OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of engineering

Precise nerve stimulation via electrode implants offers new hope for paralysis patients

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Patients with spinal cord injuries might one day regain use of paralyzed arms and legs thanks to research that demonstrates how limbs can be controlled via a tiny array of implanted electrodes.

The work focused on controlling electrical stimulation pulses delivered to peripheral nerve fibers. When a patient is paralyzed, one of the possible causes is damage to the spinal cord, which along with the brain makes up the central nervous system. The brain is working, and so are motor and sensory nerves in the peripheral nervous system, but electrical signals can’t flow between those nerves and the brain because of the spinal cord injury.

That communication problem is what researchers sought to address, through experiments that involved transmitting precisely controlled electrical pulses into nerves activating plantar-flexor muscles in an ankle of an anesthetized cat.

V John Mathews, professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the Oregon State University College of Engineering, lead researcher Mitch Frankel, then a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, and three other researchers, all faculty members at Utah, conducted the study. Findings were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Researchers sent the pulses using an optimized PIV controller – proportional-integral-velocity – and the cat’s nerves received them via a 100-electrode array whose base measured just 16 square millimeters; it’s known as the Utah Slanted Electrode Array, named for where it was developed and the angled look produced by the electrode rows’ differing heights.

Thanks to specific electrodes being able to activate the right nerve fibers at the right times, the controller made the cat’s ankle muscles work in a smooth, fatigue-resistant way.

The results suggest that someday a paralyzed person might be equipped with a wearable, smartphone-sized control box that would deliver impulses to implanted electrodes in his or her peripheral nervous system, thus enabling at least some level of movement.

“Say someone is paralyzed and lies in bed all day and gets bed sores,” Mathews said. “Early versions of this technology could be used to help the person get up, use a walker and make a few steps. Even those kinds of things would have an enormous impact on someone’s life, and of course we’d like people to do more. My hope is in five or 10 years there will be at least elemental versions of this for paralyzed persons.”

While this particular study focused on helping the paralyzed, a related research area involves amputees: neuroprostheses that can be controlled by thought based on decoding what goes on electrically inside a person’s brain when he or she wants to, for example, move his or her arm or leg.

“We can learn from the brain what the intent is and then produce the signals to make the movement happen,” Mathews said. “Another way to get the control information is from the peripheral nerves,” via electromyography, a diagnostic procedure for evaluating muscle and nerve health.

Generally, Mathews said, an electromyogram can produce the necessary control information.

Putting sensors in a person’s brain, either by deep brain implant or just inside the cranium, is another way to crack the intent code. Electroencephalography – electrode plates attached to the scalp that upload the brain’s electrical activity to a computer – can be used as well.

“There are a lot of things going on right now in the prosthetic arena,” Mathews said. 

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Source: 
Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

usea

Utah Slanted Electrode Array

New ‘optofluidic’ technology taps power of diatoms to improve sensor performance

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have combined one of nature’s tiny miracles, the diatom, with a version of inkjet printing and optical sensing to create an exceptional sensing device that may be up to 10 million times more sensitive than some other commonly used approaches.

A patent has been approved on the new “optofluidic” technology, and the findings published in the journal Nanoscale.

When implemented in working devices, this approach might improve biomedical sensing of cancer biomarkers; be used for extraordinarily precise forensics work; save the lives of military personnel in combat situations; detect illegal drugs; or help tell whether organic food is really pesticide free or not.

The enormous sensitivity and low cost of the technology may have endless applications, researchers say, ranging from health monitoring to environmental protection, biological experiments and other uses.

“Some existing sensors can detect compounds at levels of one part per billion, which sounds pretty good, but for many purposes that’s not good enough,” said Alan Wang, an OSU assistant professor of electrical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and corresponding author on the study.

“With this approach, we can detect some types of compounds at less than one part per trillion, about the level of a single molecule in a small sample. That’s really difficult. Aside from its sensitivity, the technology can also work with ultra-small samples, is fast, and should be very inexpensive to use.”

This system combines advanced optics with a fluidic system to identify compounds. With most conventional systems of this type, fluids must flow over a surface, and this limits the transport of specific molecules you might want to identify, Wang said.

