college of engineering

Medical vital-sign monitoring reduced to the size of a postage stamp

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Electrical engineers at Oregon State University have developed new technology to monitor medical vital signs, with sophisticated sensors so small and cheap they could fit onto a bandage, be manufactured in high volumes and cost less than a quarter.

A patent is being processed for the monitoring system and it’s now ready for clinical trials, researchers say. When commercialized, it could be used as a disposable electronic sensor, with many potential applications due to its powerful performance, small size, and low cost.

Heart monitoring is one obvious candidate, since the system could gather data on some components of an EKG, such as pulse rate and atrial fibrillation. Its ability to measure EEG brain signals could find use in nursing care for patients with dementia, and recordings of physical activity could improve weight loss programs. Measurements of perspiration and temperature could provide data on infection or disease onset.

And of course, if you can measure pulse rate and skin responses, why not a lie detector?

“Current technology allows you to measure these body signals using bulky, power-consuming, costly instruments,” said Patrick Chiang, an associate professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“What we’ve enabled is the integration of these large components onto a single microchip, achieving significant improvements in power consumption,” Chiang said. “We can now make important biomedical measurements more portable, routine, convenient and affordable than ever before.”

The much higher cost and larger size of conventional body data monitoring precludes many possible uses, Chiang said. Compared to other technologies, the new system-on-a-chip cuts the size, weight, power consumption and cost by about 10 times.

Some of the existing technologies that would compete with this system, such as pedometers currently in use to measure physical activity, cost $100 or more. The new electronics developed at OSU, by comparison, are about the size and thickness of a postage stamp, and could easily just be taped over the heart or at other body locations to measure vital signs.

Part of what enables this small size, Chiang said, is that the system doesn’t have a battery. It harvests the sparse radio-frequency energy from a nearby device – in this case, a cell phone. The small smart phone carried by hundreds of millions of people around the world can now provide the energy for important biomedical monitoring at the same time.

“The entire field of wearable body monitors is pretty exciting,” Chiang said. “By being able to dramatically reduce the size, weight and cost of these devices, it opens new possibilities in medical treatment, health care, disease prevention, weight management and other fields.”

The new technology could be used in conjunction with cell phones or other radio-frequency devices within about 15 feet, but the underlying micropowered system-on-a-chip technology can be run by other energy-harvested power sources, such as body heat or physical movement.

OSU will work to develop this technology in collaboration with private industry, an increasing area of emphasis for the university. In the past two years, private financing of OSU research has increased by 42 percent, and the university has signed 108 research-based licenses of OSU technology.

This research was recently reported at the Custom Integrated Circuits Conference in San Jose, Calif. It has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Catalyst Foundation.

Story By: 

Patrick Chiang, 541-737-5551

Multimedia Downloads

Body monitoring chip

Body-monitoring chip

Engineers win national award for running robots, see vast potential

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An era of walking robots that can help people with physical disabilities, take on dangerous missions or aid in disaster response is about to begin, experts say, as recognized today by Popular Mechanics in honoring researchers with one of its “Breakthrough Innovator” awards of 2012.

The science in this field is rapidly expanding, said Jonathan Hurst, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University, who received the award along with his colleague, Jessy Grizzle, at the University of Michigan. Ten awards were made to scientists and engineers around the nation.

The researchers have built two walking robots, MABEL and the next generation model, ATRIAS. In each case, the technology is based on a fundamental understanding of how animals walk and run, using minimal energy to accomplish a maximum of locomotion and sensory response.

Hurst said walking robots are about where the automotive industry was 150 years ago – full of promise, with a number of new inventions and about ready to take off.

“In the next 20 years you are going to see legged robots all over the place, doing all kinds of jobs,” Hurst said. “The sky is the limit.”

Beginning with funding from the National Science Foundation for MABEL, and continuing with $4.7 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the OSU and Michigan experts worked from principles of animal locomotion. The mechanical system closely interacts with the software control system, such as fiberglass springs working together with computer control to create efficient and stable walking and running gaits.

“So far much of what we’ve done has been with computer simulations, as we spent the past three years designing and building ATRIAS,” Hurst said.

