OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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OSU spinoff company NuScale to receive up to $226 million to advance nuclear energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A promising new form of nuclear power that evolved in part from research more than a decade ago at Oregon State University today received a significant boost: up to $226 million in funding to NuScale Power from the United States Department of Energy.

NuScale began as a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes, and since has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small “modular” nuclear reactors.

This technology holds enormous promise for developing nuclear power with small reactors that can minimize investment costs, improve safety, be grouped as needed for power demands and produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The technology also provides opportunities for OSU nuclear engineering students who are learning about these newest concepts in nuclear power.

“This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale.”

NuScale has continued to grow and create jobs in Oregon, and is bringing closer to reality a nuclear concept that could revolutionize nuclear energy. The Obama administration has cited nuclear power as one part of its blueprint to rebuild the American economy while helping to address important environmental issues.

In the early 2000s at OSU, Reyes envisioned a nuclear power reactor that could be manufactured in a factory, be transported to wherever it was needed, grouped as necessary to provide the desired amount of power, and provide another option for nuclear energy. It also would incorporate “passive safety” concepts studied at OSU in the 1990s that are already being used in nuclear power plant construction around the world. The design allows the reactor to shut down automatically, if necessary, using natural forces including gravity and convection.

The Department of Energy announcement represents a milestone in OSU’s increasing commitment to university and business partnerships and its goals of using academic research discoveries to promote new industries, jobs, economic growth, environmental protection and public health.

“OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage.”

The Oregon State University Advantage connects business with faculty expertise, student talent and world-class facilities to provide research solutions and help bring ideas to market. This effort is in partnership with the Oregon State University Foundation.

News of the NuScale grant award was welcomed by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

 

“Oregon State University deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop a promising new technology that the Energy Department clearly thinks holds a lot of potential,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Today’s award shows that investing in strong public universities leads to innovative technologies to address critical issues, like the need for low-carbon sources of energy, while creating private sector jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Peter De Fazio added, “Congratulations to NuScale and Oregon State University. This is a big win for the local economy.” 

“This is an exciting time for us, as our students and faculty get incredibly valuable real-world experience in taking an idea through the startup and commercialization process,” said Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiation Health Physics. “We continue to work with NuScale as it goes through its design certification process, and we are particularly proud of Jose Reyes for his vision, enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to this concept.”

OSU officials say the development of new technologies such as those launched from NuScale could have significant implications for future energy supplies.

“The nation’s investment in the research of small-scale nuclear devices is a significant step toward a diverse and secure energy portfolio,” said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. “Collaborative research is actively continuing between engineers and scientists at Oregon State and NuScale, and we’re proud and grateful for the role Oregon State plays in assisting them in developing cleaner and safer ways to produce energy.

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0662 or 541-220-1915 (cell)

Cascadia Lifelines Program begun to aid earthquake preparation

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and eight partners from government and private industry this month began studies for the Cascadia Lifelines Program, a research initiative to help improve critical infrastructure performance during an anticipated major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

The program, coordinated by the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering, will immediately begin five research projects with $1.5 million contributed by the partners. Recent work such as the Oregon Resilience Plan has helped to define the potential problems, experts say, and this new initiative will begin to address them in work that may take 50 years or more to implement.

Looming in Oregon’s future is a massive earthquake of about magnitude 9.0, which could significantly damage Pacific Northwest roads, bridges, buildings, sewers, gas and water lines, electrical system and much more.

“Compared to the level of earthquake preparedness even in California and Washington, it’s clear that Oregon is bringing up the rear,” said Scott Ashford, director of the new program. He is the Kearney Professor of Engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and an international expert who has studied the impact of subduction zone earthquakes in much of the Pacific Rim – including Japan’s major disaster of March, 2011.

“Most of Oregon’s buildings, roads, bridges and infrastructure were built at a time when it was believed the state was not subject to major earthquakes,” Ashford said. “Because of that we’re going to face serious levels of destruction. But with programs like this and the commitment of our partners, there’s a great deal we can do to proactively prepare for this disaster, and get our lifelines back up and running after the event.”

Those “lifelines,” Ashford said, are the key not just to saving lives and minimizing damage, but aiding in recovery of the region following a disaster that scientists say is a near certainty. The list of participating partners reflects agencies and companies that understand the challenges they will face, Ashford said.