The diatoms in this new technology, however, act as natural “photonic crystals.” They harness the forces of convection against diffusion to help accelerate and concentrate molecules in a space where photons from optical sensors can get trapped, interact with and identify the compound through optical signatures.

“A diatom is a natural, living type of phytoplankton that creates very precise, tiny structures,” Wang said. “When liquids are deposited on it with carefully controlled inkjet devices, the droplets evaporate quickly, but, in the process, carry the molecules of interest to the diatom surface. This is the key to increasing the sensitivity of the photonic measurements.”

The sensor technology, researchers say, can quickly and accurately identify what compounds are present, and approximately how much.

In one demonstration in this research, the scientists tried to identify trinitrotoluene, or TNT, one of the common ingredients in explosive devices – including the hidden mines that have caused numerous injuries and deaths in battle situations. TNT is a chemical with very low volatility, meaning it has limited evaporation, and comparatively few molecules escape that could allow detection. In a hidden bomb, it’s hard to find.

This new technology was one million more times sensitive at identifying TNT than other common approaches, Wang said. A monitor based on this approach, that could be fast and accurate in military situations, may one day help save lives, he said.

Collaborators on the research were from Washington State University, and the research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Commercial applications of the technology are already being explored, OSU officials said.

Story By: 
Source: 

Alan Wang, 541-737-4247

wang@eecs.oregonstate.edu


Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Optofluidic sensor
Optofluidic sensor

Glucose-monitoring contact lens would feature transparent sensor

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Type 1 diabetes patients may one day be able to monitor their blood glucose levels and even control their insulin infusions via a transparent sensor on a contact lens, a new Oregon State University study suggests.

The sensor uses a nanostructured transistor – specifically an amorphous indium gallium oxide field effect transistor, or IGZO FET – that can detect subtle glucose changes in physiological buffer solutions, such as the tear fluid in eyes.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, can lead to serious health complications unless glucose levels are carefully controlled. Problems can include retinopathy, blindness, neuropathy, kidney and cardiac disease.

Researchers in the OSU College of Engineering say sensors they fabricated using the IGZO FET will be able to transmit real-time glucose information to a wearable pump that delivers the hormones needed to regulate blood sugar: insulin and glucagon.

The sensor and pump would, in effect, act as an artificial pancreas.

“We have fully transparent sensors that are working,” said Greg Herman, an OSU professor of chemical engineering and corresponding author on this study. “What we want to do next is fully develop the communication aspect, and we want to use the entire contact lens as real estate for sensing and communications electronics.

“We can integrate an array of sensors into the lens and also test for other things: stress hormones, uric acid, pressure sensing for glaucoma, and things like that. We can monitor many compounds in tears – and since the sensor is transparent, it doesn’t obstruct vision; more real estate is available for sensing on the contact lens.”

The FET’s closely packed, hexagonal, nanostructured network resulted from complimentary patterning techniques that have the potential for low-cost fabrication. Those techniques include colloidal nanolithography and electrohydrodynamic printing, or e-jet, which is somewhat like an inkjet printer that creates much finer drop sizes and works with biological materials instead of ink.

The findings by postdoctoral scholar Xiaosong Du, visiting scholar Yajuan Li and,Herman were recently published online in the journal Nanoscale. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation provided primary funding for the research.

Google has been working on a glucose-monitoring contact lens but its version is not fully transparent.

“It’s an amperometric sensor and you can see the chips -- that means it has to be off to the side of the contact lens,” Herman said. “Another issue is the signal is dependent on the size of the sensor and you can only make it so small or you won’t be able to get a usable signal. With an FET sensor, you can actually make it smaller and enhance the output signal by doing this.”

This research builds on earlier work by Herman and other OSU engineers that developed a glucose sensor that could be wrapped around a catheter, such as one used to administer insulin from a pump.

“A lot of type 1 diabetics don’t wear a pump,” Herman said. “Many are still managing with blood droplets on glucose strips, then using self-injection. Even with the contact lens, someone could still manage their diabetes with self-injection. The sensor could communicate with your phone to warn you if your glucose was high or low.”