“Simulations are useful as a tool for us, but not very convincing to others that the control ideas really work,” he said. “The simulations are working, and our robot was walking three days after it was built. Now we’re going to demonstrate the control ideas on the real machines.”

Robots that ultimately can walk and maneuver over uneven terrain have a range of possibilities, the scientists say. One would be helping to power prosthetic limbs for people, or use an exo-skeleton to assist people with muscular weakness. But there could also be applications in the military, in disaster response, or any type of dangerous situation.

For something that humans usually learn to do by the time they are a year old, walking is still a mystery to most scientists. The complexity of sensory and mechanical input from nerves, vision, muscles and tendons has challenged the most sophisticated concepts in robotics.

MABEL, however, is able to run a nine-minute mile and step off a ledge. ATRIAS is even lighter, faster, and has three-dimensional motion capabilities. Some of these advances have been possible, Hurst said, because the OSU and Michigan researchers took a step back to better understand the fundamental forces at work before even trying to build something.

Most robots today work in a very static or highly controlled environment. But humans live in a mobile, unpredictable world, and with further advances robots may soon be able to join it.

Story By: 

Jonathan Hurst, 541-737-7010

Multimedia Downloads

Walking robot

Running robot

Ancient diatoms could make biofuels, electronics and health food

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Diatoms, tiny marine life forms that have been around since the dinosaurs, could finally make biofuel production from algae truly cost-effective – because they can simultaneously produce other valuable products such as semiconductors, biomedical products and even health foods.

Engineers at Oregon State University concede that such technology is pushing the envelope a bit. But it’s not science fiction – many of the needed advances have already been made, and the National Science Foundation just provided a four-year, $2 million grant to help make it a working reality.

In theory, and possibly soon in practice, these amazing microscopic algae will be able to take some of the cheapest, most abundant materials on Earth - like silicon and nitrates - and add nothing much more than sunshine, almost any type of water, and carbon dioxide to produce a steady stream of affordable products.

The concept is called a “photosynthetic biorefinery.” Sand, fertilizer, a little sun and saltwater, in other words, might some day power the world’s automobiles and provide materials for electronics, with the help of a tiny, single-celled microstructure that already helps form the basis for much of the marine food chain and cycles carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.

“This NSF program is intended to support long-range concepts for a sustainable future, but in fact we’re demonstrating much of the science behind these technologies right now,” said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor and head of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. Rorrer has studied the remarkable power of diatoms for more than a decade.

“We have shown how diatoms can be used to produce semiconductor materials, chitin fibers for biomedical applications, or the lipids needed to make biofuels,” he said. “We believe that we can produce all of these products in one facility at the same time and move easily from one product to the other.”

Biofuels can be made from algae, scientists have shown, but the fuels are a comparatively low-value product and existing technologies have so far been held back by cost. If this program can help produce products with much higher value at the same time – like glucosamine, a food product commonly sold as a health food supplement – then the entire process could make more economic sense.

Much of the cost in this approach, in fact, is not the raw materials involved but the facilities needed for production. As part of the work at OSU, researchers plan to develop mathematical models so that various options can be tested and computers used to perfect the technology before actually building it.

The key to all of this is the diatom itself, a natural nanotechnology factory that has been found in the fossil record for more than 100 million years. Diatoms evolved sometime around the Jurassic Period when dinosaurs flourished. A major component of phytoplankton, diatoms have rigid microscopic shell walls made out of silica, and the capability to biosynthesize various compounds of commercial value.

“Regular algae don’t make everything that diatoms can make,” Rorrer said. “This is the only organism we know of that can create organized structures at the nano-level and naturally produce such high-value products. With the right components, they will make what you want them to make.”

Story By: 

Greg Rorrer, 541-737-3370

Multimedia Downloads



“Memristors” based on transparent electronics offer technology of the future

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The transparent electronics that were pioneered at Oregon State University may find one of their newest applications as a next-generation replacement for some uses of non-volatile flash memory, a multi-billion dollar technology nearing its limit of small size and information storage capacity.

Researchers at OSU have confirmed that zinc tin oxide, an inexpensive and environmentally benign compound, has significant potential for use in this field, and could provide a new, transparent technology where computer memory is based on resistance, instead of an electron charge.

