college of engineering

Engineers create a better way to boil water – with industrial, electronics applications

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have found a new way to induce and control boiling bubble formation, that may allow everything from industrial-sized boilers to advanced electronics to work better and last longer.

Advances in this technology have been published in Scientific Reports and a patent application filed. 

The concept could be useful in two ways, researchers say – either to boil water and create steam more readily, like in a boiler or a clothing iron; or with a product such as an electronics device to release heat more readily while working at a cooler temperature.

“One of the key limitations for electronic devices is the heat they generate, and something that helps dissipate that heat will help them operate at faster speeds and prevent failure,” said Chih-hung Chang, a professor of chemical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering. “The more bubbles you can generate, the more cooling you can achieve. 

“On the other hand, if you want to create steam at a lower surface temperature, this approach should be very useful in boilers and improve their efficiency. We’ve already shown that it can be done on large surfaces and should be able to scale up in size to commercial use.”

The new approach is based on the use of piezoelectric inkjet printing to create hydrophobic polymer “dots” on a substrate, and then deposit a hydrophilic zinc oxide nanostructure on top of that. The zinc oxide nanostructure only grows in the area without dots. By controlling both the hydrophobic and hydrophilic structure of the material, bubble formation can be precisely controlled and manipulated for the desired goal. 

This technology allows researchers to control both boiling and condensation processes, as well as spatial bubble nucleation sites, bubble onset and departure frequency, heat transfer coefficient and critical heat flux for the first time.

In electronics, engineers say this technology may have applications with some types of solar energy, advanced lasers, radars, and power electronics – anywhere it’s necessary to dissipate high heat levels. 

In industry, a significant possibility is more efficient operation of the steam boilers used to produce electricity in large electric generating facilities.

This work was supported by the OSU Venture Development Fund and the Scalable Nanomanufacturing Program of the National Science Foundation.

Story By: 

Chih-hung Chang, 541-737-8548 or changch@che.orst.edu

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Researchers at Oregon State University use new technology to control the formation and release of bubbles. Here that technology is illustrateewith the letters "OSU" printed on a substrate.

Bubble control

New type of cement could offer environmental protection, lower cost

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If widely adopted, a new approach to making cement could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, help address global warming, produce a more durable concrete, and save industry time and significant costs.     

The findings of a recent study show great potential for a type of cement that gains strength through carbonation, rather than the use of water. Concrete made with this cement also appears to better resist some of the most common de-icing salts that can lead to failure and dramatically reduce the lifespan of roads.

The research was published in Construction and Building Materials, by engineers from Oregon State University, Purdue University and Solidia Technologies. This work was supported in part by Solidia Technologies, which licensed core technology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 

“Instead of water reacting with cement, this carbonated cement reacts with carbon dioxide and calcium silicate,” said Jason Weiss, the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in the OSU College of Engineering.

“This new product at first blush looks like conventional concrete, but it has properties that should make it last longer in some applications,” Weiss said. “In addition, use of it could reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which is an important goal of the cement industry.” 

Crude cement was used by the Egyptians to build the pyramids, improved during the time of the Roman Empire, and reached its modern form around 180 years ago. When used to make concrete – a combination of cement, sand and crushed rock - it’s one of the most proven building materials in human history.

This is actually part of the problem – concrete works so well, for so many uses, that 2-4 tons per year are produced for every person on Earth. It’s popular, plentiful, cost effective, and research is continuing to reduce its environmental impact. Production of the cement used in concrete is believed to be responsible for 5-8 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide, largely just because so much concrete is used. 

The cement industry has committed itself to the goal of cutting those emissions in half, and this new approach might help. Beyond that, the new research shows the ability of this “carbonated calcium silicate-based cement,” or CCSC, to be far more resistant to degradation from deicing salts such as sodium chloride and magnesium chloride.