The transparent FET sensors, Herman said, might ultimately be used for cancer detection, by sensing characteristic biomarkers of cancer risk. Their high sensitivity could also measure things such as pulse rate, oxygen levels, and other aspects of health monitoring that require precise control.

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Source: 
Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

3D AFM

Transistor's nanostructure

Tsunami-safety panel to oversee construction of Marine Studies building

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Ed Ray announced today the creation of an oversight committee to monitor construction of a Marine Studies Building and student housing in Newport, Ore.

“This committee will ensure that the design, engineering and construction of these buildings meet or exceed the earthquake and tsunami performance commitments the university has made to the public,” Ray said.

Ray also charged the committee with ensuring that the buildings are operated with the highest level of safety and evacuation procedures, preparation and training. The committee’s charge is available online.

The $50 million center for global marine studies research and education will be built at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. The 100,000-square-foot facility is an integral part of OSU’s ambitious Marine Studies Initiative, designed to educate students and conduct research on marine-related issues – from rising sea levels and ocean acidification to sustainable fisheries and economic stability.

Housing to accommodate Oregon State students at the campus will be located near Oregon Coast Community College and located out of the tsunami zone.

“Life safety for the occupants of these buildings, as well as the safety for all Hatfield Marine Science Center faculty, staff, students and visitors, is of the highest priority for OSU,” Ray said.

Scott Ashford, dean of Oregon State’s College of Engineering, will chair the committee, which will report to interim Provost and Executive Vice President Ron Adams. The committee will be made up of eight university leaders and will be advised by two seismic and structural engineers, one of whom will be externally employed and independent of the university.

Committee members include Michael Green, OSU interim vice president for finance and administration; Toni Doolen, dean of the university’s Honors College; Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for Student Affairs; Jock Mills, government relations director; Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing; and Roy Haggerty, associate vice president for research. OSU’s Office of General Counsel will serve in an advisory capacity.

The committee will be advised by Chris D. Poland, an independent, third party seismic resilience structural engineer, who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; and Dan Cox, an OSU professor in civil and construction engineering with expertise in coastal resilience and tsunami impacts.

Ashford said the Marine Studies Building will meet or surpass the new “inundation zone” construction guidelines announced recently by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Faculty researchers within OSU’s College of Engineering and Oregon State’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory aided in the standards’ formation.

In addition to design, engineering and construction matters, the committee will also oversee safety and evacuation planning, procedures and training for the Marine Studies Building, the HMSC campus and the student housing to be built in Newport.

The committee’s charge also includes keeping stakeholders informed; maintaining transparency of all the university’s work regarding design, engineering, construction and safety operations; and ensuring the buildings are completed within budget and on time.

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Source: 
Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

AerialFullSize18

Hatfield Marine Science Center

Civil engineering society issues first-ever tsunami-safe building standards

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When the next huge tsunami strikes the western United States, people in and around some newly built coastal structures will be more safe thanks to national construction standards announced today that - for the first time ever in the U.S. - will consider the devastating risks posed by tsunamis.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has developed this edition of the standards, known as ASCE 7-16, and it’s the first to include a chapter on tsunami hazards, in addition to chapters on seismic, wind and flood hazards.

The tsunami standards are only for steel-reinforced concrete buildings in “inundation zones,” which in the future may be stronger and safer with only moderate increases in cost, experts say. They will not apply to wood-frame structures.

The standards were based in part on work done at OSU’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, according to Dan Cox of Oregon State University, a professor of civil and construction engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and one of about 20 engineers on the ASCE subcommittee that developed them.

The subcommittee was a mix of engineering practitioners and researchers from across the nation, Cox said. Led by a practicing engineer in Hawaii, Gary Chock, the committee began its work in late 2010, a few months before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

“We weren’t reacting,” Cox said. “We were trying to do this in advance. After the 2011 event, interest accelerated regarding how to build things safely in a tsunami zone, and it was important that the subcommittee contained people familiar with how codes work and academic researchers who can bring in the latest advances. Everything was geared toward bringing the best of both into practice.”