The partners include the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, Northwest Natural Gas, the Bonneville Power Administration, Port of Portland, Portland Water Bureau, Eugene Water and Electric Board, and Tualatin Valley Water District.

“When I studied areas that had been hard-hit by earthquakes in Chile, New Zealand and Japan, it became apparent that money spent to prepare for and minimize damage from the earthquake was hugely cost-effective,” Ashford said. “One utility company in New Zealand said they saved about $10 for every $1 they had spent in retrofitting and rebuilding their infrastructure.

“This impressed upon me that we do not have to just wait for the earthquake to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot we can do to prepare for it right now that will make a difference. And we have the expertise right here at OSU – in engineering, business, earth sciences, health – to get these programs up and running.”

The initial subjects OSU researchers will focus on in the new program include:

  • Studies of soil liquefaction, which can greatly reduce the strength of soils and lead to road, bridge, building and other critical infrastructure facility failure;
  • Cost effective improvements that could be done to existing and older infrastructure;
  • Evacuation routes for Oregonians to use following a major earthquake;
  • Tools to plan for hazards and anticipate risks;
  • Where and how earthquakes could trigger landslides in Oregon.

Ashford said the consortium will seek additional federal support for the needed research, and also more partners both in government and private industry.

OSU will also continue its collaboration with PEER, the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, which includes work by the leading academic institutions in this field on the West Coast. The Cascadia Lifelines Program will add an emphasis on subduction zone earthquakes, which can behave quite differently and produce shaking that lasts for minutes, instead of the type of strike-slip quakes most common in California that last for tens of seconds. And the utility lifelines work will be focused on the specific challenges facing Oregon.

Aside from some of the infrastructure not being built to withstand major earthquakes, Oregon and the Willamette Valley may face particular risks from liquefaction, in which soil can develop the consistency of “pea soup” and lose much of its strength. Liquefaction helped cause much of the damage in Japan, which has still not recovered from the destruction more than two years after the event.

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Scott Ashford, 541-737-4934

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Video of liquefaction in Japan:

http://bit.ly/dK6mfa

 

Nanotech system, cellular heating may improve treatment of ovarian cancer

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/18PLoY4

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The combination of heat, chemotherapeutic drugs and an innovative delivery system based on nanotechnology may significantly improve the treatment of ovarian cancer while reducing side effects from toxic drugs, researchers at Oregon State University report in a new study.

The findings, so far done only in a laboratory setting, show that this one-two punch of mild hyperthermia and chemotherapy can kill 95 percent of ovarian cancer cells, and scientists say they expect to improve on those results in continued research.

The work is important, they say, because ovarian cancer – one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women – often develops resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs if it returns after an initial remission. It kills more than 150,000 women around the world every year.

“Ovarian cancer is rarely detected early, and because of that chemotherapy is often needed in addition to surgery,” said Oleh Taratula, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy. “It’s essential for the chemotherapy to be as effective as possible the first time it’s used, and we believe this new approach should help with that.”

It’s known that elevated temperatures can help kill cancer cells, but heating just the cancer cells is problematic. The new system incorporates the use of iron oxide nanoparticles that can be coated with a cancer-killing drug and then heated once they are imbedded in the cancer cell.

Other features have also been developed to optimize the new system, in an unusual collaboration between engineers, material science experts and pharmaceutical researchers.

A peptide is used that helps guide the nanoparticle specifically to cancer cells, and the nanoparticle is just the right size – neither too big nor too small – so the immune system will not reject it. A special polyethylene glycol coating further adds to the “stealth” effect of the nanoparticles and keeps them from clumping up. And the interaction between the cancer drug and a polymer on the nanoparticles gets weaker in the acidic environment of cancer cells, aiding release of the drug at the right place.

“The hyperthermia, or heating of cells, is done by subjecting the magnetic nanoparticles to an oscillating, or alternating magnetic field,” said Pallavi Dhagat, an associate professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and co-author on the study. “The nanoparticles absorb energy from the oscillating field and heat up.”

The result, in laboratory tests with ovarian cancer cells, was that a modest dose of the chemotherapeutic drug, combined with heating the cells to about 104 degrees, killed almost all the cells and was far more effective than either the drug or heat treatment would have been by itself.

Doxorubicin, the cancer drug, by itself at the level used in these experiments would leave about 70 percent of the cancer cells alive. With the new approach, only 5 percent were still viable.

