Clarkson University Magazine: Faculty Research Briefs

Clarkson Part of New NSF Industry & University Cooperative Research Center

babuA new Industry & University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) on metamaterials has been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The center is a partnership among Clarkson University Professor S.V. Babu, City University of New York Professor David Crouse and University of North Carolina at Charlotte Professor Michael Fiddy, following the award of an earlier NSF planning grant to these institutions.

Babu is distinguished university professor and director of the Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP) at Clarkson.

The mission of the new center is to advance fundamental and applied metamaterials research, development, and technology transfer through strong industry/university collaborations. Its main goal is to provide a one-stop shop for the design, fabrication, and testing of a wide range of metamaterials for use in spectral regions ranging from the microwave to the optical range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Metamaterials are patterned composite structures in which light behaves in unusual ways, including negative index of refraction, anomalous light transmission, and light channeling and trapping. These materials can also possess unusual properties in several other spectral regions.

Industrial interest in metamaterials is growing, as these materials can be used to develop new or higher performing optical and electronic devices, including energy harvesting, imaging, plasmonic circuits, cloaking materials, biological and chemical sensors, compact optical systems and enhanced RF technologies.

Engineering Human Motion

Kevin Fite has been working on the development of prosthetic limbs for more than three years. Now with a grant from the United States Army, Fite is ready to carry his research even further. In conjunction with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s Smart System Technology and Commercialization Center (STC), a Canandaigua, N.Y.-based company, Fite will be developing sensors that will enable prosthetic legs to better interface with the residual limb.

Fite, a mechanical engineering professor whose specialty is electromechanical systems, will be developing electromyogram (EMG) sensors and the computer programs that take the EMG signals and translate them into a reliable stream of information for moving the limb. An EMG is a small electrical sensor placed on the skin that can perceive the voltage changes attributed to muscle contraction. “It is a very noninvasive way to get neuromuscular commands from the user to the artificial limb,” Fite says. These sensors may also be useful in future exoskeletons, which augment the human body rather than replacing a part of it.

fiteFite’s research will tackle several problems: the actual command and control of the prosthesis, the algorithms to translate the electrical impulses into robotic movement, and ways of filtering extraneous signals from the sensors. For example, perspiration can provide false positives in EMGs, as well as cross signals. If the socket containing the sensors moves relative to the skin, the EMGs will be measuring incorrect signals, which could result in erratic movement by the prosthesis.

The end goal is to produce a powered leg prosthesis with output and appearance similar to that of an intact human leg. With the increasing frequency of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in combat, and resulting amputations, the need for near-human prostheses is at an all-time high.

Instrumentation and Computational Tools for Greener Buildings

Coulter School of Engineering Dean Goodarz Ahmadi, Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering John McLaughlin, and Associate Professor of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Brian Helenbrook, in ahmadicollaboration with colleagues at Syracuse University, are developing tools that allow for technology innovations for creating new Intelligent Environmental Quality Systems (i-EQS) for improved health and security in indoor environments. 

“Our specific objective is to develop experimentally validated computational tools for predicting the airflow and transport and migration of aerosols in the indoor environment,” says Ahmadi.  

The study will be focused on assessing personal exposure due to exchanges between the breathing zones of occupants in indoor environments.  These tools will provide the basis to develop real time prediction and control systems for intelligent built environmental systems to improve human health as well as for increased security. 

The project will ultimately benefit the design of greener buildings and create healthier indoor environments.

Portable Sensor Technology to Reduce Allergic Responses

Today, more than 12 million Americans are plagued by food allergies, and each year, these allergies are the cause of over 300,000 ambulatory-care visits by children alone. With no known cure, people with food allergies must avoid even trace amounts of a food allergen in order to avoid a potentially deadly response. And not surprisingly, most people who have had an allergic response ate something that they believed was “safe.”

suniProfessor of Chemical Engineering Ian Suni and his team are developing portable sensor technologies that detect food allergen, which could help reduce the number of allergic responses.  His research has been published in a number of journals, including the Journal of Electrochemical Society, Sensors and Actuators, and Analytical Chemistry.