The findings were recently published in Solid-State Electronics, a professional journal.

This resistive random access memory, or RRAM, is referred to by some researchers as a “memristor.” Products using this approach could become even smaller, faster and cheaper than the silicon transistors that have revolutionized modern electronics – and transparent as well.

Transparent electronics offer potential for innovative products that don’t yet exist, like information displayed on an automobile windshield, or surfing the web on the glass top of a coffee table.

“Flash memory has taken us a long way with its very small size and low price,” said John Conley, a professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “But it’s nearing the end of its potential, and memristors are a leading candidate to continue performance improvements.”

Memristors have a simple structure, are able to program and erase information rapidly, and consume little power. They accomplish a function similar to transistor-based flash memory, but with a different approach. Whereas traditional flash memory stores information with an electrical charge, RRAM accomplishes this with electrical resistance. Like flash, it can store information as long as it’s needed.

Flash memory computer chips are ubiquitous in almost all modern electronic products, ranging from cell phones and computers to video games and flat panel televisions.

Some of the best opportunities for these new amorphous oxide semiconductors are not so much for memory chips, but with thin-film, flat panel displays, researchers say. Private industry has already shown considerable interest in using them for the thin-film transistors that control liquid crystal displays, and one compound approaching commercialization is indium gallium zinc oxide.

But indium and gallium are getting increasingly expensive, and zinc tin oxide – also a transparent compound – appears to offer good performance with lower cost materials. The new research also shows that zinc tin oxide can be used not only for thin-film transistors, but also for memristive memory, Conley said, an important factor in its commercial application.

More work is needed to understand the basic physics and electrical properties of the new compounds, researchers said.

This research was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.


Story By: 

John Conley, 541-737-9874

Microwave ovens may help produce lower cost solar energy technology

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The same type of microwave oven technology that most people use to heat up leftover food has found an important application in the solar energy industry, providing a new way to make thin-film photovoltaic products with less energy, expense and environmental concerns.

Engineers at Oregon State University have for the first time developed a way to use microwave heating in the synthesis of copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound that is less costly and toxic than some solar energy alternatives.

The findings were published in Physica Status Solidi A, a professional journal.

“All of the elements used in this new compound are benign and inexpensive, and should have good solar cell performance,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at OSU.

“Several companies are already moving in this direction as prices continue to rise for some alternative compounds that contain more expensive elements like indium,” he said. “With some improvements in its solar efficiency this new compound should become very commercially attractive.”

These thin-film photovoltaic technologies offer a low cost, high volume approach to manufacturing solar cells. A new approach is to create them as an ink composed of nanoparticles, which could be rolled or sprayed – by approaches such as old-fashioned inkjet printing – to create solar cells.

To further streamline that process, researchers have now succeeded in using microwave heating, instead of conventional heating, to reduce reaction times to minutes or seconds, and allow for great control over the production process. This “one-pot” synthesis is fast, cheap and uses less energy, researchers say, and has been utilized to successfully create nanoparticle inks that were used to fabricate a photovoltaic device.

“This approach should save money, work well and be easier to scale up at commercial levels, compared to traditional synthetic methods,” Herman said. “Microwave technology offers more precise control over heat and energy to achieve the desired reactions.”

Funding and support for this research was provided by Sharp Laboratories of America, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, and the Oregon Process Innovation Center for Sustainable Solar Cell Manufacturing, an Oregon BEST signature research facility.

Story By: 

Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

Multimedia Downloads


Nanotech coatings

Microwave oven

Microwave oven

Public wave energy test facility begins operation in Oregon

NEWPORT, Ore. – One of the first public wave energy testing systems in the United States began operation this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, and will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new technology that may help advance this promising form of sustainable energy.

The Ocean Sentinel is a $1.5 million device developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, or NNMREC, at Oregon State University. It’s a major step forward for the future of wave energy, and should do its first testing within days – a “WetNZ” device developed by private industry.

The creation of this mobile wave energy test facility has been needed for years, experts say, and it will be used by many companies and academic researchers in the quest to develop wave energy technology, measure and understand the wave resource, and study the energy output and other important issues.