“In places where deicing salts are routinely used, they can cause damage to roadways that cost about $1 million a mile to fix, and can reduce a 40-year lifespan of a surface to as little as 8-10 years,” Weiss said. “By using a type of cement that requires carbon dioxide to make, and in turn greatly extend the lifespan of some roads, the environmental benefits could be enormous.” 

These products are just now being developed and tested, Weiss said, and some obstacles exist to their widespread, global use. New construction codes and standards would need to be developed. However, the new approach has already been adapted to existing raw materials, formulas and equipment.

Some of the first uses of these products, Weiss said, will be in pre-cast concrete products that can be created in a factory and transported to where they are needed. More ambitious and widespread use of the new approach may take longer. Other technologies, such as topical treatments to resist deicing salts, or the use of waste products to produce supplemental cements, may gain earlier use to address some of these issues. 

In the latest research, the new CCSC concrete was shown not to react with deicing chemicals in the way that conventional concrete does. Such chemicals can cause a serious and premature deterioration in concrete pavements, even if the concrete does not experience freezing and thawing.

Story By: 

Jason Weiss, 541-737-1885 or Jason.weiss@oregonstate.edu

Culture, crowding and social influence all tied to aggressive driving behavior

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A study of angry, competitive and aggressive driving suggests that these dangerous behaviors are becoming a worldwide phenomenon of almost epidemic proportions, and are a reflection of a person’s surrounding culture, both on the road and on a broader social level.

The research was done with drivers in China where competitive driving is very common. It concluded that such behavior is more pronounced in men than in women, and is partly a reaction to overcrowded road networks. The study also implies that different social conditions might ultimately translate into better drivers. 

The findings have been published in Procedia Engineering by researchers from Oregon State University, the Beijing University of Technology, and the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China. It was supported by the Beijing Municipal Education Commission.

At its worst, aggressive driving can be seen as “road rage” leading to serious or fatal accidents. In lesser forms it is viewed as “competitive” behavior that includes speeding, crowding or lane-hopping that drivers often use to gain a few minutes in an urban rush hour. In all its variations, this behavior is a problem that appears to be increasing. The American Automobile Association estimated that 56 percent of accidents involve aggressive driving. 

“China is a good place to study competitive driving because it’s very common there,” said Haizhong Wang, an assistant professor of transportation engineering in the OSU College of Engineering. “Roads are overcrowded, there’s less traffic control, and many drivers are younger or have little training or experience.”

The problems in China as it becomes increasingly crowded with drivers, however, reflect similar concerns at varying levels around the world, Wang said. Urban areas and road networks are becoming more crowded and congested. Research such as this may help to better understand the underlying human and psychological behaviors that come into play. 

In this analysis, the researchers concluded that drivers in congested situations generally believed that the chaotic traffic state was responsible for their competitive behavior, and they had no option other than to compete for space, the right-of-way, and gain advantages through speed and spacing. In simple terms, it was right and proper that they should try to keep up with or get ahead of traffic; that was the example being set for them, and they drove that way because everyone else did.

However, the study also suggested that “personality traits draw on and are influenced by aspects of one’s social environment.” The researchers said in their report that this indicates some countries and cultures may be more susceptible due to their social environment, and that improvements in that arena would also be seen in driving behavior. 

“The choice to be competitive versus cooperative always starts with culture, by the influences around us and the way other people behave,” Wang said. “And it’s clear there’s a role for education and experience, where studies have shown the value of young drivers participating in driver education programs and receiving positive guidance from their parents and peers.”

Part of the concerns in China at the moment, Wang said, may evolve from many new drivers just in the past 20 years who drive in a very challenging environment. But, as a developing nation which until recently had comparatively few automobiles, China doesn’t have generations of experience and support systems to draw upon. The result is a high level of accidents, injuries and fatalities. 

As more areas around the world see increasing traffic congestion, Wang said, part of the psychological challenge will be to retain a sense of personal responsibility, avoid mimicking dangerous behaviors of other drivers, and strive for a level of tolerance, courtesy and personal cooperation essential for safe driving.

