Michigan Tech Exhibits in 2018 AutoMobili-D

AutoMobili-D with cars and people

Michigan Tech will participate in the 2018 AutoMobili-D exposition in Detroit. The event will run from Jan. 12-21. A portion of this program overlaps with the North American International Auto Show.

AutoMobili-D features 150,000 sq. ft. of dynamic display communities in the Cobo Center Atrium overlooking the international waterway and the adjoining Planet M hall.

Michigan Tech will be located in the “Universities” section of AutoMobili-D which will have about 30 universities including MIT, U-M and Carnegie Mellon. Michigan Tech’s booth will feature our unique research capabilities related to automotive research and unstructured environments.

CloudSat-based Assessment of GPM Microwave Imager Snowfall Observation Capabilities

Giulia Panegrossi, Jean-François Rysman, Daniele Casella, Anna Cinzia Marra, Paolo Sanò, and Mark S. Kulie published “CloudSat-based assessment of GPM Microwave Imager snowfall observation capabilities” in Remote Sensing on December 6, 2017.


The article describes a NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Microwave Imager (GMI) snowfall sensitivity study using CloudSat satellite radar data as evaluation dataset. The study illustrates complex high frequency microwave sensor signatures to snowfall events under different atmospheric conditions and microphysical composition. It defines environmental and snow-producing cloud composition thresholds where the 166 GHz GMI channel is sensitive to surface snowfall, thus providing useful guidance to improve GMI snowfall detection and estimation capabilities.

Figure 2. Snowfall event on 30 April 2014.

Graphs of height versus latitude and longitude for various quantities.
Fig. 2a. From top to bottom, the first panel shows height-lat/lon imagery of Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) reflectivity (color bar, in dBZ), the freezing level height (blue curve), and total precipitable water (TPW) (black curve, with values provided on the right-hand side y-axis), along the CloudSat track. In this panel, cloud layers where the DARDAR product identifies supercooled droplets are superimposed and shown in magenta. Second panel shows height-lat/lon imagery of 2C-SNOW snow water content (SWC) (color bar, in kg·m−3) and the snow water path (SWP) (black curve, with values provided on right-hand side y-axis). The third panel shows the GMI brightness temperatures (TBs) closest to each CPR pixel along the CloudSat track at 166 GHz (V and H polarization, in red), 183.3 ± 3 GHz and 183.3 ± 7 GHz (in blue). Bottom panel shows GMI TB difference (∆TB) at 166 GHz (V-H, in red), and for the two 183.3 GHz channels (in blue). In the top panel, vertical lines delineate different Sectors (I to V) identified in the discussion (see text for details).
Color graphs of coordinate version temperature.
Fig. 2b. GMI TB imagery: top row from left, 10, 18.7, 36.5, and 89 (H-pol) channels; bottom row from left: 166 (H-pol) and 183.3 ± 7 channels, ∆TB at 166 GHz (V pol−H pol) and at 183.3 GHz (183.3 ± 3 GHz–183.3 ± 7 GHz). The black line segment in each panel shows the CloudSat track. The sectors (I to V) identified in the discussion are also indicated (see text for details).

EP&SE Journal Article on Bio-Jet Fuel Tops Altmetrics Charts

Camelina sativa
Camelina sativa

According to AIChE’s online news site, ChEnected.com, “Camelina-Derived Jet Fuel and Diesel: Sustainable Advanced Biofuels,” by Chemical Engineering Professor David R. Shonnard, director of the Michigan Tech Sustainable Futures Institute, Larry Williams of Targeted Growth, Inc., and Tom N. Kalnes of UOP LLC, a Honeywell Company, has an outstanding Altmetric Attention Score of 128. That places it in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric.

Professor David Shonnard, Chemical Engineering, Michigan Technological University
Professor David Shonnard, Chemical Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Even though published in the AIChE journal Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy (EP&SE) in 2010, the article is currently trending online. It has been mentioned this year by 14 news outlets, including Scientific AmericanSmithsonian, and Popular Mechanics. Altmetrics track the use and discussion of research from online discussions and forums, including social media, research blogs, public policy documents, news articles, and more.

In the article, Shonnard, Williams, and Kalnes discuss how bio-jet fuels derived from oil-rich feedstocks, such as camelina and algae, have been successfully tested in proof-of-concept flights. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has approved a 50:50 blend of petroleum-based jet fuel and hydroprocessed renewable jet fuel for commercial and military flights.

