produces data on the “energy release” to be expected from a given cliff, per year, that can be used to identify the cliffs and roads at highest risk and prioritize available mitigation budgets to most cost-effectively protect public safety.

“This should improve and speed assessments, reduce the risks to people doing them, and hopefully identify the most serious problems before we have a catastrophic failure,” Olsen said.

The technology is now complete and ready for use, researchers said, although they are continuing to develop its potential, possibly with the use of flying drones to expand the data that can be obtained.

Tens of millions of dollars are spent each year in the U.S. on rock slope maintenance and mitigation.

This research was supported by the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium, the National Science Foundation and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Co-authors included Lisa Dunham, former civil and environmental engineering graduate student at the University of Washington; graduate assistant Matthew O’Banion at OSU; and Keith Cunningham, research assistant professor of remote sensing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Michael Olsen, 541-737-9327

michael.olsen@oregonstate.edu

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Social media tools can reinforce stigma and stereotypes

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have developed new software to analyze social media comments, and used this tool in a recent study to better understand attitudes that can cause emotional pain, stigmatize people and reinforce stereotypes.

In particular, the scientists studied comments and sentiments expressed about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It found that 51 percent of tweets by private users of Twitter accounts contained stigma, when making reference to this condition and the people who deal with it.

The new system may be applicable to a range of other social science research questions, the researchers said, and already shows that many people may not adequately appreciate the power of social media to greatly transcend the type of interpersonal, face-to-face communication humans are most accustomed to.

“As a society it’s like we’re learning a new skill of text communication, and we don’t fully understand or reflect on its power to affect so many people in ways that we may not have intended,” said Nels Oscar, an OSU graduate student in the College of Engineering and lead author on the study.

“Social media is instant, in some cases can reach millions of people at once, and can even instigate behaviors. We often don’t even know who might eventually read it and how it will affect them.”

What’s clear, the study showed, is that when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, thoughtless or demeaning comments on a broad level via social media can take an already-serious problem and make it worse.

The particular topic studied, the scientists said, is of growing importance. A global tripling of individuals with some form of dementia is projected in coming decades, from 43 million today to 131 million by 2050.

“It was shocking to me how many people stigmatized Alzheimer’s disease and reinforced stereotypes that can further alienate people with this condition,” said Karen Hooker, holder of the Jo Anne Leonard Petersen Endowed Chair in Gerontology and Family Studies, in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “This can create what we call ‘excess disability,’ when people with a stigmatized condition perform worse just because of the negative expectations that damaging stereotypes bring.

“This type of stigma can make it less likely that people will admit they have problems or seek treatment, when often they can still live satisfying, meaningful and productive lives. Our attitudes, the things we say affect others. And social media is now amplifying our ability to reach others with thoughtless or hurtful comments.”

The researchers noted a 2012 report which concluded that negative attitudes about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can result in shame, guilt, hopelessness, and social exclusion among stigmatized individuals, leading to delay in diagnosis, inability to cope, and decreased quality of life. It also affects friends, family and caregivers of these individuals.

A comment a person might never make in a face-to-face conversation, Oscar said, is often transmitted via social media to dozens, hundreds or ultimately thousands of people that were not really intended. Some constraints that might reduce the impact, like clearly making a joke or using sarcasm in a personal conversation, can often get lost in translation to the printed word.

“A point many people don’t understand when using social media is that their intent is often irrelevant,” Oscar said. “All people eventually see is the comment, without any other context, and have to deal with the pain it can cause.”

This research was one part of a six-year, $2.3 million project funded by the National Science Foundation to train graduate students in aging sciences and to conduct cross-disciplinary studies on issues of importance to an aging society. The paper was recently published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. The software created for the project is now freely available for other scientists to use, at http://bit.ly/2p5GmDC

In the research, the software was designed to recognize and interpret the use of various keywords associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as dementia, memory loss or senile. The system was improved by comparing results to the same comment evaluated by human researchers, and ultimately achieved an accuracy of about 90 percent in determining whether a comment was meant to be informative, a joke, a metaphor, ridicule, or fit other dimensions.

