OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of engineering

Interactive “Beaver BarCamp” conference planned at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Beaver BarCamp 14, an informal conference where participants can explore anything from science to art, technology, food, culture or other topics, will be held Saturday, April 12, at Oregon State University.

The free event is open to the public, and will be held at the Kelley Engineering Center on the OSU campus from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is hosted by the Open Source Lab at OSU, and sponsored by Rackspace.

Session topics at Beaver BarCamp are not predetermined. Anyone can propose their own session based on a project, hobby or research area, or join a session that interests them. Past sessions have included coffee roasting, green computing, Google App Engine, compressed air vehicles and yoga.

The open format provides a collaborative environment that promotes audience participation through discussions, demonstrations or projects. Session planning and scheduling begins at 9:30 a.m. and the first session starts at 10:30 a.m. Registration at http://beaverbarcamp.org is encouraged but not required.

The Open Source Lab, which provides host and support services to more than 160 open source projects, will also have information sessions at Beaver BarCamp for those who are interested in learning more about the Open Source Lab and opportunities to become involved.

The Beaver BarCamp has been a biannual event for the last six years. In the future the Open Source Lab will host it as an annual event with more outreach to the community.

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By Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

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Lance Albertson, 541-737-9975

Keck Foundation supports innovative materials research

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The W.M. Keck Foundation has made a $1 million grant to Oregon State University to study new types of materials that can change shape when exposed to light, and might create an innovative way to store hydrogen.

The research will be done in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at OSU and the Department of Chemistry at Ohio University.

“We’re excited about the possible applications of these materials,” said Brady Gibbons, an OSU associate professor of mechanical engineering. “They can absorb and store hydrogen like a sponge, but also squeeze themselves when light shines on them.”

This could make the materials useful to store hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cells are one of the most promising technologies for automobiles of the future – producing only water as a byproduct when they generate electricity – but storage of the hydrogen is a primary challenge in meeting auto industry requirements.

Other applications may include gas separation, carbon dioxide capture, environmental monitoring and solar energy conversion and storage.

The shape change in the materials is caused by photoisomerization.

“Photoisomerization is very common, it’s the chemical process that our eyes use to see,” said Alex Greaney, the principal investigator and an OSU assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “We hope to design materials that can harness the process in a directed way, to create light-driven changes in shape, porosity or properties."

Other collaborators are professors Rob Stone and Irem Tumer from the OSU College of Engineering and professor Jeffrey Rack from Ohio University.

The grant to Oregon State comes as part of The Campaign for OSU. University leaders announced in January that campaign donors had pushed the campaign past its $1 billion goal with 11 months to spare, making OSU one of only 35 public universities to achieve the billion-dollar milestone in a campaign.

 

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Brady Gibbons, 541-737-2427

FIRST robotics competition planned at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The FIRST Robotics Competition for high school students across Oregon will be held Friday and Saturday, April 4-5, at Oregon State University. It is free and open to the public.

The event at Gill Coliseum will feature robots built by students, in which teams of three robots compete in various games. The best opportunities to see the competitive games will be Saturday between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Students spend six weeks designing, building and testing robots for this competition, and will be available to interact with and answer questions from the public.

FIRST, or “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” is an organization that runs robotic events for grade school through high school students. More information can be obtained at http://www.usfirst.org

Organizers of the program say that FIRST participants are significantly more likely to attend college and major in science or engineering.

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OSU announces leadership transition in College of Engineering

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scott Ashford, head of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University, was today appointed dean of OSU’s College of Engineering.

The appointment of Ashford, who is the Kearney Professor of Engineering at OSU, is effective immediately. He previously served as interim dean of the college in 2011-12. Ashford succeeds Sandra Woods, who will remain a tenured OSU professor.

Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president, announced the leadership transition on Friday.

“Oregon State University is fully committed to the success of the College of Engineering, its faculty, staff and students, and to building upon the excellent teaching, research and industry collaborations for which the college has long been recognized,” Randhawa said.

“I am confident that Scott Ashford will provide the leadership needed to advance the strategic direction and priorities of the college,” Randhawa added. “Going forward, it is essential to build a leadership team within the college that shares a sense of direction and purpose.”