Honeywell UPO LLC and Targeted Growth, Inc. funded the research on bio-jet fuel derived from camelina seeds developed by a Bozeman, Montana company, Sustainable Oil.

“Camelina, an oil seed crop, can be grown in more arid climates compared to many other plants that oil is derived from,” notes Shonnard. “Targeted Growth Inc. has identified 5 million acres across the country where camelina would be suitable as a rotation energy crop that would not interrupt food production. This could produce approximately 800 million gallons of camelina oil for conversion to renewable diesel or jet.”

In 2010, Shonnard completed a life cycle analysis (LCA) comparing camelina jet fuel with petroleum jet fuel, factoring in the greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizing production and use, growing, harvesting, oil recovery and conversion to jet fuel, and use of the renewable jet in applications. “Conventional camelina, that is camelina grown with current seed stock, can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 70 percent, with no loss of performance for the fuel.  A newer strain of camelina, one that needs less fertilizer and yield more pounds per acre,could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 84 percent compared with jet fuel from petroleum, says Shonnard. “Next generation biofuels are true hydrocarbons and on a molecular level indistinguishable from fossil fuels,” he notes.

“With expected future gains in yields/acre, camelina oil production and hydroprocessing has the potential to provide the United States an estimated 800 million gallons per year of high-quality, climate-friendly, renewable jet fuel,” the study concludes. Read the Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy (EP&SE) article for a limited time for free.

Three Enterprise Teams Compete in Fifth Annual Rekhi Innovation Challenge

BoardSport Color Gradient GraphicThe Fifth Annual Rekhi Innovation Challenge kicked off on Friday Nov. 10, 2017. Three Enterprise teams are competing for funding this year: Blue Marble Security, BoardSport Technologies and Velovations. The Rekhi Challenge is a crowdfunding competition to help promote and support student innovation and entrepreneurship through Michigan Tech’s crowdfunding site, Superior Ideas. The team that raises the most money will receive a monetary match of up to $5,000.

Monetary awards for total number of unique visitors, total number of unique funders, most social media engagement, most creative marketing plan and the first team to raise $1,000 will also be presented to teams at the conclusion of the competition.

Superior Ideas was established in 2012 to help bring university research and public service projects to life. The site uses crowdfunding to raise money and awareness for university research and public service projects that may not qualify for grant funding.

The Rekhi Innovation Challenge was developed in collaboration with the Enterprise Program Office and the Vice President for Research Office with support from Michigan Tech alumnus and longtime donor Kanwal Rekhi. The Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969.

Enterprise teams that have participated in past challenges include Innovative Global Solutions, Robotics Systems, Supermileage Systems, Aerospace, Blizzard Baja, GEAR and Open Source Hardware. Velovations took first place in the last competition with $2,550 in donations and a match of $2,550 from Rekhi, bringing the grand total to $5,100 in funding for their RENEW-U project.

RENEW-U is an ergometer for wheelchair users to exercise upper-extremity muscles in order to improve strength and mobility. Over the last four years, the Rekhi Innovation Challenge has provided more than $58,000 in support for 23 different student projects, attracting 267 unique donors.

For this year’s Rekhi Innovation Challenge, Blue Marble Security Enterprise is raising money to reach out to various community members and groups to increase interest in STEM fields among middle and high school students, particularly women.

BoardSport Technologies wants to develop a SmartBoard that will track snowboarders via GPS and REECO location to ensure a speedy rescue if caught in an avalanche or lost.

Velovations Enterprise is working with a local trails club to design and build a multi-purpose trail groomer with modular parts that can be swapped in the field to accommodate varying conditions.

If you’d like to learn more about any of these projects or donate, visit Superior Ideas. The Rekhi Innovation Challenge will run through March 31, 2018. Help support student innovation and entrepreneurship at Michigan Tech by making a donation today.

Inspired by nature—Getting underwater robots to work together, continuously

Nina Mahmoudian, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
Nina Mahmoudian, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Imagine deploying multiple undersea robots, all in touch and working together for months, even years, no matter how rigorous the mission, brutal the environment, or extreme the conditions.

It is possible, though not quite yet. “Limited energy resources and underwater communication are the biggest issues,” says Michigan Tech Researcher Nina Mahmoudian. Grants from a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Young Investigator Program from the Office of Naval Research are helping Mahmoudian solve those issues and pursue her ultimate goal: the persistent operation of undersea robots.

“Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are becoming more affordable and accessible to the research community,” she says. “But we still need multipurpose long-lasting AUVs that can adapt to new missions quickly and easily.”

Mahmoudian has already developed a fleet of low-cost, underwater gliders, ROUGHIEs, to do just that. Powered by batteries, they move together through the water simply by adjusting their buoyancy and weight. Each one weighs about 25 pounds. “ROUGHIE, by the way, stands for Research-Oriented Underwater Glider for Hands-on Investigative Engineering,” adds Mahmoudian.

“My most exciting observation was a Beluga mother and calf swimming together. It’s very similar to our recharge on-the-fly concept.”

Nina Mahmoudian

“The ROUGHIE’s open control architecture can be rapidly modified to incorporate new control algorithms and integrate novel sensors,” she explains. “Components can be serviced, replaced, or rearranged in the field, so scientists can validate their research in situ.” Research in underwater control systems, communication and networking, and cooperative planning and navigation all stand to gain.

Mahmoudian observes Mother Nature to design robotic systems. “There is so much to learn,” she says. “My most exciting observation was a Beluga mother and calf swimming together. It’s very similar to our recharge on-the-fly concept. The technology is an early stage of development.”

Mahmoudian’s students apply and implement their algorithms on real robots and test them in real environments. They also give back to the community, by teaching middle school students how to design, build, and program their own low-cost underwater robots using a simple water bottle, called a GUPPIE.

“As a girl growing up, I first thought of becoming an architect,” says Mahmoudian. “Then, one day I visited an exhibition celebrating the 30th anniversary of space flight. That’s when I found my passion.” Mahmoudian went on to pursue aerospace engineering in Iran, and then graduate studies at Virginia Tech in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. “Underwater gliders share the same physical concepts as airplanes and gliders, but deal with different fluid density and interactions,” she says.

Now at Michigan Tech, Mahmoudian’s work advances the abilities of unmanned robotic systems in the air, on land, and under sea. “Michigan Tech has easy access to the North Woods and Lake Superior—an ideal surrogate environment for testing the kind of autonomous systems needed for long term, challenging expeditions, like Arctic system exploration, or searching for signs of life on Europa, Jupiter’s moon.” She developed the Nonlinear and Autonomous Systems Laboratory (NAS Lab) in 2011 to address challenges that currently limit the use of autonomous vehicles in unknown, complex situations.

More than scientists and engineers, Mahmoudian wants simple, low-cost AUV’s to be available to anyone who may need one. “I envision communities in the Third World deploying low-cost AUVs to test and monitor the safety and quality of the water they use.”

Demand dispatch—Balancing power in the grid in a nontraditional way

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), distributed energy resources like these photovoltaic (PV) systems in a Boulder neighborhood—especially when they are paired with on-site storage—may eventually make large centralized power plants obsolete. Photo Credit: Topher Donahue
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), distributed energy resources like these photovoltaic (PV) systems in a Boulder neighborhood—especially when they are paired with on-site storage—may eventually make large centralized power plants obsolete. Photo Credit: Topher Donahue

Traditionally, in the electric power grid, generation follows electric power consumption, or demand. Instantaneous fluctuation in demand is primarily matched by controlling the power output of large generators.

Sumit Paudyal, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sumit Paudyal, Electrical & Computer Engineering

As renewable energy sources including solar and wind power become more predominant, generation patterns have become more random. Finding the instantaneous power balance in the grid is imperative. Demand dispatch—the precise, direct control of customer loads—makes it possible.

Michigan Tech researcher Sumit Paudyal and his team are developing efficient real-time control algorithms to aggregate distributed energy resources, and coordinate them with the control of the underlying power grid infrastructure.

“Sensors, smart meters, smart appliances, home energy management systems, and other smart grid technologies facilitate the realization of the demand dispatch concept,” Paudyal explains.

“The use of demand dispatch has promising potential in the US, where it is estimated that one-fourth of the total demand for electricity could be dispatchable using smart grid technologies.”