The subcommittee used as a starting point a document that had been issued in 2008 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cox’s OSU College of Engineering colleague Harry Yeh had contributed to that document, which was a guideline for designing structures to allow for vertical evacuation, such as climbing to a higher floor.

“We wanted to pull the state of the practice together, and if there were holes in the way we were doing things, we wanted to fill in those holes,” Cox said. “It’s a very rigorous process; there has to be a lot of vetting.”

The large wave flume at OSU’s Hinsdale lab played a major role in producing the data used in developing the tsunami standards, said Cox, formerly the lab’s director and now the head of the Cascadia Lifelines Program.

That program, a research consortium, is working to mitigate infrastructure damage in the Pacific Northwest from a major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

OSU and eight partners from both the public and private sectors have begun five research projects with $1.5 million contributed by the partners: the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, Northwest Natural, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Port of Portland, the Portland Water Bureau, the Eugene Water and Electric Board, and the Tualatin Valley Water District.

Cox led some of the studies conducted in the flume, and College of Engineering colleague Solomon Yim was a collaborator on a project led by the University of Hawaii.

“One of the big projects was debris,” Cox said. “What force does debris have, and how can you build a column to keep a building in place if debris were to hit it? Now we have equations to use to size that column to withstand a large piece of debris, like a shipping container.”

Already underway on the new standards, Cox and other subcommittee members went to Japan after the 2011 tragedy to study what had worked and what didn’t.

“We got enough information to estimate hydraulic forces and understand damage patterns, and we used this to validate what we were doing,” Cox said. “It was independent, real-world experience to check on whether our approach was valid. These standards are built on lab work, field observation and engineering practice. We used all of the tools available to come up with these standards.”

The ASCE 7-16 standards are good for six years and will become part of the International Building Code. In the U.S., it’s up to each state to decide whether to adopt new codes in their entirety, partially in a modified format, or not at all. In Oregon, the Building Codes Division is responsible for reviewing the new standards.

“Oregon should look very carefully at it,” Cox said. “A lot of engineering eyes have been looking at this, and the standards are consistent with engineering design practice. If in six years we have better information we can change them.”

University officials say they are committed to meet or exceed all building, engineering and life safety standards, including the new tsunami standards announced today, for the future marine studies facility at Newport.

Cox notes that the tsunami standards will have the most impact on engineers designing and building structures less than about five stories in height. Above five stories, even-stronger building codes will take precedence over codes to protect smaller structures from tsunamis.

While the new standards will add some expense to the cost of a two- or three-story building, the additional amount will be comparatively small.

“The structural cost of a building is less than 10 percent,” Cox said. “It will be more expensive but it doesn’t triple the cost. When you make a building twice as strong, it doesn’t cost twice as much.”

The new tsunami standard can also be used on retrofit projects, he said.

“We can now apply consistent standards across the hazards,” Cox said. “This allows us to use a consistent methodology, a consistent set of standards so you can design for multiple hazards. It gives options if you decide you want to build in that zone or you have to build in that zone.”

Ninety percent of the Oregon town of Seaside, for example, is in an inundation zone.

“Now if you want to build a hotel in Seaside, or an office building, you have standards,” Cox said, while noting standards alone aren’t enough.

“You have 20 minutes to get to safety,” he said. “You still have to have plans and practice them routinely. We put sprinklers in buildings, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing fire drills.”

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Source: 

Dan Cox, 541-737-3631

dan.cox@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Tsunami resistant school
Tsunami resistant building

Grand opening of Johnson Hall planned at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Johnson Hall, a new, $40 million College of Engineering facility that will be home to the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University, will celebrate its grand opening on Sept. 23.

Johnson Hall’s 58,000-square-foot interior includes a 125-seat lecture hall, state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories, and a center focused on improving recruitment and retention of engineering students.