Story By: 

Haizhong Wang, 541-737-8538 or Haizhong.wang@oregonstate.edu; Jianjun Shi, +86-13801380862, jjshi@bjut.edu.cn

OSU Alumni Association grants high honors to three

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Oregon State University Alumni Association has selected two alumni, Jen-Hsun Huang and Pamela Knowles, and one great friend of the university, Allyn Ford, to be honored on April 22 at a celebration on campus.

The E.B. Lemon Distinguished Alumni Award will go to Huang, a 1984 engineering graduate who is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of NVIDIA. The award, named for an alumnus, teacher, dean and volunteer leader who gave more than 70 years of service to the university, honors those who exemplify the service, generosity and success epitomized by its namesake.

NVIDIA is a global technology company that designs and manufactures graphics processing units for a wide variety of platforms, and is known as a pioneer and world leader in visual computing. The company has 9,100 employees worldwide. Titan, the world’s fastest supercomputer, is one of its recent projects.

In 2015, Harvard Business Review named Huang the fourth-best performing chief executive officer in the world in his field. He has a master’s degree from Stanford University and received an honorary doctorate from OSU in 2009, when he gave the commencement address. He and his wife, Lori Mills Huang, a 1985 OSU graduate in engineering, have made numerous philanthropic contributions to the university and to many other institutions.

The Joan Austin Honorary Alumni Award will go to Allyn Ford of Roseburg, chief executive officer of family-owned Roseburg Forest Products. Established in 2005, the award recognizes a person whose actions in support of the university have demonstrated that he or she is truly a beaver at heart.

Ford, who has an industrial engineering degree from Yale University and a masters of business administration from Stanford University, has been a staunch supporter of the OSU College of Forestry since at least the early 1980s, donating time and other resources to help keep the college an international leader in the development of sustainable forestry and wood products manufacturing practices.

He also serves on the board of The Ford Family Foundation, one of Oregon’s most generous providers of support for rural communities and need-based scholarships for students who show great promise but have limited means. He and his family have had a broad impact on many OSU initiatives.

The Jean and C.H. “Scram” Graham Leadership Award will go to Portland’s Pamela Knowles, a 1977 liberal arts graduate. Named for a former alumni director and his wife, who worked and volunteered on behalf of the association and OSU for most of their lives, the award honors individuals who give exemplary service to the alumni association.

An attorney, Knowles is a former member of the OSUAA board of directors and treasurer of the association. She serves on the Portland School Board and has been chief operating officer of the Portland Business Alliance, a partner in the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm and executive director for industry relations for the OSU College of Business.

Story By: 

Kate Sanders, 541-737-7916

Eight Oregon State engineering faculty earn $4.3 million in top awards

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Eight young faculty members in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have received $4.3 million in prestigious awards for their teaching or research initiatives.

Six faculty received National Science Foundation CAREER awards totaling $3.3 million, which support young faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and excellent education. Two other faculty received awards totaling $1 million through the Office of Naval Research Young Investigators Program, which are made to junior faculty showing exceptional promise for creative research.

The recipients of NSF CAREER awards include:

  • Ravi Balasubramanian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, for his research proposal, “Restoring Musculoskeletal Function by Designing Implantable Passive Mechanisms.”
  • Daniel Dig, assistant professor of computer science, for his research proposal, “Program Analysis and Transformations of Asynchrony.”
  • Devlin Montfort, assistant professor of environmental engineering, for his research proposal, “Personal Epistemology in Engineering Education.”
  • Arun Natarajan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, for his research proposal, “Scalable MIMO Spatial Filtering and Synchronization for Heterogeneous Wireless Networks.”
  • Stephen Ramsey, assistant professor of computer science and biomedical sciences, for his research proposal, “Deciphering the human regulome: omics-based analysis of intergenic genotype-to-trait associations, made accessible and powerful.”
  • Karl Schilke, assistant professor of bioengineering, for his research proposal, “High-Density Non-Fouling Bioactive Coatings for Processing of Biological Fluids.”