“The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another,” said Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC.

“We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be,” Moran said. “We’re not assuming anything. We’re first trying to answer the question, ‘Is this a good idea or not?’ And if some technology doesn’t work as well, we want to find that out quickly, and cheaply, and the Ocean Sentinel will help us do that.”

Experts say that, unlike some alternative energy forms such as wind energy, it’s probable that no one technology will dominate the wave energy field. Some systems may work better in low wave settings, others with a more powerful resource. The Ocean Sentinel will be able to measure wave amplitude, device energy output, ocean currents, wind speeds, extremes of wave height and other data.

This initiative was made possible by support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy, and the Oregon Wave Energy Trust.

The challenges at hand, Moran said, are enormous.

“We’re still trying to figure out what will happen when some of these devices have to stand up to 50-foot waves,” Moran said. “The ocean environment is very challenging, especially off Oregon where we have such a powerful wave energy resource.”

The one-square-mile site where the Ocean Sentinel will operate, about two miles northwest of Yaquina Head, has been carefully studied, both for its physical and biological characteristics. A large part of the NNMREC program is studying potential environmental impacts, whether they might come from electromagnetic fields, changes in acoustics, or other factors. Any changes in sediments, invertebrates or fish will be monitored closely.

And a third part of the program is human dimensions research and public outreach, engagement and education. Toward that goal, three public hearings are being planned in August to discuss the possibility of siting a different test facility – the Pacific Marine Energy Center – in one of four possible locations: Newport, Reedsport, Coos Bay, or Camp Rilea near Warrenton. That $8 million grid-connected center would be a continuation and expansion of the work made possible today by the Ocean Sentinel.

Wave energy is a technology still in its infancy. It can use large buoys that move up and down in ocean swells, or other technologies, to produce large and sustainable supplies of electricity.

Story By: 

Sean Moran, 541-404-3729

Multimedia Downloads

Ocean Sentinel

Ocean Sentinel

Major advance made in generating electricity from wastewater

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have made a breakthrough in the performance of microbial fuel cells that can produce electricity directly from wastewater, opening the door to a future in which waste treatment plants not only will power themselves, but will sell excess electricity.

The new technology developed at OSU can now produce 10 to 50 more times the electricity, per volume, than most other approaches using microbial fuel cells, and 100 times more electricity than some.

Researchers say this could eventually change the way that wastewater is treated all over the world, replacing the widely used “activated sludge” process that has been in use for almost a century. The new approach would produce significant amounts of electricity while effectively cleaning the wastewater.

The findings have just been published in Energy and Environmental Science, a professional journal, in work funded by the National Science Foundation.

“If this technology works on a commercial scale the way we believe it will, the treatment of wastewater could be a huge energy producer, not a huge energy cost,” said Hong Liu, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering. “This could have an impact around the world, save a great deal of money, provide better water treatment and promote energy sustainability.”

Experts estimate that about 3 percent of the electrical energy consumed in the United States and other developed countries is used to treat wastewater, and a majority of that electricity is produced by fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

But the biodegradable characteristics of wastewater, if tapped to their full potential, could theoretically provide many times the energy that is now being used to process them, with no additional greenhouse emissions.

OSU researchers reported several years ago on the promise of this technology, but at that time the systems in use produced far less electrical power. With new concepts – reduced anode-cathode spacing, evolved microbes and new separator materials – the technology can now produce more than two kilowatts per cubic meter of liquid reactor volume. This amount of power density far exceeds anything else done with microbial fuel cells.

The system also works better than an alternative approach to creating electricity from wastewater, based on anaerobic digestion that produces methane. It treats the wastewater more effectively, and doesn’t have any of the environmental drawbacks of that technology, such as production of unwanted hydrogen sulfide or possible release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The OSU system has now been proven at a substantial scale in the laboratory, Liu said, and the next step would be a pilot study. Funding is now being sought for such a test. A good candidate, she said, might initially be a food processing plant, which is a contained system that produces a steady supply of certain types of wastewater that would provide significant amounts of electricity.

Continued research should also find even more optimal use of necessary microbes, reduced material costs and improved function of the technology at commercial scales, OSU scientists said.