The three-story structure is supported by five, 52-foot, freestanding concrete shear walls, engineered to withstand earthquakes and winds up to 90 mph. This design also enabled the placement of many large windows, which supply ample natural light throughout the building. The open, bright aesthetic is continued inside, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

“The transparent glass walls to the labs make research visible to anyone walking by, and the open floor plan concept encourages interest, innovation, and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Scott Ashford, Kearney Professor and dean of OSU’s College of Engineering. “I look forward to the research made possible here.”

The building is named for longtime College of Engineering supporters Peter and Rosalie Johnson. Pete Johnson, a 1955 chemical engineering alumnus, revolutionized battery manufacturing equipment with his patented invention for making battery separator envelopes. The Johnsons committed $7 million to begin construction of the new facility, leveraging an earlier gift of $10 million from an anonymous donor and $3 million in additional private funds, matched by $20 million in state funds.

“This beautiful new facility honors the Johnson family and the many contributions they have made to the College of Engineering,” Ashford said. “We are so pleased to carry on Pete’s legacy of innovation by dedicating this space to collaborative research and hands-on learning for students.”

James Sweeney, head of the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering, said the building will foster the school’s continued growth and will further accomplishments in research and education.

“Johnson Hall will increase our reputation and standing among our peer institutions, and it will help us to continue to attract the top faculty and students to OSU,” Sweeney said. “It will provide them with the tools they need to make high impact on Oregon, across our country, and around the world.”

The grand opening, which is free and open to the public, will begin with a ceremony from 3:30-4 p.m. in front of Johnson Hall, at the intersection of S.W. Park Terrace Place and Monroe Street in Corvallis. Speakers will include OSU President Edward J. Ray, college officials, representatives of the Johnson family, and State Sen. Sara Gelser. Visitors will be invited to tour the building immediately following the ceremony.

Johnson Hall was designed by architecture firm SRG Partnership. It was built by Hoffman Construction, led by OSU College of Engineering alumni Kevin Cady ’84, senior operations manager; and Nathan Moore ’10, project manager.

Media Contact: 

Keith Hautala, 541-737-1478

Source: 

James Sweeney, 541-737-3769

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Johnson Hall
Johnson Hall

johnsonsouth

“Smart manufacturing” initiative to aid Pacific Northwest business and industry

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As a partner in a new $140 million federal initiative, the College of Engineering at Oregon State University will significantly expand its outreach and collaboration with Pacific Northwest business and industry, helping them to save energy, waste less, create jobs and become more internationally competitive.

Last month the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, of which OSU is a part, was announced as a major new manufacturing hub to spur advances in smart sensors, digital process controls, and many other efforts to improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing.

This broad program is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, headquartered in Los Angeles and comprised of five regional centers. One of those centers is based at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, and its partners include OSU, Washington State University, the University of Washington and regional industry.

OSU researchers say they initially plan to focus their efforts on food production and advanced materials and manufacturing processes. High-tech monitoring processes, for instance, might help fruit and berry growers optimize the energy used to freeze, dry or ship their products. Or an aircraft component manufacturer might adopt specific techniques that could be used to minimize the energy needed in making parts.

“In general terms, this initiative plans to reduce energy use in U.S. manufacturing, making it more efficient and competitive,” said Carlos Jensen, an associate professor of computer science in the OSU College of Engineering, and an OSU co-principal investigator in this initiative. 

“There are a lot of energy-intensive industries in the Pacific Northwest and we plan to assist many of them. A strength of this program is that it isn’t just research or laboratory work. We’re going to be doing hands-on work in the field, dealing with real-world problems and finding working solutions. We’re going to help companies save energy, time and effort.”

The applied nature of the program, Jensen said, will also be of enormous benefit to OSU students. As part of this process, students will learn how to take the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to major industries, enhancing their own knowledge base and employment potential.

As part of a national program, innovations, techniques or knowledge from one part of the country will be broadly shared, to help make U.S. industry more competitive around the world. Optimal manufacturing logistics and supply chains will also be a key part of the program.

“Recent growth in the College of Engineering has positioned OSU well to have a regional and national impact in smart manufacturing,” said Karl Haapala, an associate professor of manufacturing engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and an OSU co-principal investigator of this program.