Ashford, who is an alumnus of OSU, joined the engineering faculty in 2007. His research focus has been on enhancing public safety and reducing economic loss from earthquakes, tsunamis and coastal hazards. He helped create the Cascadia Lifeline Program to help Oregon businesses, governments and utilities prepare for a major earthquake and possible tsunami.

After working in private industry for seven years – mostly with CH2M-HILL – Ashford earned his Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley. He was on the faculties of the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand for two years, and the University of California-San Diego for 11 years, before returning to OSU.

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Steve Clark, 503-502-8217; steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

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Scott Ashford
Scott Ashford

Innovative program producing needed computer science graduates

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An online computer science degree program at Oregon State University – the only one of its type in the nation designed specifically for post-baccalaureate students – has grown rapidly, helping to address a national shortage of computer science graduates.

Although it was launched only 18 months ago by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, by the end of this year the program will allow the school to double the number of its computer science graduates with a bachelor’s degree.

Developed in collaboration with OSU’s highly ranked Ecampus, the program allows students with a bachelor’s degree in another field to complete a degree in as little as 12 months because no general education courses are required. Many students choose a slower pace, however, and the courses are geared to people with no computer science experience.

The program has attracted students with a broad range of previous degrees including accounting, chemistry, engineering, history, journalism, law, psychology, and political science; 39 percent of the students come with backgrounds in humanities and social sciences. The online format allows individuals juggling work and family an easier way to go back to school.

According to a recent survey by the Technology Councils of North America, the entire nation is experiencing a shortage of people trained in computer science. Two-thirds of technology company executives in North America agreed there is a talent shortage, and the crisis is particularly acute in Oregon where 86 percent of executives reported there is a shortage of talent in a survey conducted by the Technology Association of Oregon.

A key strategy in the 2014 Oregon Business Plan is to better connect education with high-paying jobs in science and technology fields, including computer science.

Although the 755 students admitted to the online program are from all over the world, more than half of them are from Oregon, Washington and California, and 23 percent now live in Oregon.

“OSU’s one-year online degree program in computer science is working to help fill some of the gaps by offering students and professionals a flexible way to obtain valuable skills and increase their marketability within the local tech industry,” said Skip Newberry, president of the Technology Association of Oregon.

It’s also making a personal impact on individuals. With an established career in business and two small children, Bental Wong said he would not have been able to return to school to carry out his dream of becoming a software engineer, if it had not been for the flexibility of this program. After completing the program in a year, Wong immediately had three job offers and is now part of a small team at Hewlett Packard in Vancouver, Wash., creating innovative software for HP printers.

“It’s so rewarding to hear about the successes of our students,” said Terri Fiez, head of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We are proud of the impact this program is having on the lives of our students and the tech industry.”

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Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

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Terri Fiez, 541-737-3118

OSU students create light-up dance suits

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Thanks to three Oregon State University students and the university’s new Collaboratory program, the Utah Ballroom Dance Company will be lighting up the stage on their next tour with dance suits made with electroluminescent wire.

As seen on shows like “America’s Got Talent,” the troupe will incorporate the light strings into their choreography for a hip hop and Latin fusion dance. Although other dance groups have developed their own light-up devices controlled wirelessly by computer, no one has made them broadly available.

The company was able to turn to the OSU Collaboratory to develop a prototype for the suits they wanted. The program began this year with seed funding from the Tektronix Foundation, which has long helped provide OSU students with work-relevant experiences. In this initiative, student interns are employed in small teams to work on a specific project. Industry clients, including Tektronix and Texas Instruments, provide mentorship.

Jesse Maher, production manager for the Utah Ballroom Dance Company, was happy with the student’s results.

“Working with the Collaboratory was incredible,” Maher said. “They were professional and took the time to really understand my vision and needs. The best part was they were as excited as I was to be creating our own take on this concept.”

Electrical and computer engineering students Brian Benevidez, Chelsea Collette, and Tuan Truong completed the project for the Utah Ballroom Company over the summer but wanted to take it a step further. They launched a Kickstarter project called Electric Feel and are attempting to raise $10,000 in 30 days. Kickstarter is a platform to raise funds for independent projects in which backers pledge money that will be funded only if the monetary target is reached by the deadline.

“The fact that you could potentially see this as a consumer product was really exciting,” said Truong.

Don Heer, instructor for the Collaboratory, said the program is experiencing rapid growth as more companies discover its versatility. “Tapping young minds like those at OSU can help any company create new and vital products and services,” Heer said.