The system was then used to analyze 33,000 tweets that made some reference to Alzheimer’s disease.

People concerned about these issues, the OSU researchers suggested, might be more conscious of their own comments on social media, and also more willing to engage with others who are using language that is insensitive or potentially hurtful.

“We should also consider ways to combat stigma and negative stereotypes by tweeting about the positive experiences of persons with dementia and people in their social networks,” Hooker said.

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Karen Hooker, 541-737-4336

hookerk@oregonstate.edu

Agility Robotics evolves from OSU research, aims to revolutionize robot mobility

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The rapidly expanding robotics program in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University has spun off one of its first businesses, a company focused on legged locomotion that may revolutionize robot mobility and enable robots to go anywhere people can go.

The firm, Agility Robotics, is based in Albany, Oregon, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; already has several of its first customers; will license some technologies first developed at OSU, and plans to build on this scientific foundation in their product research and development.

A leading application for this type of mobility is package delivery, company officials say. In the long term, advanced mobility will enable shipping so automated and inexpensive that its cost becomes inconsequential, opening vast new possibilities in retail trade while lowering costs for manufacturing and production.

“This technology will simply explode at some point, when we create vehicles so automated and robots so efficient that deliveries and shipments are almost free,” said Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor of robotics in the OSU College of Engineering, chief technology officer at Agility Robotics and an international leader in the development of legged locomotion.

“Quite simply, robots with legs can go a lot of places that wheels cannot. This will be the key to deliveries that can be made 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by a fleet of autonomous vans that pull up to your curb, and an onboard robot that delivers to your doorstep.

“This robot capability will free people from weekend shopping chores, reduce energy use, and give consumers more time to do the things they want to do. It effectively brings efficient automated logistics from state-of-the-art warehouses out and into the rest of the world.”

This long-term vision will take many steps, company officials said.

Some of Agility Robotics’ first sales will be to other academic and research institutions, to grow the research community and educate a new generation of engineers in this area, company officials said. What the firm now offers is a bipedal robot named “Cassie” – similar to the prototype version demonstrated Feb. 8 at OSU’s State of the University address in Portland, Oregon, by President Edward J. Ray.

Cassie the robot can stand, steer, and take a pretty good fall without breaking. It’s half the weight and much more capable than earlier robots developed at OSU.

“Our previous robot, ATRIAS, had motors that would work against either other, which was inefficient,” Hurst said. “With Cassie, we’ve fixed this problem and added steering, feet, and a sealed system, so it will work outdoors in the rain and snow as we continue with our controller testing.”

The particular issue of motors working against one another prompted some extensive theoretical research, to create the mathematical frameworks needed to solve the problem. The resulting leg configuration of Cassie looks much like an ostrich or other ground-running bird.

“We weren’t trying to duplicate the appearance of an animal, just the techniques it uses to be agile, efficient and robust in its movement,” Hurst said.

“We didn’t care what it looked like and were mostly just working to find out why Mother Nature did things a certain way. But even though we weren’t trying to mimic the form, what came out on the other end of our research looked remarkably like an animal leg.”

Cassie, built with a 16-month, $1 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, is already one of the leading innovations in the world of legged robotics.

Company officials say they plan to do all initial production in Oregon and will focus their business on the commercial applications of legged robots. Hiring is anticipated for research, production and development.

“The robotics revolution will bring with it enormous changes, perhaps sooner than many people realize,” Hurst said. “We hope for Agility Robotics to be a big part of that revolution. We want to change people’s lives and make them better.”

 

Company officials said that access to the research base and education of students at OSU will aid its growth, providing the needed expertise and trained work force. OSU has already been ranked by Grad School Hub as the best in the western United States and fourth leading program in the nation in robotics research and education.