Sumit Paudyal

Coordination and control in real time is crucial for the successful implementation of demand dispatch on a large scale. “Our goal is to enable control dispatch distributed resources for the very same grid-level applications—frequency control, regulation, and load following—traditionally provided by expensive generators,” adds Paudyal.
“We have solved the demand dispatch problem of thermostatically-controlled loads in buildings and electric vehicle loads connected to moderate-size power distribution grids. The inherent challenge of the demand dispatch process is the computational complexity arising from the real-time control and coordination of hundreds to millions of customer loads in the system,” he adds. “We are now taking a distributed control approach to achieve computational efficiency in practical-sized, large-scale power grids.”

Michigan Tech Society of Women Engineers Students Attend WE17 Conference


Fourteen members and an adviser of the Michigan Tech Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section attended the annual National SWE WE17 Conference from October 25-29, 2017, in Austin, Texas.

Participants attended sessions on a variety of topics, networked with company representatives at the Career Fair with over 300 STEM based companies and celebrated women in Engineering. Michigan Tech members volunteered at Invent It! Build It! (an outreach activity for middle and high school girls).

Gretchen Hein, SWE Section adviser and faculty in Engineering Fundamentals, presented on two topics: the results of a survey of SWE Women in Academia members and whether or not there are gender differences in student performance first-year engineering courses.

Whether it was learning about making SWE more inclusive to women of color or learning to be a grateful leader in the workforce, the conference provided members with a variety of opportunities. They eagerly anticipate another opportunity to grow, network and celebrate women in STEM at SWE WE18 Conference next fall in Minneapolis.

New Engineering Faculty Fall 2017

Biomedical Engineering

Sang Yoon Han
Sang Yoon Han

Sang Yoon Han, PhD

Sang Yoon Han joins Michigan Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering as an assistant professor. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington in 2012.

Han has teaching experience at the University of Washington, as well as mentoring experience. He has multiple publications, awards and patents.

Chemical Engineering

Andre R. Da Costa
Andre R. Da Costa

Andre Da Costa, PhD

Andre Da Costa joins Michigan Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering as a professor with an endowed chair in chemical process safety. Da Costa earned his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of New South Wales in Australia. He is fluent in five languages—Spanish, English, Portuguese, Russian and French.

Da Costa served as the director and chief engineer at Pacific Gas & Electric Company prior to coming to Michigan Tech. He has also conducted extensive research on membrane technologies and holds 14 patents. He has received multiple competitive grants and serves as a chair of the Process Safety Subcommittee of the American Gas Association. Da Costa was recognized with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Gary Leach Award in 2004 for his contributions to the development and oversight of professional training programs.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Stephen M. Morse
Stephen M. Morse

Stephen Morse, PhD

Stephen Morse joins Michigan Tech’s Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics as an assistant professor. He received his PhD in Civil Engineering from Texas Tech University.

Morse taught as an assistant professor at Texas Tech University. He also has multiple awards and publications.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Anthony (Tony) Pinar
Anthony (Tony) Pinar

Anthony Pinar, PhD

Anthony Pinar joins Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as a lecturer. Pinar earned his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech, as well as his undergraduate degree.

He has worked at Tech as an instructor, as well as a co-advisor for an Enterprise group of four independent teams. He also has published in multiple journals.

Engineering Fundamentals

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart
Michelle Jarvie-Eggart

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, PhD

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart joins Michigan Tech’s Department of Engineering Fundamentals as a senior lecturer. Jarvie-Eggart is no stranger to Michigan Tech, having been an instructor in civil and environmental engineering. She received her PhD in Environmental Engineering from Tech in 2007.

She has been an instructor at six universities. She has worked at Barr Engineering and Cliffs Natural Resources, Inc. She has many publications and awards and has been UP chapter president of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration since 2014.

Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Mark Kulie
Mark Kulie

Mark Kulie, PhD

Mark Kulie joins Michigan Tech’s Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences as an assistant professor. He received his PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before coming to Tech, he held research positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kulie has also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, North Carolina State University and Madison College. He has received the Exceptional Service Award for Teaching and the NASA Group Achievement Award as part of the Global Precipitation Measurement Post-Launch Team. Along with the many awards he has received, Kulie also has several publications.

Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Parisa Abadi
Parisa Abadi

Parisa Abadi, PhD

Parisa Abadi joins Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics as an assistant professor. She received her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2013.

Abadi has experience in teaching and research. She has multiple publications and received awards, including the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the American Association of University Women in 2015. She is also a member of many professional societies, such as the Society of Women Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Physical Society.