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Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

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Don Heer, 541-737-2978

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Dance outfit

Light-up dance outfit

Interactive “Beaver BarCamp” conference planned at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The 12th semiannual Beaver BarCamp, an informal conference where participants can explore anything from science to art, technology, food, art, culture or other topics, will be held Saturday, Oct. 12, at Oregon State University.

The event, which is hosted by the Open Source Lab at OSU, is free and open to the public. It will be at the Kelley Engineering Center on the OSU campus from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and will include presentations by the Corvallis Bicycle Collective, executive in residence Bob Mayes, and Open Source Lab director Lance Albertson.

Introductory science topics will be offered for high school students and interested community members, and participants can attend any portion of the day. A continental breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack will be provided.

Most sessions at Beaver BarCamp are not predetermined. It allows sharing of ideas and projects, discussions, demos and interaction among attendees, who both provide the sessions and choose the schedule. Anyone can participate in sessions throughout the day or propose their own, based on a project, hobby or research interest. More information is available online at http://beaverbarcamp.org

The Open Source Lab, which provides host and support services to more than 160 open source projects, will also have information sessions at Beaver BarCamp for those who are interested in learning more about the Open Source Lab and opportunities to become involved.

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Growth in licensing and industry funding spurs research at Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University recorded its best year ever in technology licensing – nearly triple what it earned just five years ago – during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30. Combined with continued growth in funding from private industry, the increase cushioned a nearly 13 percent decline in federal funding stemming largely from budget cuts known as sequestration.

Oregon State research grants and contracts totaled almost $263 million last year, just shy of its fiscal year 2009 level. Meanwhile, OSU received a record $7.7 million in licensing and royalty income. Private sector financing reached nearly $36 million, a 65 percent increase over the past five years, as calculated on an annual basis.

“Licenses are a measure of how effective we are in helping industry turn research into marketable products,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at Oregon State. “Companies in the electronics, chemical processing and natural resources industries are looking to OSU for innovations to help them compete.”

“By licensing the results of our research, they are increasing their value in the marketplace and creating jobs in Oregon,” Spinrad added.

In the last year, OSU signed 88 new licenses with organizations in the fields of information technology, agriculture, industrial materials, biotechnology, forest products, healthy aging and manufacturing.

Oregon State’s statewide role in stimulating economic development stems from research and begins when scientists file notices known as invention disclosures with the university’s Research Office. In 2013, they filed more such notices, 80, than ever before.

It was also a record year for new start-up companies to license OSU technology. Among them were: CSD Nano of Corvallis, which sells a high-performance, anti-reflective coating to increase the performance of solar cells; OilEx Tech of Monmouth, producer of a microwave oil extraction device; NW Medical Isotopes of Corvallis, which offers a domestic option for production of a medically critical isotope, molybdenum-99; and Online Labs of Corvallis, which provides a virtual online chemistry laboratory experience for high school and college students.

The federal government provided more than 58 percent of Oregon State’s research grants and contracts from all sources in FY13, compared to almost 63 percent in FY12. Among the university’s largest federal grants in FY13 were:

  • Nearly $4.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for ocean wave energy research at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center;
  • A $3.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study and avoid threats from wildfire, drought and disease to western forests;
  • A $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development for a worldwide program of aquaculture and fisheries research;
  • Nearly $3 million from the National Science Foundation for design and coordination of construction for up to three new coastal research vessels to bolster the nation’s marine science capabilities;
  • A $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for investigation of a diatom-based biorefinery.

Funding from state and local governments grew 46 percent in fiscal year 2013 to a total of $7.8 million. Revenue from industrial testing services grew by 25 percent to $11.8 million.

With more than $53 million in grants and contracts, the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences brought in OSU’s largest share of research funding, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences ($40 million) and the College of Engineering ($30 million).

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0664

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Dying trees
Tree species across the West face threats to their ability to survive. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

osu_rcrv_stbd fwd hd
Architect's rendering of a coastal research vessel. (Drawing courtesy of Oregon State University)

Electronics advance moves closer to a world beyond silicon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have made a significant advance in the function of metal-insulator-metal, or MIM diodes, a technology premised on the assumption that the speed of electrons moving through silicon is simply too slow.

For the extraordinary speed envisioned in some future electronics applications, these innovative diodes solve problems that would not be possible with silicon-based materials as a limiting factor.

