RocketA team of engineers from Monash University have successfully test-fired the world’s first 3D printed rocket engine. By utilizing a unique aerospike design, the team, led by ECS fellow Nick Birbilis, was able to increase efficiency levels over that of traditional bell-shaped rockets.

This from The Standard:

Its design works by firing the gases along a spike and using atmospheric pressure to create a virtual bell.

The shape of the spike allows the engine to maintain high efficiency over a wider range of altitude and air pressures. It’s a much more complex design but is difficult to build using traditional technology.

Read the full article.

“We were able to focus on the features that boost the engine’s performance, including the nozzle geometry and the embedded cooling network,” Birbilis says. “These are normally balanced against the need to consider how on earth someone is going to manufacture such a complex piece of equipment. Not so with additive manufacturing. Going from concept to testing in just four months is an amazing achievement.”

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By: Carolyn Conner Seepersad, University of Texas at Austin

Women in engineeringAs millions of students of all ages return to school this fall, they are making important choices that have a strong influence on their eventual career path – which college majors to pursue, which high school classes to take, even which elementary school extracurricular activities to join. Many of them – especially women, girls and members of minority groups – make choices that lead them away from professions in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Women are just 13 percent of mechanical engineering undergraduate students. And women earn only 14.2 percent of doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering. More broadly, women make up 49 percent of the college-educated workforce, but only 14 percent of practicing engineers nationwide.

When these disparities persist, everyone suffers. Women miss out on opportunities in growing and highly paid occupations that require science and engineering skills. Furthermore, diverse design teams are more innovative and often avoid key flaws when designing products and systems with which we interact on a daily basis. Early airbags designed by primarily male design teams worked for adult male bodies, but resulted in avoidable deaths of female and child passengers. Early voice recognition systems failed to recognize female voices because they were calibrated for standard male voices.

How can we get more women into engineering fields, and help them stay for their whole careers? We need their insight and creativity to help solve the problems facing our world.

Options for action

Experts tell us that there are a variety of things that will help. For example, we need to encourage young girls to develop their spatial skills, laying the foundation for further scientific exploration as they grow.

We also need to find ways to help women feel less alone as they help us build a more inclusive engineering community. This includes hosting female-focused engineering interest groups on campuses and in workplaces, and highlighting engineering role models who reflect the true diversity of our population.

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A team lead by Bradley Bundy, chemical engineering associate professor, is paving the way for new life-saving vaccine technology.Image: Mark A. Philbrick

A team lead by Brad Bundy, chemical engineering associate professor, is paving the way for new life-saving vaccine technology.
Image: Mark A. Philbrick

When viruses emerge—spreading in a rapid and extensive way—researchers must scramble to create life-saving vaccines. At Brigham Young University, researchers are working to speed up that process.

A team of chemical engineers has devised a way to create machinery for vaccine production en masse, freeze drying the produced vaccines and stockpiling them for future use. This development could aid in relief efforts when new viruses hit populations, allowing researchers to rapidly produce vaccines.

“You could just pull it off the shelf and make it,” says Brad Bundy, senior author of the study. “We could make the vaccine and be ready for distribution in a day.”

This from Brigham Young University:

Bundy’s idea is a new angle on the emerging method of ‘cell-free protein synthesis,’ a process that combines DNA to make proteins needed for drugs (instead of growing protein in a cell). His lab is creating a system where the majority of the work is done beforehand so vaccine kits can be ready to go and be activated at the drop of a dime.

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Stormwater as a Solution to Water Shortage

Communities are facing pressing water and sanitation issues across the globe. Recently, ECS tackled this issue through a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish the Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge. While ECS is working on a global level to encourage life-saving research in water and sanitation, researchers at Stanford University and working on innovative solutions to these issues in their own back yard.

Solving Sanitation

The water infrastructure that is currently in place in many semiarid and highly populated regions is reaching its limit. When taking recent droughts and population booms into consideration, many communities are beginning to fear water shortages. However, environmental engineer and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment Senior Fellow, Richard Luthy, believes that answer to this problem has been right in front of us all along.

“These are billion-dollar problems,” said Luthy. “Meeting water needs in the future is going to depend a lot on how we reuse water and what we do with stormwater.”

Capture and Reuse Stormwater

Luthy is currently looking at ways to capture and treat stormwater to assist in alleviating current water supply issues in densely populated, semiarid environments. The environmental engineer is proposing a stormwater capture center that would be situated on 50-acres of currently unused space. Not only could the treatment plant help secure water infrastructure and the needs of the community, but it could also help the environment.

With stormwater comes runoff. This runoff is contaminated with harmful chemicals and often makes its way into oceans and streams. By recovering and cleaning a large portion of the stormwater, researchers believe that we will see a decrease in water pollution due to runoff.

Wind Turbine System Recycles Wasted Energy

Wind energy has been rising in the ranks when it comes to renewable energy sources. In the United States alone, wind energy produces enough electricity to power roughly 18 million homes—with about 48,000 utility-scale wind turbines operating nationally. While wind energy shows promising potential, there is still room for scientists to tweak this technology in order to yield higher efficiency levels.

