Ideas to Innovation Projects

The centerpiece of the ECE Technology Innovation Concentration is a yearlong immersive design experience that integrates an ambitious system design project with the development of students’ professional success skills. These end-to-end projects engage teams to work across the spectrum of materials and devices to circuits, systems, software, and reliability. An important part of your experience in this Industry-Oriented Master's Program is learning how to develop rough ideas for new projects into compelling cases for new product development. Developing a concrete plan for the project and successfully executing it are also important parts of the experience as is second stage planning for how this new technology demonstration could be turned into a new product line or start-up company. The conception, selling to “management,” project planning, and execution are the responsibility of the student teams. Plenty of advice and guidance will be provided. Student teams consist of members with different technical expertise. During the fall semester, each team identifies, proposes and initiates work. Most of the technical work takes place during spring semester and is completed during Summer Session.

The development of students’ success skills is an integral part of the design experience – tightly linked to the design project itself. Skills to be developed include written and oral communication to a variety of audiences, building successful teams, working in teams, leading teams, an appreciation of professional ethics, and the related business knowledge and understanding of intellectual property needed to develop technology demonstrations into start-up companies or new product lines in existing companies.

This yearlong experience is designed to prepare students to conceive compelling ideas for project, sell them to management, work in a team to successfully demonstrate proof-of-concept, and then to plan the stage two scale up to a successful small business or product line in a large company. The processes for project proposals, approvals to proceed, design reviews, and final reports are modeled on those of leading technology innovation companies.

Ideas for projects may come from the students themselves or from other sources. For example, several faculty research groups are eager to turn recent research advances into product demonstrations. Similarly, Purdue’s Office of Technology Commercialization is looking for teams to produce proof-of-concept demonstrations of intellectual property in Purdue’s portfolio.

From Concept to Completion

Some potential ideas for projects from Purdue ECE research groups are listed below.

Design of Light-weight, Efficient 12- or 24-Vdc to 60-Hz, 120-Vac Inverter for Microgrids
Design of ultra-low power IoT platforms using emerging memory technologies
Design of secure and reliable implantable and wearable medical devices
Design of low-cost, smart vents for retrofitting single-zone HVAC systems
Optical Frequency Identification Devices - OFIDs
Developing wireless biosensors for point-of-care diagnostics
Data Convertors for Wireless Sensing Applications
Reconfigurable RF Electronics
High-performance IoT wireless sensors
Creating a miniature Solar Farm
Storage of Solar Energy 
Shifting the cost curve with radiatively-cooled CPV
Food, Water, Energy Miniature Testbed
Semiconductor Manufacturing and Statistical Process Control


Design of Light-weight, Efficient 12- or 24-Vdc to 60-Hz, 120-Vac Inverter for Microgrids 

Description: Microgrids are utilized to provide electric power in remote locations or in emergency conditions where, due to a natural or man-made disaster, the conventional power grid has been disabled. In this project, students will design, prototype, and demonstrate a light-weight, efficient 12- or 24-Vdc to 60-Hz, 120-Vac inverter. The energy will be supplied by a pre-charged 12- or 24-Vdc battery pack that, in actual applications, would be charged from a photovoltaic array or wind turbine generator. Since portability is a key desirable characteristic, emphasis will be placed on minimizing size and weight utilizing (1) state-of-the-art wide-bandgap transistors, (2) high-frequency switching, and (3) efficient magnetic materials for filtering, achieving the required voltage-level shift, and providing galvanic isolation between input and output.
Advisors: Oleg Wasynczuk and Steve Pekarek


 

Design of ultra-low power IoT platforms using emerging memory technologies 

Description: Forecasts project that, by 2020, there will be around 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), helping to engineer new solutions to societal-scale problems such as healthcare, energy conservation, transportation, etc. A vast majority of the devices at the edge of the IoT will be battery-powered and hence, severely energy-constrained. In this project, student teams will work with graduate researchers in the Embedded Systems and IoT Lab to architect new IoT platforms that are highly energy-efficient and can be operated in an energy neutral manner using energy harvested from their operating environment, thus eliminating the need for battery replacement.
Advisor: Vijay Raghunathan


 