Once advances are made to reduce high initial costs, researchers estimate that the capital construction costs of this new technology should be comparable to that of the activated sludge systems now in widespread use today – and even less expensive when future sales of excess electricity are factored in.

This technology cleans sewage by a very different approach than the aerobic bacteria used in the past. Bacteria oxidize the organic matter and, in the process, produce electrons that run from the anode to the cathode within the fuel cell, creating an electrical current. Almost any type of organic waste material can be used to produce electricity – not only wastewater, but also grass straw, animal waste, and byproducts from such operations as the wine, beer or dairy industries.

The approach may also have special value in developing nations, where access to electricity is limited and sewage treatment at remote sites is difficult or impossible as a result.

The ability of microbes to produce electricity has been known for decades, but only recently have technological advances made their production of electricity high enough to be of commercial use.

Story By: 

Hong Liu, 541-737-6309

Multimedia Downloads

Electricity from sewage

Electricity from sewage

Hong Liu

Alumni pledge $3.5 million to OSU engineering faculty

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University alumni Mike and Judy Gaulke have committed $3.5 million to create the Michael and Judith Gaulke Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at OSU.

This endowed faculty fund will be the largest to date for the College of Engineering and the first in its School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“Life has been kind to us, and when Judy and I were reflecting on how we should share our resources, we thought about the institutions that have been meaningful in our lives. OSU is one,” said Mike Gaulke, a recently retired Silicon Valley CEO. “We hope this gift will establish a foundation for future gifts from other alumni, helping the school to continue building its international reputation.”

The inaugural holder of the chair will be OSU electrical engineering professor John Wager, an award-winning teacher and researcher. Wager is internationally recognized for his leading role in the development of transparent electronics, a technology that is being incorporated into the iPad3™.

The Gaulkes’ gift leverages the OSU Provost’s Faculty Match Program, which provides an additional $450,000 over five years for the College of Engineering. With this gift and matching funds, the school plans to add an additional faculty position focused on sensor technology research and teaching.

“This leadership gift from Michael and Judith Gaulke gives OSU a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty,” said OSU President Ed Ray.

“Universities compete not only with one another, but also with business and industry to attract the best and brightest educators and researchers,” Ray said. “With their generosity and vision, the Gaulkes will benefit Oregon State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and its students for generations.” 

The Gaulkes live in Atherton, Calif., but both grew up in Hood River, Ore. They graduated from OSU, Mike from the College of Engineering in 1968 and Judy, formerly Judy Mellenthin, from the home economics program in 1965. Judy worked as a Pan American international flight attendant, a Sunset Magazine cookbook editor, and as a food stylist before becoming a fulltime artist.

Mike became a successful engineering executive. He spent 18 years at Exponent, Inc., a leading engineering and consulting firm that performs in-depth investigations in more than 90 technical disciplines to analyze accidents and failures, and determine their causes. He retired in 2009 as CEO of Exponent but still serves as chairman of the board. He also serves on the board of directors of Cymer, a semiconductor equipment manufacturer; on the boards of California healthcare providers Sutter Health and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation; and in 2008 was inducted into OSU’s Engineering Hall of Fame.

“We are so fortunate to have Judy and Mike as alumni, friends and supporters,” said Terri Fiez, professor and head of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “This type of support is what helps us transform our educational and research opportunities for faculty and students.”

The Michael and Judith Gaulke Chair in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is the 61st endowed position fund created during The Campaign for OSU, and the 108th at OSU.

Guided by OSU’s strategic plan, the campaign has raised more than $840 million of its $1 billion goal, including nearly $90 million in faculty support, to provide opportunities for students, strengthen Oregon communities and conduct research that changes the world.

Story By: 

Terri Fiez, 541-737-3118

Multimedia Downloads

Michael and Judith Gaulke

Judith and Michael Gaulke

Research could improve oil recovery, aid environmental cleanup

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers have taken a new look at an old, but seldom-used technique developed by the petroleum industry to recover oil, and learned more about why it works, how it could be improved, and how it might be able to make a comeback not only in oil recovery but also environmental cleanup.