The work was published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics, as a collaboration of researchers in the OSU College of Pharmacy, College of Engineering, and Ocean NanoTech of Springdale, Ark. It was supported by the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, the PhRMA Foundation and the OSU College of Pharmacy.

“I’m very excited about this delivery system,” Taratula said. “Cancer is always difficult to treat, and this should allow us to use lower levels of the toxic chemotherapeutic drugs, minimize side effects and the development of drug resistance, and still improve the efficacy of the treatment. We’re not trying to kill the cell with heat, but using it to improve the function of the drug.”

Iron oxide particles had been used before in some medical treatments, researchers said, but not with the complete system developed at OSU. Animal tests, and ultimately human trials, will be necessary before the new system is available for use.

Drug delivery systems such as this may later be applied to other forms of cancer, such as prostate or pancreatic cancer, to help improve the efficacy of chemotherapy in those conditions, Taratula said.

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Oleh Taratula, 541-737-5785

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Business incubator gears up for next cohort, welcomes five new advisory board members

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator seeks creators of new business concepts to be part of their fall cohort in the Iterate program, where startup experts help budding entrepreneurs evaluate and refine their ideas.

The Iterate application period coincides with the Accelerator’s naming five new members to its strategic advisory board, including Maggie Finnerty, executive director of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, and former Oregon Republican Party chairman Allen Alley.

The one-month Iterate program kicks off Oct. 24.

“Being on the strategic advisory board is a great opportunity to work with the state’s leading research university and be part of the bridge to industry,” said Alley. “Oregon’s future depends on harnessing our world-class innovations and bringing them to global markets.”

In its four years of existence, the Accelerator has advised more than 70 program graduates who have generated more than $4.5 million in revenue and gained more than $2.3 million in equity investments, $10 million in grants, and $500,000 in loans or other financing. 

Accelerator activities have created more than 50 full-time-equivalent jobs. The Accelerator has engaged with nearly 400 entrepreneurs and startups in the region and interacted with more than 4,500 students and 130 volunteers.

Additional new members of the 15-person board are Julianne Brands of the Oregon Angel Fund; Rita Hansen, chief executive officer of OSU spinout OnBoard Dynamics; and Jennifer Brown-Dennis, dean of the OSU Graduate School.

Brian Wall, OSU’s assistant vice president for research, commercialization and industry partnering, said the board demonstrates the university’s commitment to diversity in leadership.

“Adding distinguished advisory board members such as Maggie, Julianne, Rita, Jennifer and Allen helps us continue the economic progress achieved by Accelerator companies and continues to evolve Oregon State into a 21st century land grant institution,” he said.

The Accelerator, under the direction of Mark Lieberman and Karl Mundorff, helps nascent startups develop and commercialize high-growth, innovative technologies. Through three programs – Iterate, Accelerate and Launch – the Accelerator helps OSU faculty, students, staff and the broader university community advance ideas and conduct research into products and services, guiding entrepreneurs through all phases of the commercialization process.

“Iterate is the top of our funnel,” Lieberman said. “It’s a methodology that anyone can use to understand what entrepreneurial thinking is about and to help answer the question of what comes next.”

“The main thing we teach in Iterate is how to evaluate business ideas,” Mundorff added. “The program helps you figure out whether an idea is worth your time. And almost every team iterates to some variant of their initial idea.”

The Accelerator is part of Oregon State University Advantage, which connects business people to university resources, and it is also affiliated with RAIN, the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network; RAIN is an Oregon consortium of government, higher education and the business community.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Oregon State University breaks record with $441 million in research grants

CORVALLIS, Ore. –Oregon State University crossed the $400 million threshold in grants and contracts for the first time in the fiscal year that ended June 30, including being awarded a grant to build a $122 million regional research vessel.

Oregon State received $441 million from state and federal governments, businesses and foundations for research on a wide range of projects in natural resources, health, engineering and science across the state and around the world. Federal agencies provided $315 million (71 percent), and additional funds came from state agencies, businesses and foundations.

“OSU research spurs solutions to problems and serves and involves people, communities and businesses across the state and world,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU vice president for research. “Investment in research affects our daily lives —  the food we eat, health care, the environment — and pays back dividends in economic growth for Oregonians. Researchers are starting new businesses and assisting established companies.”

Altogether, Oregon State’s research revenues leapt 31 percent over last year’s record-breaking total of $336 million. Over the past 10 years, OSU’s research revenues have more than doubled and exceed those of Oregon’s public universities combined.