The new diodes consist of a “sandwich” of two metals, with two insulators in between, to form “MIIM” devices. This allows an electron not so much to move through materials as to tunnel through insulators and appear almost instantaneously on the other side. It’s a fundamentally different approach to electronics.

The newest findings, published in Applied Physics Letters, have shown that the addition of a second insulator can enable “step tunneling,” a situation in which an electron may tunnel through only one of the insulators instead of both. This in turn allows precise control of diode asymmetry, non-linearity, and rectification at lower voltages.

“This approach enables us to enhance device operation by creating an additional asymmetry in the tunnel barrier,” said John F. Conley, Jr., a professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “It gives us another way to engineer quantum mechanical tunneling and moves us closer to the real applications that should be possible with this technology.”

OSU scientists and engineers, who only three years ago announced the creation of the first successful, high-performance MIM diode, are international leaders in this developing field. Conventional electronics based on silicon materials are fast and inexpensive, but are reaching the top speeds possible using those materials. Alternatives are being sought.

More sophisticated microelectronic products could be possible with the MIIM diodes – not only improved liquid crystal displays, cell phones and TVs, but such things as extremely high-speed computers that don’t depend on transistors, or “energy harvesting” of infrared solar energy, a way to produce energy from the Earth as it cools during the night.

MIIM diodes could be produced on a huge scale at low cost, from inexpensive and environmentally benign materials. New companies, industries and high-tech jobs may ultimately emerge from advances in this field, OSU researchers say.

The work by Conley and OSU doctoral student Nasir Alimardani has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

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John Conley, 541-737-9874

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MIIM diode

MIIM diode

Pass the salt: Common condiment could enable new high-tech industry

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Chemists at Oregon State University have identified a compound that could significantly reduce the cost and potentially enable the mass commercial production of silicon nanostructures – materials that have huge potential in everything from electronics to biomedicine and energy storage.

This extraordinary compound is called table salt.

Simple sodium chloride, most frequently found in a salt shaker, has the ability to solve a key problem in the production of silicon nanostructures, researchers just announced in Scientific Reports, a professional journal.

By melting and absorbing heat at a critical moment during a “magnesiothermic reaction,” the salt prevents the collapse of the valuable nanostructures that researchers are trying to create. The molten salt can then be washed away by dissolving it in water, and it can be recycled and used again.

The concept, surprising in its simplicity, should open the door to wider use of these remarkable materials that have stimulated scientific research all over the world.

“This could be what it takes to open up an important new industry,” said David Xiulei Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “There are methods now to create silicon nanostructures, but they are very costly and can only produce tiny amounts.

“The use of salt as a heat scavenger in this process should allow the production of high-quality silicon nanostructures in large quantities at low cost,” he said. “If we can get the cost low enough many new applications may emerge.”

Silicon, the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, has already created a revolution in electronics. But silicon nanostructures, which are complex structures much smaller than a speck of dust, have potential that goes far beyond the element itself.

Uses are envisioned in photonics, biological imaging, sensors, drug delivery, thermoelectric materials that can convert heat into electricity, and energy storage.

Batteries are one of the most obvious and possibly first applications that may emerge from this field, Ji said. It should be possible with silicon nanostructures to create batteries – for anything from a cell phone to an electric car – that last nearly twice as long before they need recharging.

Existing technologies to make silicon nanostructures are costly, and simpler technologies in the past would not work because they required such high temperatures. Ji developed a methodology that mixed sodium chloride and magnesium with diatomaceous earth, a cheap and abundant form of silicon.

When the temperature reached 801 degrees centigrade, the salt melted and absorbed heat in the process. This basic chemical concept – a solid melting into a liquid absorbs heat – kept the nanostructure from collapsing.

The sodium chloride did not contaminate or otherwise affect the reaction, researchers said. Scaling reactions such as this up to larger commercial levels should be feasible, they said.

The study also created, for the first time with this process, nanoporous composite materials of silicon and germanium. These could have wide applications in semiconductors, thermoelectric materials and electrochemical energy devices.

Funding for the research was provided by OSU. Six other researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the OSU Department of Chemical Engineering also collaborated on the work.

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David Xiulei Ji, 541-737-6798

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Silicon nanostructure

Silicon nanostructures


Table salt

Table salt