“We are developing technology that will allow people with food allergies to detect food allergens, such as peanut proteins, even when they are embedded within a complex mixture, like a soup or a piece of chocolate, that contains a variety of possibly interfering species,” says Suni.

This research could be translated into consumer devices to detect these unexpected food allergens in the near future. “The development of commercial devices that can detect food allergens has been prevented in the past because of the complex food matrices,” he explains. “We’re addressing that problem to make the idea of these devices more achievable.”

Improving the Aerodynamics of a Luge Sled

Mechanical engineering professors Douglas G. Bohl and Brian Helenbrook are working to design a faster, more aerodynamic sled for the USA Luge Team in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The Clarkson team is looking at the aerodynamic shell and aerodynamic shape of the sled as a whole. Luge is the only Winter Olympics gravity sport measured to 1/1000th of a second, so very small changes in drag can greatly affect times.

The researchers have developed a computer model of a sled with a slider on it, computing the drag and examining the flow, and are working with an actual sled in Clarkson’s wind tunnel to make drag measurements.

Eventually, a sled will be built based on the Clarkson team’s research and taken to the low speed (sub-sonic) wind tunnel at the San Diego Air and Space Technology Center where USA Luge sleds are tested.

Placid Boatworks, a custom canoe shop in Lake Placid, N.Y., builds the pods that act as a seat for the athletes. The kufens, which are the bridge between the steel runners and the pod, are hand carved from ash and wrapped in fiberglass.

Sensors to Monitor Bridges

Clarkson is collaborating with the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority to apply sensor technology to monitor the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, which spans the St. Lawrence Seaway and connects New York to Canada.

The project focuses on the development of sensor technologies for bridge monitoring and sensor data fusion to improve the overall performance of the international bridge.

The technology was developed by Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Kerop D. Janoyan and Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Professor Pier Marzocca, who each have significant experience in bridge monitoring, modeling and data fusion analysis.

Janoyan has been involved in a series of national and international advanced transportation infrastructure and bridge engineering projects. The emphasis of his work is on the development and deployment of dense low-cost sensors interfaced with wireless sensor networks to obtain real-time measurements from in-service bridges. This provides valuable knowledge on the behavior of the structure, its response to service and environmental loading, and its deterioration condition.

Marzocca has also been involved in a number of projects dealing with advanced aeroelastic behavior of civil and aero-mechanical systems. Recently, he has worked on the development of computational tools for signature bridges that look into sensing data-fusion and modeling aspects directly applicable to the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.


Mapping Offshore Wind and Turbulence Fields

A research team, led by mechanical & aeronautical engineering professors Pier Marzocca, Suresh Dhaniyala and Lin Tian, is readying its unmanned aerial vehicle, the Clarkson RAVEN (Research Aerial Vehicle for Experimental Needs), to acquire wind turbulence data.

ravenThe Clarkson researchers along with colleagues from six institutions and companies in the U.S. and Europe, were awarded $700,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to study Lake Erie wind resources and to perform a detailed evaluation of remote sensing technologies for wind resource estimation.

Clarkson will work with lead institution Indiana University, as well as with Case Western Reserve University, Arizona State University, Risoe Danish Technical University, Sgurr Energy and Horizon Wind Energy LLC.

The team will map offshore wind and turbulence fields and develop best practices for integration and operation of different instrumentation, including lidar technologies, meteorological towers, UAV measurements, and satellite-derived products.

The three-dimensional view of wind characteristics obtained from this project will provide a greater understanding of the variability of wind and turbulence in offshore and coastal areas at heights, scales and precision relevant to wind energy projects. The data obtained from this study will be used to design wind turbines and wind farms, optimize energy capture and reduce the cost of electricity.