Last month, OSU officials also announced that the university will be a founding academic partner in the newest Manufacturing USA Institute, the Advance Robotics Manufacturing Innovation Hub. This broad program with 14 institutes is a $3 billion federal and private company initiative designed to enhance U.S. competitiveness in advanced manufacturing.

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Jonathan Hurst, 541-737-7010

jonathan.hurst@oregonstate.edu

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Cassie the robot
Cassie the robot

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Advance in intense pulsed light sintering opens door to improved electronics manufacturing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Faster production of advanced, flexible electronics is among the potential benefits of a discovery by researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Engineering.

Taking a deeper look at photonic sintering of silver nanoparticle films – the use of intense pulsed light, or IPL, to rapidly fuse functional conductive nanoparticles – scientists uncovered a relationship between film temperature and densification. Densification in IPL increases the density of a nanoparticle thin-film or pattern, with greater density leading to functional improvements such as greater electrical conductivity.

The engineers found a temperature turning point in IPL despite no change in pulsing energy, and discovered that this turning point appears because densification during IPL reduces the nanoparticles’ ability to absorb further energy from the light.

This previously unknown interaction between optical absorption and densification creates a new understanding of why densification levels off after the temperature turning point in IPL, and further enables large-area, high-speed IPL to realize its full potential as a scalable and efficient manufacturing process.

Rajiv Malhotra, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at OSU, and graduate student Shalu Bansal conducted the research. The results were recently published in Nanotechnology.

“For some applications we want to have maximum density possible,” Malhotra said. “For some we don’t. Thus, it becomes important to control the densification of the material. Since densification in IPL depends significantly on the temperature, it is important to understand and control temperature evolution during the process. This research can lead to much better process control and equipment design in IPL.”

Intense pulsed light sintering allows for faster densification – in a matter of seconds – over larger areas compared to conventional sintering processes such as oven-based and laser-based. IPL can potentially be used to sinter nanoparticles for applications in printed electronics, solar cells, gas sensing and photocatalysis.

Earlier research showed that nanoparticle densification begins above a critical optical fluence per pulse but that it does not change significantly beyond a certain number of pulses.

This OSU study explains why, for a constant fluence, there is a critical number of pulses beyond which the densification levels off.

“The leveling off in density occurs even though there’s been no change in the optical energy and even though densification is not complete,” Malhotra said. “It occurs because of the temperature history of the nanoparticle film, i.e. the temperature turning point. The combination of fluence and pulses needs to be carefully considered to make sure you get the film density you want.”

A smaller number of high-fluence pulses quickly produces high density. For greater density control, a larger number of low-fluence pulses is required.

“We were sintering in around 20 seconds with a maximum temperature of around 250 degrees Celsius in this work,” Malhotra. “More recent work we have done can sinter within less than two seconds and at much lower temperatures, down to around 120 degrees Celsius. Lower temperature is critical to flexible electronics manufacturing. To lower costs, we want to print these flexible electronics on substrates like paper and plastic, which would burn or melt at higher temperatures. By using IPL, we should be able to create production processes that are both faster and cheaper, without a loss in product quality.”

Products that could evolve from the research, Malhotra said, are radiofrequency identification tags, a wide range of flexible electronics, wearable biomedical sensors, and sensing devices for environmental applications.

The advance in IPL resulted from a four-year, $1.5 million National Science Foundation Scalable Nanomanufacturing Grant in collaboration with OSU researchers Chih-hung Chang, Alan Wang and Greg Herman. The grant focuses on overcoming scientific barriers to industry-level nanomanufacturing. Support also came from the Murdock Charitable Trust and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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unsintered and sintered

Unsintered, left, and sintered nanoparticles

Wave energy center receives $40 million to construct world’s premier test facility

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center today was awarded up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, to create the world’s premier wave energy test facility in Newport.

The NNMREC facility, known as the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site, or PMEC-SETS, is planned to be operational by 2020. It will be able to test wave energy “converters” that harness the energy of ocean waves and turn it into electricity. Companies around the world are already anticipating construction of the new facility to test and perfect their technologies, OSU officials say.