OSU research totals surged in June with a $122 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a new regional research vessel, which will be stationed at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. It was the largest single grant ever received by the university.

Revenues from business and industry — including technology testing, sponsored contracts and licensing of innovations developed at the university — grew to $34 million last year, up 10 percent from the previous year.

“Our latest success is the result of hard work and strategic decisions by our faculty and partners in business, local and state government and the federal delegation,” Sagers said.

Based on past OSU research, startup companies such as Agility Robotics (animal-like robot motion), Outset Medical (at-home kidney dialysis) and Inpria (photolithography for high-performance computer chips) are attracting private investment and creating jobs. Advances in agricultural crops (winter wheat, hazelnuts, small fruits and vegetables) and forest products (cross-laminated timber panels for high-rise construction) are bolstering rural economies as well.

Since it began in 2013, the Oregon State University Advantage program has provided market analysis and support services to more than 70 local technology businesses and start-up companies. 

Other major grants last year included:

  • Up to $40 million by the U.S. Department of Energy for testing systems for ocean wave energy technologies;
  • $9 million for a next-generation approach to chemical manufacturing known as RAPID, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory;
  • $6.5 million from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence systems more trustworthy;
  • A combined $1.15 million in state, federal and foundation funding for a state-of-the-art instrument known as an X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system. The XPS system brings world-class capabilities to the Pacific Northwest to address challenges in surface chemistry. Partners included the Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center and the National Science Foundation.

 “Whether it’s with the fishing and seafood industries on our coast, federal labs working on energy and the environment or local governments concerned about jobs and education, partnerships with business, government and other research organizations are absolutely vital to our work,” said Sagers. “We care about these relationships, the benefits they bring to our communities and the educational opportunities they create for our students.”

Research has long been a hallmark of graduate education, and undergraduate students are increasingly participating in research projects in all fields, from the sciences to engineering, health and liberal arts. OSU provided undergraduates with more than $1 million last year to support projects conducted under the mentorship of faculty members.

“Research is fundamental to President Ray’s Student Success Initiative,” said Sagers. “Studies show time and again that students who participate in research tend to stay in school, connect with their peers and find meaningful work after they graduate. Research is a key part of the educational process.”

Federal agencies represent the lion’s share of investment in OSU research. That investment has more than doubled in the last five years. The National Science Foundation provided the largest share of funding, followed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Energy. 

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Project summaries and FY17 research totals for OSU colleges are posted online:

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/our-best/research-awards-2016-17

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/research/map/

College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy17-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/college-forestry-continues-advance-research-efforts#

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2017-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research/funding-highlights 

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2017/08/research-funding-continues-upward-trajectory/

College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

Video b-roll is available with comments by Cindy Sagers, vice president of research, at https://youtu.be/pkGD-lhVTwo.

 

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Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, cynthia.sagers@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-0664

    

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NSF grant bolsters OSU’s efforts in robotics, artificial intelligence, marine studies

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The National Science Foundation has awarded $1 million to five Oregon State University researchers to study the operation of autonomous marine vehicles.

The grant further enlarges the university’s robotics footprint three months after the OSU College of Engineering established the Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute to advance the theory, design, development and deployment of robots and intelligent systems able to collaborate seamlessly with people.

It also broadens the reach of the OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative, a university-wide effort to increase understanding of coastal and ocean systems and promote sustainability on key issues including climate change, food security and safety, natural hazards, renewable energy production and natural resources management.

Geoff Hollinger and Julie A. Adams of the College of Engineering and Jack Barth, Jonathan Nash and Kipp Shearman of the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences are the principal investigators on the $1 million grant.

Hollinger, the lead PI, is a roboticist, and Adams, an associate director of the CoRIS Institute, is a computer scientist. Barth, the executive director of the Marine Studies Initiative, Nash and Shearman are physical oceanographers who specialize in making observations at sea using autonomous vehicles.

The project builds on cross-campus collaborations that bring engineers and ocean scientists together to produce innovations in OSU-developed ocean-sensing technologies such as ROSS – the robotic oceanographer surface sampler – and advanced underwater glider operations.

The project seeks to increase vehicles’ “neglect tolerance” – the ability to withstand long periods with little to no communication from a human technician – by improving their autonomy capabilities.