“We have new faculty hires in such areas as sensor design and fabrication, new facility investments, and growing partnerships with major regional industries. OSU faculty are already undertaking leading research in advanced manufacturing, and this initiative will give us the ability to bring more of our work to the industries that can benefit from it, while giving our students the opportunity to gain experience working with industry.”

The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the Obama administration, federal officials said, as part of the progress toward 15 such institutes across the nation. They reported that after a decade of decline from 2000 to 2010, the U.S. manufacturing sector has added more than 800,000 jobs for the fourth year in a row.

Dozens of industry partners, local and state organizations, and academic partners and research institutes are part of these initiatives, as well as independent associations and scientific societies.

Story By: 
Source: 

Carlos Jensen, 541-737-2555

cjensen@eecs.oregonstate.edu

New technology could improve use of small-scale hydropower in developing nations

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have created a new computer modeling package that people anywhere in the world could use to assess the potential of a stream for small-scale, “run of river” hydropower, an option to produce electricity that’s of special importance in the developing world.

The system is easy to use; does not require data that is often unavailable in foreign countries or remote locations; and can consider hydropower potential not only now, but in the future as projected changes in climate and stream runoff occur.

OSU experts say that people, agencies or communities interested in the potential for small-scale hydropower development can much more easily and accurately assess whether it would meet their current and future energy needs.

Findings on the new assessment tool have been published in Renewable Energy, in work supported by the National Science Foundation.

“These types of run-of-river hydropower developments have a special value in some remote, mountainous regions where electricity is often scarce or unavailable,” said Kendra Sharp, the Richard and Gretchen Evans Professor in Humanitarian Engineering in the OSU College of Engineering.

“There are parts of northern Pakistan, for instance, where about half of rural homes don’t have access to electricity, and systems such as this are one of the few affordable ways to produce it. The strength of this system is that it will be simple for people to use, and it’s pretty accurate even though it can work with limited data on the ground.”

The new technology was field-tested at a 5-megawatt small-scale hydropower facility built in the early 1980s on Falls Creek in the central Oregon Cascade Range. At that site, it projected that future climate changes will shift its optimal electricity production from spring to winter and that annual hydropower potential will slightly decrease from the conditions that prevailed from 1980-2010.

Small-scale hydropower, researchers say, continues to be popular because it can be developed with fairly basic and cost-competitive technology, and does not require large dams or reservoirs to function. Although all forms of power have some environmental effects, this approach has less impact on fisheries or stream ecosystems than major hydroelectric dams. Hydroelectric power is also renewable and does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most basic approaches is diverting part of a stream into a holding basin, which contains a self-cleaning screen that prevents larger debris, insects, fish and objects from entering the system. The diverted water is then channeled to and fed through a turbine at a lower elevation before returning the water to the stream.

The technology is influenced by the seasonal variability of stream flow, the “head height,” or distance the water is able to drop, and other factors. Proper regulations to maintain minimum needed stream flow can help mitigate environmental impacts.

Most previous tools used to assess specific sites for their small-scale hydropower potential have not been able to consider the impacts of future changes in weather and climate, OSU researchers said, and are far too dependent on data that is often unavailable in developing nations.

This free, open source software program was developed by Thomas Mosier, who at the time was a graduate student at OSU, in collaboration with Sharp and David Hill, an OSU associate professor of coastal and ocean engineering. It is now available to anyone on request by contacting Kendra.sharp@oregonstate.edu

This system will allow engineers and policy makers to make better decisions about hydropower development and investment, both in the United States and around the world, OSU researchers said in the study.

Story By: 
Source: 

Kendra Sharp, 541-737-5246

kendra.sharp@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Small scale hydropower
Small scale hydropower

New program to help homeowners, businesses assess their earthquake risks

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Cascadia Lifelines Program, operated by Oregon State University and its lifeline infrastructure partners, has created a new online tool that anyone in Oregon can use to better identify the risks they face from a major earthquake anticipated on the Cascadia subduction zone.

Called the Oregon Hazard Explorer for Lifeline Program, or OHELP, the program is free to any individual, homeowner, agency, business or industry that wishes to use it.