Steven Goldsmith
Steven Goldsmith

Steven Goldsmith, PhD

Steven Goldsmith joins Michigan Tech’s Departments of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and Computer Science as a research professor. He has held this position previously. He received his PhD in Engineering from the University of New Mexico in 1989.

Goldsmith has multiple reports, publications and patents. He has also held many positions in academia, including lecturer and researcher. Goldsmith retired as a distinguished member of the technical staff of Sandia National Laboratories after 32 years of service.

Hassan Masoud
Hassan Masoud

Hassan Masoud, PhD

Hassan Masoud joins Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics as an assistant professor. He earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Prior to coming to Tech, Masoud worked as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada. He is a reviewer for multiple journals, including the European Journal of Computational Mechanics, and has published in several journals. He is also a member of the American Physical Society and the Society of Engineering Science.

Catechol-Based Adhesive Research

Bruce P. Lee
Bruce P. Lee, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Research by Ameya R. Narkar, Jonathan D. Kelley, Rattapol Pinnaratip, and Bruce P Lee has been accepted in Biomacromolecules.

DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.7b01311

Effect of Ionic Functional Groups on the Oxidation State and Interfacial Binding Property of Catechol-Based Adhesive” involves the study of marine mussels, which secrete catechol-containing adhesive proteins for underwater binding to surfaces like ship hulls and docks Catechol has been used by scientists and engineers around the world to design synthetic adhesives and coatings for wide ranges of applications. It can be used in tissue adhesive, tissue engineering scaffold, coating for preventing adhesion of bacteria, and so on.

It is shown, however, that in the presence of neutral to basic pH (for example, pH 7.4 in the body or pH 7.5-8.4 in the ocean), catechol oxidizes, leading to reduced adhesive strength. Mussels actually utilize multiple adhesive proteins with various ingenious designs to prevent catechol oxidation and to preserve strong adhesion. The adhesive proteins exhibit antioxidant properties, hydrophobicity for avoiding contact with basic sea water, and other methods in order to optimize adhesion.

We found that incorporation of acidic functional groups in the adhesive network can also prevent catechol oxidation, preserving strong adhesion, even up to a pH of 8.5. This is a much simpler approach than what the mussels employ and potentially easier for designing synthetic mimics of these adhesive proteins. This means that we will be able to design biomimetic adhesives for biomedical applications and underwater applications, which are the basic pH environments of interest.

Vital signs—Powering heart monitors with motion artifacts

Electrocardiogram research Ye Sarah Sun

More than 90 percent of US medical expenditures are spent on caring for patients who cope with chronic diseases. Some patients with congestive heart failure, for example, wear heart monitors 24/7 amid their daily activities.

Ye Sarah Sun
Ye Sarah Sun, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Michigan Tech researcher Ye Sarah Sun develops new human interfaces for heart monitoring. “There’s been a real trade-off between comfort and signal accuracy, which can interfere with patient care and outcomes,” she says. Sun’s goal is to provide a reliable, personalized heart monitoring system that won’t disturb a patient’s life. “Patients need seamless monitoring while at home, and also while driving or at work,” she says.

Sun has designed a wearable, self-powered electrocardiogram (ECG) heart monitor. “ECG, a physiological signal, is the gold standard for diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, but it is a weak signal,” Sun explains. “When monitoring a weak signal, motion artifacts arise. Mitigating those artifacts is the greatest challenge.”

Sun and her research team have discovered and tapped into the mechanism underlying the phenomenon of motion artifacts. “We not only reduce the in uence of motion artifacts but also use it as a power resource,” she says.

Their new energy harvesting mechanism provides relatively high power density compared with traditional thermal and piezoelectric mechanisms. Sun and her team have greatly reduced the size and weight of an ECG monitoring device compared to a traditional battery-based solution. “The entire system is very small,” she says, about the size of a pack of gum.

“We not only reduce the influence of motion artifacts but also use it as a power resource.”

Ye Sarah Sun

Unlike conventional clinical heart monitoring systems, Sun’s monitoring platform is able to acquire electrophysiological signals despite a gap of hair, cloth, or air between the skin and the electrodes. With no direct contact to the skin, users can avoid potential skin irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, too—something that could make long-term monitoring a lot more comfortable.

Ye Sarah Sun self-powered ECG heart monitor
Sun’s self-powered ECG heart monitor works despite a gap of hair, cloth or air between the user’s skin and the electrodes.