“Underwater exploration using unmanned robotic vehicles has opened up vast new ways of understanding the world’s oceans,” Hollinger said. “However, in the current state of practice, human operators must provide specific waypoints for the vehicles to follow, which is both time consuming and inflexible. The research in this project will develop autonomy capabilities that facilitate on-vehicle intelligence, leading to longer duration deployments of unmanned underwater and surface vehicles as well as improving the oceanographic data collected and reducing the cost of these deployments.”

The $1 million NSF grant comes on the heels of the $3.6 million the College of Engineering received in robotics-related funding in fiscal year 2017, the nearly $2 million it received the previous year and a recent $6.5 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence-based systems like autonomous vehicles and robots more trustworthy.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Researchers throughout Northwest look to benefit from OSU’s new spectroscopy instrument

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has acquired a high-tech research instrument that will make its surface characterization laboratory a major resource for scientists throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The $1.6 million instrument, an ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system, or AP-XPS, is the first instrument of its kind in the United States to incorporate an ambient-pressure scanning tunneling microscope, or AP-STM, which enables imaging of surfaces with atomic resolution.

XPS uses X-rays to determine the composition, chemical states and electronic states of surfaces and interfaces from materials or thin-film structures. The technique is vital to the development of new and better materials for semiconductors, solar energy, batteries, catalysis and various environmental applications.

Combining AP-XPS and AP-STM in the same system allows researchers to measure chemical and structural changes of materials under identical conditions.

“Our system was custom designed to support a broad range of research that we’re doing here at OSU,” said chemical engineering professor Greg Herman, principal investigator on the grant that secured funding for the instrument. “This unique combination of capabilities will help us advance the science and technology of new materials, interfaces and devices.”

Oregon State’s new AP-XPS/STM, acquired in part through a major research instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation, will serve as part of a user facility within the NSF’s National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program.

In addition to supporting the work of Oregon State researchers in engineering, chemistry and physics, the AP-XPS/STM system will be made available to researchers from other universities, national laboratories and private industry, who will be able to book time on the instrument to perform their own studies.

“Our new system can operate over a broad range of temperatures and pressures, including conditions similar to those on Earth,” said Herman. “This enables us to extrapolate real-world conditions much more accurately than conventional XPS, which operates under ultrahigh vacuum, similar to conditions on the moon.”   

A workshop detailing the capabilities of the AP-XPS system, including a lab tour, will take place on Sept. 6 to coincide with the 2017 Symposium of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the American Vacuum Society, being hosted at Oregon State. More information is available at cbee.oregonstate.edu/PNWAVS-2017.

“This new system brings unique research capabilities and will play a key role in advancing the College of Engineering’s strategic research areas of clean energy, advanced manufacturing and materials science,” said assistant professor Líney Árnadóttir, the symposium’s chair.

Matching funds for the system were provided by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, Oregon BEST and Oregon State University. 

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Keith Hautala, 541-737-1478

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Seismic experiments will test performance of innovative cross-laminated timber structure

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Engineering researchers are putting an innovative two-story structure made of cross-laminated timber panels through a series of seismic tests to determine how it would perform in an earthquake.

The tests are being conducted at the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure at University of California San Diego (NEHRI@UCSD) site, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). They will produce data that can be used in the design of a new generation of wood-frame high-rises, such as a four-story parking structure designed for Springfield, Oregon, and the 12-story Framework building in Portland. Scheduled to open in 2018, the 90,000-square-foot Framework structure will be the tallest mass-timber building in the United States.

A consortium of universities, agencies and engineering firms is conducting the tests with funding from the NSF, Katerra, Simpson Strong-Tie, Tallwood Design Institute, DR Johnson Lumber Co., the Forest Products Laboratory, City of Springfield, the Softwood Lumber Board and MyTiCon Timber Connectors.

“The overarching goal of the project is to propose a design methodology for seismic loading for large panels subjected to large in-plane loading, including some consisting of a composite made of concrete and cross-laminated timber (CLT),” said Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University

“Several tests will be conducted at different shaking intensities,” said Andre Barbosa, assistant professor of structural engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State. “The three different phases of testing include designs for locations in San Francisco, Seattle and Berkeley.”

Barbosa, Sinha and Christopher Higgins, professor of structural engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, are leading the test of the building’s horizontal elements. The three researchers are affiliated with the Tallwood Design Institute at Oregon State, a collaboration between OSU and the University of Oregon.