The technology, called “microbial enhanced oil recovery,” was first developed decades ago, but oil drillers largely lost interest in it due to its cost, inconsistent results and a poor understanding of what was actually happening underground.

The new findings by engineers at Oregon State University, published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, could help change that. This may allow the oil industry not only to produce more oil from their existing wells, but also find applications in cleaning up petroleum spills and contaminants.

“This approach of using microbes to increase oil recovery was used somewhat in the 1980s when oil prices were very high, but the field results weren’t very consistent and it was expensive,” said Dorthe Wildenschild, an associate professor in the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. “It’s seldom used now as a result.”

Oil drilling has always been difficult – it’s not as simple as drilling a hole and watching the petroleum gush out of the ground.

That may happen for a while, but as a secondary step, water is often injected into the well to help flush out more oil. Such production techniques generally recover only one-third to one-half  of the oil originally present in a reservoir.

A third approach sometimes used after water injection is to inject microbes into the well and “feed” them with sugars such as molasses to encourage their growth. This can clog some pores and in others has a “surfactant” effect, loosening the oil from the surface it clings to, much as a dishwasher detergent loosens grease from a pan.

“By clogging up some pores and helping oil move more easily through others, these approaches can in theory be used with water flushing to help recover quite a bit more oil,” Wildenschild said.

The surfactant can be man-made, or microbes can be used to produce it at a lower cost. However, getting a particular culture of microbes to produce the biosurfactant under harsh field conditions is tricky.

“It’s complicated, you have to use just the right microbes, and feed them just the right foods, to accomplish what you want to do,” Wildenschild said.

In OSU laboratory experiments, Ryan Armstrong, a recent doctoral graduate at OSU, found that the clogging mechanism is the simplest and most effective approach to use, although combining it with the biosurfactant technology achieved optimal oil recovery.

A better fundamental understanding of this process – along with higher oil prices that better reward efforts to recover more oil – could lead to renewed interest in the technology on a commercial basis, the OSU researchers said, and make oil recovery more productive. As an extra benefit, the concepts might also work well to help remove or clean up underground contaminants, they said.

This work was supported by the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society.

Story By: 

Dorthe Wildenschild, 541-737-8050

Multimedia Downloads

Oil and biofilm

Oil in pores

OSU-Cascades grant to study natural gas for vehicle fuel

BEND, Ore. – A researcher at Oregon State University – Cascades will lead a major new research initiative on a vehicle-based natural gas refueling system, a $700,000 project to create technology that would use the vehicle engine itself to compress natural gas.

The project will be led by energy engineering management professor Chris Hagen, with support from Colorado State University, and is one of the largest research awards yet received by OSU’s branch campus in Bend.

The initiative is one of 13 projects in a $30 million program to develop new ways of harnessing U.S. natural gas supplies. The projects are part of a new program called Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy - or “MOVE”. The goal is lightweight, affordable natural gas tanks for vehicles and natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home.

“These innovative projects will leverage the ingenuity of U.S. scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough technologies to fuel cars with natural gas,” said Daniel Poneman, U.S. deputy secretary of energy. “These projects could transform America’s energy infrastructure and economy by utilizing domestic energy sources to power our vehicles, reducing our reliance on imported oil, and increasing American energy security.”

Existing natural gas vehicle technologies require tanks that can withstand high pressures, are often cumbersome, and are either too large or too expensive to be suitable for smaller passenger vehicles. The new projects are trying to remove these barriers and encourage the widespread use of natural gas cars and trucks.

With the approach being studied at OSU–Cascades, the engine will have the ability to both power the vehicle as well as compress natural gas for storage. Drivers will be able to connect their vehicle to any natural gas line for fast, convenient refueling. 

“This award demonstrates the innovation of our faculty and lays the groundwork for OSU-Cascades to continue to attract top faculty and research funding,” said OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson. 

Hagen, an assistant professor in the energy engineering management program at OSU – Cascades, does research on energy systems, advanced internal combustion engines, unconventional fuels, applied thermodynamics and fluid mechanics.  OSU-Cascades will lease space in an auto bay in Central Oregon Community College’s automotive technology program  for this research.


Sara Freedman 541-322-2034