“We anticipate this will be the world’s most advanced wave energy test facility,” said Belinda Batten, the director of NNMREC and a professor in the OSU College of Engineering.

“This is a tribute to the support we received from the state of Oregon, and the efforts of many other people who have worked for the past four years – in some cases since the mid-2000s – to see this facility become a reality. It will play an integral role in moving forward on the testing and refinement of wave energy technologies.”

Those technologies, Batten said, are complex and expensive.

“These devices have to perform in hostile ocean conditions; stand up to a 100-year storm; be energy efficient, durable, environmentally benign – and perhaps most important, cost-competitive with other energy sources,” Batten said. “This facility will help answer all of those questions, and is literally the last step before commercialization.”

The DOE award is subject to appropriations, federal officials said today, and will be used to design, permit, and construct an open-water, grid-connected national wave energy testing facility. It will include four grid-connected test berths.

“OSU researchers are already international leaders on several new sources of energy that will be dependable, cost-competitive and efficient,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray.

“This is another enormous step for alternative energy, especially for an energy resource that Oregon is so well-suited to pursue. In coming years this new facility, aided by the assistance of OSU experts, will provide great learning opportunities for our students and have repercussions for wave energy development around the world.”

In making the award, the agency noted that more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of coastlines, offering America the potential to develop a domestic wave energy industry that could help provide reliable power to coastal regions.

Investments in marine and hydrokinetic energy technology will encourage domestic manufacturing, create jobs, and advance this technology to help achieve the nation’s energy goals, DOE officials said in their announcement of this award. Studies have estimated that even if only a small portion of the energy available from waves is recovered, millions of homes could be powered.

The new facility and award also received support from a range of academic and political leaders:

Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden: “This is great news for OSU and its partners and will launch a new level of local job creation and clean energy innovation. Oregon will use this opportunity to build on its solid position nationally and internationally as a leader in renewable wave energy."

Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley: "This is a huge success story for Oregon State University, and I thank the Department of Energy for helping us harness the enormous potential of wave energy off the Oregon coast. This test facility will make Oregon the leader in bringing wave energy to the United States, which will create good-paying local jobs, and strengthen our coastal economies."

Oregon U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader: "Being able to tap into our rich marine energy resources will unleash the potential for billions of dollars in investment along our coastlines. The research that will be made possible through this grant is absolutely critical to the full and effective implementation of wave energy converters into the U.S. green energy portfolio. This federal support is terrific news for OSU and the entire local economy as it allows Oregonians to lead the pack here at home on wave energy."

Oregon U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici: "OSU is at the forefront of wave energy research. Wave energy has tremendous potential as a renewable resource to put our country on a path to a clean energy future. This critical federal support will allow the university, researchers, and students to continue to investigate and test the potential of wave energy. With this investment we are one important step closer to harnessing the power of the ocean to meet our nation’s clean energy needs, create good-paying jobs, and spur economic growth in our communities.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown: “I commend the talented team of Oregon State University researchers, staff, and students who lead the nation in research and development of wave energy technology. This U.S. Department of Energy grant announcement of up to $40 million leverages years of work and partnership with our state. This innovative work will contribute to Oregon and the nation’s clean energy mix of the future.”

Oregon State Sen. Arnie Roblan: “After the work of the coastal caucus during the 2016 session to secure a state match for this grant, I am pleased by this news. This grant will enable cutting edge research that will bring a variety of individual innovators to the Oregon coast. We are uniquely positioned to help the nation determine the efficacy of their energy devices to Oregon.”

Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research at OSU: “This award is a major win for Dr. Batten and her team.  It comes after years of collaboration among OSU researchers, state and federal agencies, and industry partners. With it, we are one step closer to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future.”

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Belinda Batten, 541-737-9492

belinda.batten@oregonstate.edu

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Wave energy test site
Wave energy test center