The tests reflect a range of stresses associated with a variety of earthquake and wind conditions. “Just for reference, the shake-table motions on one of the tests are calibrated to what is expected to occur in a magnitude 9.0 subduction earthquake zone event in Seattle,” Barbosa added.

Researchers will collect data through more than 300 channels in three phases of testing on the 22-foot-tall structure. Data will be generated at pre-selected points to measure how the CLT panels bend and how the panels move relative to each other. Researchers are particularly interested in a system that allows the building to rock in response to an earthquake and how the walls and floors interact during shaking.

In a so-called “rocking wall system,” vertical walls are connected to a steel footing by post-tensioned rods that run up next to a CLT wall and special U-shaped brackets on the side of the wall. The rods allow the wall to rock during an earthquake and snap back into its original upright position, minimizing the impact and resulting structural damage.

Other collaborating researchers include Shiling Pei of the Colorado School of Mines, John van de Lindt of Colorado State Universit, Jeffery Berman of the University of Washington, Dan Dolan of Washington State University, James Ricles and Richard Sause from Lehigh University, and Keri Ryan from University of Nevada Reno. Also participating in the tests are representatives of KPFF Consulting Engineers and WoodWorks, an initiative of the Wood Products Council.

Researchers plan to evaluate larger buildings in the future, including a 10-story tall CLT structure by 2020.

Ongoing activity at the outdoor shake-table of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure facility is live-streamed by webcam at http://nheri.ucsd.edu/video/

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Andre Barbosa, andre.barbosa@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-7291; Arijit Sinha, arijit.sinha@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-6713  

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Research aims to make artificial intelligence explain itself

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Eight computer science professors in Oregon State University’s College of Engineering have received a $6.5 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence-based systems like autonomous vehicles and robots more trustworthy.

The success of the deep neural networks branch of artificial intelligence has enabled significant advances in autonomous systems that can perceive, learn, decide and act on their own.

The problem is that the neural networks function as a black box. Instead of humans explicitly coding system behavior using traditional programming, in deep learning the computer program learns on its own from many examples. Potential dangers arise from depending on a system that not even the system developers fully understand.

The four-year grant from DARPA will support the development of a paradigm to look inside that black box, by getting the program to explain to humans how decisions were reached.

“Ultimately, we want these explanations to be very natural – translating these deep network decisions into sentences and visualizations,” said Alan Fern, principal investigator for the grant and associate director of the College of Engineering’s recently established Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute.

Developing such a system that communicates well with humans requires expertise in a number of research fields. In addition to having researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the team includes experts in computer vision, human-computer interaction, natural language processing, and programming languages.

To begin developing the system, the researchers will use real-time strategy games, like StarCraft, to train artificial-intelligence “players” that will explain their decisions to humans. StarCraft is a staple of competitive electronic gaming.

Later stages of the project will move on to applications provided by DARPA that may include robotics and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Fern said the research is crucial to the advancement of autonomous and semi-autonomous intelligent systems.

“Nobody is going to use these emerging technologies for critical applications until we are able to build some level of trust, and having an explanation capability is one important way of building trust,” he said.

The researchers from Oregon State were selected by DARPA for funding under the highly competitive Explainable Artificial Intelligence program. Other major universities chosen include Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Texas and University of California, Berkeley.

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Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

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Four OSU engineering faculty earn top awards

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Four faculty members in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have received more than $2 million in prestigious early career awards.

Three faculty received National Science Foundation CAREER awards totaling more than $1.5 million, which support young faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through the integration of education and research. Another faculty member received $510,000 through the Office of Naval Research Young Investigators Program, which recognizes junior faculty who show exceptional promise for creative research.

The recipients of the National Science Foundation CAREER awards include:

  • Julie Tucker, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, for her research proposal, “Assessing Low Temperature Phase Stability through Irradiation.”
  • Ross Hatton, assistant professor of robotics and mechanical engineering, for his research proposal, “Geometric Understanding of Locomotion.”
  • Attila Yavuz, assistant professor of computer science, for his research proposal, “Light-Weight and Fast Authentication for Internet of Things.”

The recipient of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award is Geoffrey Hollinger, assistant professor of robotics and mechanical engineering, for his research proposal, “Information-Aware Decision Making in Teams of Autonomous Vehicles and Humans.”

Source: 

Krista Klinkhammer, 541-737-4416