The latest prototype of a new wind turbine system was developed with that goal in mind. The new system from researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is set to yield 8.5 percent more electricity than current wind turbines.

Powering the Future

While wind turbines are a promising source of alternative energy, they tend to produce a decent amount of surplus energy that has not been able to be harvested and utilized. The newly developed turbine prototype examines that issue and can now store surplus energy for later use as electricity.

When comparing the new prototype and current generation wind turbines, the new turbines have the potential to yield up to an extra 16,400 kwh of electricity per month—coming in around 18 times the amount of energy a single United States household uses in a month.

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Lab-on-a-Chip Changes Clinical Practice

Biomedical engineers are getting closer to perfecting novel lab-on-a-chip technology. The latest breakthrough from Rutgers University shows promising results for significant cost cutbacks on life-saving tests for disorders ranging from HIV to Lyme disease.

This from Rutgers University:

The new device uses miniaturized channels and values to replace “benchtop” assays – tests that require large samples of blood or other fluids and expensive chemicals that lab technicians manually mix in trays of tubes or plastic plates with cup-like depressions.

Read the full article.

Changing Clinical Practice 

The new development builds on previous lab-on-a-chip research, such as the device from Brigham Young University to improve and simplify the speed of detection of prostate cancer and kidney disease. Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have also propelled this novel research with their lab-on-a-chip device that can make the study of tumor cells significantly more efficient.

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Lili Deligianni is a Research Scientist and Principal Investigator at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Her innovative work in chemical engineering has led to cutting-edge developments in chip technology and thin film solar cells. Lili has been with ECS for many years and currently serves as the Society’s Secretary.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

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Pulse Check

EstherTakeuchi09

Esther S. Takeuchi, past President of ECS and key contributor to the battery system that is still used to power life-saving implantable cardiac defibrillators

As a membership and development intern, my responsibilities include the organizing and electronic conversion of paper membership documents as ECS makes the transition from file cabinets to e-file folders. While going through the archive of members my heart skipped a beat, so to speak, as I read the profile of Esther S. Takeuchi. There are countless articles and information about Dr. Takeuchi, so I won’t press you with too many of her accolades. While being a member ECS and under the funding of Wilson Greatbatch she developed the Li/SVO (silvervanadium oxide) battery that powers the majority of the world’s lifesaving cardiac defibrillators.

Among the many members of ECS, Dr. Takeuchi stood out to me due in part to her humble beginnings. Despite her origin she accomplished momentous feats that impacted millions of lives. Energy Technologies Area states, “Dr.Takeuchi has been credited with holding more patents (currently over 140) than any other living woman.” Dr. Takeuchi’s continued membership with ECS helps promote and encourage the retention of current members within the Society, and may also attract new members who believe in the importance of this line of work. It’s a true benefit for society that members like Esther S. Takeuchi present their work to the world so that we can all benefit from it.

Let’s see how your heart is doing. Take your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. According to WebMD, the normal resting heart rate for a healthy adult ranges from 50-70 bpm. However for people with an irregular heart rhythm, commonly known as arrhythmia, this count may be off as your heart could be beating too quickly, too slowly, or otherwise abnormally. For serious cases, an implantable defibrillator or pacemaker is implanted into the chest or abdomen to help regulate and effectively shock the heart back into a normal rhythm again. If an electrical device needs to be placed inside of a living body, it had better work, not leak, and last for a very long time. Innovative, revolutionary, and life-changing are just a few thoughts that come to mind when realizing the type of contributions members like Dr. Takeuchi make to not only keep the passion beating in the hearts of ECS members, but the rest of the world as well. Check out the her video interview with ECS, or download it as a podcast, to learn more about Dr.Takeuchi’s innovative and monumental work.

[Image: State University of New York at Buffalo]

es-2015-008758_0004The cleaning of industrial wastewater is a persistent issue across the globe. If left untreated, these harmful waters could enter open watercourses, dispersing contaminants such as mercury and lead. Not only is this an immediate health risk, but it also threatens the entire ecosystem.

Modern wastewater treatment plants have been able to treat the water, but have not been very environmentally conscious. The typical plant produces CO2 by burning fossil fuels for power and the general decomposition of the materials in the wastewater. Not to mention, these things require a lot of power. About 12 trillion gallons of wastewater gets treated each year in the United States along, consuming an alarmingly high 3 percent of the nation’s energy grid.

Researchers have already produced power from pee and made poop potable; so why not develop a new type of wastewater treatment device that significantly lessens the severity of CO2 emissions and simultaneously captures greenhouse gases?

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We recently sat down with esteemed battery engineer Esther Takeuchi, the key contributor to the battery system that is still used to power the majority of life-saving implantable cardiac defibrillators.

Takeuchi’s career has made an immense impact on science and has been recognized globally. She currently holds more than 150 U.S. patents, more than any American woman, which earned her a spot in the Inventors Hall of Fame.

Her innovative work in battery research also landed her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008, where the president complimented her on her work that is “responsible for saving millions of lives.”

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

PS: Check out the video version of this podcast and interviews with other world-leaders in electrochemical and solid state science as part of our Masters Series.

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