The 2016 ONR Young Investigators include:

  • David Blunck, assistant professor of thermal-fluid science, for his research proposal, “Ignition, Deflagration and Detonation Behavior of Fuel and Oxidizer Mixed with Combustion Products.”
  • Yiğit Mengüç, assistant professor of robotics, for his research proposal, “Soft Marine Robotics with Cephalopod-Inspired Dynamic Motion Primitives and Electroactive Fluidic Sensing and Actuation.”
Media Contact: 



Krista Klinkhammer, 541-737-4416



OSU joins tech leaders in developing standard for the “Internet of Things”

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University has joined the world’s technology leaders — including LG, Microsoft, and Qualcomm — to advance the collaborative development of the “Internet of Things.”

The “Internet of Things” is a network of devices that exchange information — anything from sensors in public and private buildings to full-scale “smart cities.” The number of connected devices is predicted to increase by another 30 percent in 2016, according to Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company. 

In order for all of these devices to connect and communicate seamlessly there needs to be a common underlying technology. OSU is part of the AllSeen Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 companies and technical supporters that develop standard interfaces for “Internet of Things” projects.

Officials at the OSU College of Engineering’s Center for Applied Systems and Software, or CASS, became interested in the “Internet of Things” as a key technology for student employees to master. The center’s expertise in open source technologies — source code that is open to the public to improve and change — was the basis for the collaboration with the AllSeen Alliance. That group’s primary software is an open-source framework called AllJoyn that allows devices and apps to communicate with one another.

CASS will run tests for AllJoyn, verify that all functions run correctly before each quarterly release cycle, and practice to adjust to new tools and requirements. This project will provide the student employees an opportunity to work with cutting edge software which will be deployed to millions of devices.

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098


OSU receives grant to expand research in computational sustainability

CORVALLIS, Ore. – With a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at Oregon State University are partnering with 11 other universities and organizations to expand computer science research on projects that impact sustainability.

OSU and Cornell University are the lead institutions on this initiative, which includes projects related to conservation, poverty mitigation and renewable energy. The five-year award is a renewal of a previous grant that sparked research at OSU in wildfire management, precision agriculture, and bird migration modeling.

“Not only are there really interesting computational problems related to how we can save the planet, but it’s our duty to study these problems,” said Tom Dietterich, a distinguished professor of computer science in the OSU College of Engineering and a principal investigator on the grant.

The institutions involved in the grant form a large community of computer science experts, called CompSustNet, to serve as a resource for other researchers studying sustainability issues. CompSustNet will be a virtual research lab, including educational, community building, and outreach activities to ensure that advanced computational technology is routinely incorporated into sustainability projects.

The research at OSU includes experiments to maximize energy production of microbial fuel cells; a project that places weather sensors across Africa to form a network that aids small farmers; and modeling species migration to protect the migratory paths of endangered birds.

“OSU has long been a leader in sustainability-related fields such as ecological science and natural resource management,” Dietterich said. “We’re building on that strength and reputation to be a leader in studying the computational sides of those questions.”

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098


OSU recognizes climate scientist, computer expert with Distinguished Professor awards

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named Peter Clark and Margaret Burnett as its 2016 Distinguished Professor recipients, the highest academic honor the university can bestow on a faculty member.

 “Both Peter Clark and Margaret Burnett are visionary scientists whose careers are affecting people all over the world,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president.

“The work of Dr. Clark is cutting-edge science that helps everyone better understand what climate change may mean to them, using the past as a powerful guide to help predict the future. And we live in a world where computers are pervasive, used by everyone from elementary school students to retirees. An expert in visual programming languages, Dr. Burnett has made those instruments more user-friendly, interactive and dependable for all people.”

Burnett, a professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, has been a pioneer in making computers more useful for everyone. As a leader in several gender diversity activities, including advancing STEM education, Burnett was awarded the 2015 undergraduate research mentoring award from the National Center for Women & IT.