The program provides basic information about risks from landslides, ground shaking and liquefaction at specific sites during a subduction zone earthquake - a massive, regional event that may reach magnitude 9 at some point in the Pacific Northwest’s future.

This initiative, officials say, is just one of several important accomplishments since the Cascadia Lifelines Program began three years ago, as a collaborative effort of OSU and its partners in industry, the state of Oregon and federal government agencies. It’s another sign of progress, they say, in the region’s long term preparation for a catastrophic disaster that’s seen as sure to come.

“The expected earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone is going to be the single largest natural disaster ever to face the United States,” said Scott Ashford, dean of the OSU College of Engineering and director of the Cascadia Lifelines Program.

“This event will likely be so severe, causing billions of dollars in damage, that it’s more than just a state or regional concern. It’s one we should be preparing for on a national level. The good news is that Oregon’s state government is now moving in the right direction. We’re starting to retrofit schools, and the awareness of the issue is growing. There’s just so much that needs to be done. This is a commitment that will take decades.”

OSU is taking a leadership role in providing some of the scientific research to help address the concerns, and OHELP is one of the latest results. It can be found online at the web site of the Cascadia Lifelines Program, at http://cascadia.oregonstate.edu/

This program can be used with four different scenarios of earthquake magnitude to predict localized impacts, experts say, and could help everyone from homeowners to hospitals or utility companies to evaluate the threats posed to structures, roads, pipelines, bridges, or anything else at risk.

“OHELP is an excellent first step in evaluating risks from a subduction zone earthquake,” Ashford said. “It’s free, and about all you need to obtain data is an address. For a more detailed and specific analysis, people may still need a consulting geologist. But we’re excited about the potential of this system to provide some important preliminary data.”

The Cascadia Lifelines Program was one of the region’s first efforts to begin preparation for a subduction zone earthquake, and as its name suggests, it focuses work on “lifelines” - the transportation, water, electricity and other infrastructure that will be most critical to recovery after an earthquake. Its goals are to help prepare for an earthquake, reduce loss of life, mitigate damage in the most cost-effective ways, and facilitate recovery after the event. Large amounts of Oregon infrastructure are particularly vulnerable because they were built before experts realized the future threat from subduction zone earthquakes.

The program has five regular members who will all contribute at least $125,000 to this initiative: the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, Bonneville Power Administration, Northwest Natural Gas and the Port of Portland. Associate members include the Eugene Water and Electric Board, Portland Water Bureau and the Tualatin Water District. More members are being sought.

The consortium’s recent progress has focused on these efforts:

  • OSU researchers have developed a low-cost method to protect masonry buildings with reinforcing steel that’s comparatively quick and affordable. This can be used with key infrastructure such as electric substations or water pumping station building facilities to improve their structural performance during an earthquake.
  • Concrete power poles are being tested for their performance under earthquake conditions to help determine whether they should be replaced or retrofitted.
  • Transportation systems and corridors are being studied to determine what routes are most likely to be impassable following an earthquake and where repairs or reinforcement would be most cost-effective.
  • Researchers are trying to more specifically determine the liquefaction potential of the Willamette silt, a thick and somewhat unique layer of sediments deposited by ancient floods that are partly clay, partly sand, and underlie most structures in the Willamette Valley.
  • A consortium decision to study risks facing underground pipeline systems.

“This has been an exceptionally successful program, and a great example of academia, government and private industry joining forces to tackle a major threat,” Ashford said. “Many of our stakeholders face common risks, and we’re trying to develop joint solutions that can be widely used.”

The program, Ashford said, will also complement the growing involvement of other state and federal agencies to build public awareness and response to these risks, such as the Cascadia Rising 2016 drill being organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to be held June 7-10.

The OSU College of Engineering is also sponsoring an engineering short course titled Cascadia Resilience on July 14-15. The course is designed for engineers and other professionals who want to learn more about Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes and tsunamis.

The last earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone occurred in January 1700. A magnitude 8.0 to 9.0 earthquake happens in this region about every 200 to 500 years.