She helped develop the entire field of “end user” software engineering, which allows millions more people to successfully produce computer programs that are dependable and of high quality. Burnett has also tackled the problem of a computer world in which software is often designed by men and fails to acknowledge the different ways in which men and women communicate and process information.

This field of “gender-inclusive” computer study is also critical in bringing more women into technology, a goal which Burnett has worked toward for decades. She is an award-winning mentor to graduate, undergraduate and high school students.

Burnett received her doctorate in computer science from the University of Kansas and has been at OSU since 1992.

Clark, a professor in the OSU College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, is an international leader in the study of past climate change to help understand what the future may bring. He has had numerous studies published in the most prestigious academic journals in the world, such as Science, Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Clark also was a lead coordinating author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With more than $4 million in research funding brought to OSU, Clark has studied glaciers and ice sheets, both those of today and from the distant past, to help determine what may be the long-term impacts of anthropogenic warming, rising greenhouse gases, and sea level rise. He’s also an award-winning teacher, recipient of 11 other major awards, has organized 20 symposia, and his professional work has generated literally thousands of citations.

Clark received his doctorate in geology from the University of Colorado and has been at OSU since 1988.

This honor will be permanent as long as the recipient remains at OSU. Both professors will give public lectures this spring on topics related to their field of study.

Story By: 

Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-0733

OSU joins national cybersecurity consortium

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University researchers have been awarded $1.5 million as part of a new consortium to help protect the nation’s electric grid from cyber threats.

Eleven universities and national laboratories are part of the Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium, a $22.5 million, five-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and led by the University of Illinois.

“Cybersecurity is one of the most serious challenges facing grid modernization, which is why maintaining a robust, ever-growing pipeline of cutting-edge technologies is essential to helping the energy sector continue adapting to the evolving landscape,” said Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary for the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

OSU has growing expertise in the field of cybersecurity. The interdisciplinary team members who will work with this project specialize in power systems, cybersecurity and applied cryptography. Research will focus on projects such as preventing manipulation of sensors and devices on the power grid that could lead to cascading power outages.

“Being part of the consortium offers us more opportunities for collaboration and helps us transition our research into industry applications,” said Rakesh Bobba, an assistant professor of computer science in the OSU College of Engineering.

Organizers of the consortium say they hope to work with industry partners who will sustain the costs of research beyond the initial five years of funding.

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Study to examine smoldering combustion in wildfires

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Following one of the worst U.S. wildfire seasons on record, researchers at Oregon State University have been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study the impacts of smoldering combustion.

This type of combustion produces no visible flame but can emit higher amounts of pollutants than flaming combustion. It can impact soil productivity, flora survival rates, air quality and public health in municipalities located many miles from fires.

The five-year project could lead to development of tools that firefighters, climate scientists, foresters and others could use to predict and prevent smoldering, manage controlled burns, and calculate potential pollution emissions based on geographic location, fuel types, moisture levels and other factors. The research might also contribute to basic fire prevention methods – including household fires.

"During a fire event, smoldering combustion can be responsible for most of the carbon monoxide, methane, volatile organic compounds and fine particulate matter released, and it can contribute substantially to carbon emissions," said David Blunck, a professor of mechanical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, who is one collaborator on the research.

Currently, fire managers have no tools to predict how or where smoldering combustion might ignite, how deep it will burn, the amount of pollutants emitted or what the impacts will be on the surrounding environment. Most past work has been done on flaming combustion.

"We will look at a wide range of ecosystems, fuel types, moisture levels and more in order to understand what ignites, controls and is emitted from smoldering combustion," Blunck said. "We're looking at the underlying physics – fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, heat transfer and chemistry, because combustion involves the intersection of all those."

As climate conditions become drier, it's easier for fires to ignite, he said, so the researchers want to understand the hidden variables at the molecular level that influence combustion, so it can be prevented or controlled.

Media Contact: 

Gregg Kleiner


David Blunck, 541-737-7095