-30-

Editor’s Note: Photographs, downloadable high resolution video and links to YouTube video are available to illustrate this story, and the link to OHELP can be found at the web page of the Cascadia Lifelines Program

Cascadia Lifelines Program downloadable video links. 
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_nEpHVYyPtpWjlrX205VFpMenc&usp=sharing

Cascadia Lifelines Program viewable links.Interview with Scott Ashford
https://youtu.be/6WVuCHbQ4w8

OSU research lab testing utility poles and brick walls.
https://youtu.be/ppuV5rzkEL8


Geotechnical Extreme Event Reconnaissance to Tohoku earthquake (Japan), March 26 to April 1, 2011.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GviJkVEMfwQ

Story By: 
Source: 

Scott Ashford, 541-737-5232

scott.ashford@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Sinking structures
Earthquake liquefaction

“Community solar” systems may add savings to local, cooperative energy projects

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Part of the future of solar energy, especially for residential use, may be small “community-based” systems in which neighbors join together in the construction and use of solar systems to optimize the energy produced in their neighborhood – and share in the benefits.

New research by engineers at Oregon State University indicate that an optimal development of neighborhood solar energy might increase the total electricity produced by 5-10 percent, a significant gain by the standards of solar energy efficiency. At the same time, it can reduce the variability and unpredictability of the solar resource.

With this approach, the use of various rooftops and land used for solar energy production may vary from house to house, depending upon such issues as the home’s orientation, roof slope and shading from trees or other structures. Quite simply, some structures lend themselves better than others to solar energy.

“An approach such as this makes the most sense in a neighborhood where there’s a lot of variation in terms of sun and shadow, and the orientation of buildings,” said Mahmoud Shakouri, a doctoral candidate in the OSU College of Engineering.

“The conventional approach to residential solar energy is to look at each home as an individual package, building its own solar system whether or not that’s a good location. But by grouping 10 or 20 houses in a neighborhood, all of whose owners are interested in solar energy, we can optimize the use and placement of solar panels and let everyone share in the savings.”

The idea has been considered for some time, Shakouri said, but failed to generate much headway in the United States due to limited interest in solar energy, high initial costs, and tax credits or incentives that fail to recognize this approach to optimizing the solar resource.

Findings on this issue have been published recently in the journals of Applied Energy and Data in Brief, and a “decision support model” has been created that homeowners could use to help consider the best options for their neighborhood. Free software to help implement such a strategy is also available from the U.S. Department of Energy. Collaborating on this research was Hyun Woo Lee at the University of Washington.

Initial solar installations can be expensive, making it all the more important to maximize the long-term output of the systems. But such systems are also durable and pollution free, usually with a performance guarantee of up to 25 years, using a technology that produces no greenhouse gases.

Residential energy use is also a big-ticket item – in the United States, the building sector accounts for 40 percent of total energy consumption, and residential buildings consume more than half of the energy in the building sector. By 2035, the federal government estimates that 74 percent of the energy consumed in residences will be in the form of electricity, even as two thirds of the nation’s electricity is still produced by coal or natural gas that are helping to cause global warming.

The new approach developed at OSU, Shakouri said, actually borrows formulas from economic theory. This approach has long been used in the stock market in the form of portfolio investment, to maximize profit while reducing risks. Given the high initial cost of some solar systems – averaging about $20,000 for a 4 kilowatt residential system – reducing risk is of considerable value to many people interested in the technology.

Studies done at OSU included a case study of collaborative solar energy among 24 homes in a neighborhood in Corvallis, Ore., which has sunny summers but often-cloudy and rainy winters, not exactly the nation’s best bet in terms of solar energy production. Even there, this approach increased the annual electricity output of the homes by 4.6 percent and reduced the volatility in electrical output by 4.3 percent.

Use of approaches such as this may become more common as the efficiency of solar technology improves, more people become aware of its potential, and legislation or policies are changed to better enable community solar projects, researchers say. More work is also needed to determine how to contractually share expenses, profits and benefits among cooperating neighbors.

Story By: 
Source: 

Mahmoud Shakouri

shakourm@oregonstate.edu

 

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Bayview Home
Residential solar energy