Design of secure and reliable implantable and wearable medical devices

Description: Implantable and wearable medical devices are used for monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of an ever-increasing range of medical conditions, leading to an improved quality of life for patients. The addition of wireless connectivity to medical devices has enabled post-deployment tuning of therapy and access to device data virtually anytime and anywhere but, at the same time, has led to the emergence of security attacks as a critical concern. In this project, student teams will work with graduate researchers in the Embedded Systems and IoT Lab to design new hardware prototypes for wearable/implantable medical devices that are highly secure and reliable by design against a number of security attacks and threats. Hardware platforms will be designed, fabricated, and tested in the lab using a number of in-vitro experiments.
Advisors: Vijay Raghunathan and Anand Raghunathan


 

Design of low-cost, smart vents for retrofitting single-zone HVAC systems

Description: It is well-known that single-zone central heating and cooling systems are notoriously uneven (with some rooms invariably being too hot and some rooms too cold). Smart vents control airflow to rooms to help eliminate these temperature imbalances so that every room is the perfect temperature, every time. In this project, students will design, prototype, and demonstrate a low-cost smart vent that can serve as a drop-in replacement to a regular airflow vent. The vent will be controllable from a smartphone application as well as services such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc. The student team will work with graduate students in the Embedded Systems and IoT Lab to design, build, and test these smart vents.
Advisor: Vijay Raghunathan


 

Optical Frequency Identification Devices - OFIDs

Description: A new class of sensing and identification tags entitled optical frequency identification devices (OFIDs) have been recently proposed. In OFIDs, solar cells are employed not only for energy harvesting, but also for the optical transmission and reception of information, through exploiting their luminescence emission properties. In this project, various OFID receivers and transmitters based on both board and chip design will be pursued.  Students who take this project will gain experience in the area of the design, implementation, packaging and measurements of analog, digital and optical circuits and systems.
Advisors: Walter Leon-SalasBorja Peleato-Inarrea and Saeed Mohammadi


 

Developing wireless biosensors for point-of-care diagnostics

Description: With the aging population, health monitoring devices will be playing a significant role in healthcare. These devices will have to be miniaturized, operate at low power and equipped with wireless communication capability. In this project, a number of sensors and biosensors including pH, Oxygen and Glucose meters will be designed using a rapid prototyping techniques (e.g. laser-cutting and 3-D printing). Each sensor will be equipped with an analog and wireless interface circuit through a board or an ASIC chip design. Students who take this project will gain experience in the area of the design, implementation, packaging and measurements of biosensors and analog and RF circuits.
Advisor: Saeed Mohammadi


 

Data Convertors for Wireless Sensing Applications

Description: Data converters are the core of mixed signal circuit design and have applications in sensor interface circuits. Among different data convertor topologies, a very popular design is the successive approximation analog to digital converter (SAR ADCs). SAR ADCs allow for high sample rates at very low powers, hence are suitable for low power biosensing applications such as neural recorders and other implantable medical devices. In addition to medical applications low power data converters are also necessary in such areas as IoT, RFIDs, long-range wireless sensing, etc. since operation without batteries is desired if not necessary. Students who take this project will gain experience in the area of the mixed signal circuit design, implementation, and measurements.
Advisor: Saeed Mohammadi


 

Reconfigurable RF Electronics 

Description: Reconfigurable RF electronics enable smart communication systems that can work in the presence of strong intentional or unintentional interferers. Students will design and build adaptive RF devices including, for example, filters, antennas, and limiters. Students will get hands-on experience working side-by-side with PhD students. Furthermore, successful designs will be implemented and tested in the lab under a variety of relevant conditions. 
Advisor: Dimitrios Peroulis


 

High-performance IoT wireless sensors

Description: The Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology is rapidly changing industrial processes and business models. In this project students will design and build high-performance sensors (e.g. temperature, humidity, gas, etc.) that can critically impact a variety of fields including food management, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture.  Students will get hands-on experience working side-by-side with PhD students. Furthermore, successful designs will be implemented and tested in the lab in relevant platforms. 
Advisor: Dimitrios Peroulis


 

Creating a miniature Solar Farm

Description: The ever-increasing need for energy is satisfied in part by renewable energy sources, such as solar cells. Installing a large scale solar farm is very expensive and time consuming. In this project, students will design a scaled version of a solar farm that can replicate the performance of large scale solar farms at a fraction of the cost and time.  Students will instrument the system so that the information can be recorded and processed. The student team will select the solar cells, design the farm, integrate the sensors and quantify the relative advantages of different farm topologies, tracking algorithms.
Advisors: Muhammad Alam and Peter Bermel


 

Storage of Solar Energy  

Description: Storing solar energy when the sun is down and providing power whenever needed it is a key challenge that must be solved for further adoption of the PV technology. Depending on the solar irradiance, one must dynamically control the storage vs. load characteristics for optimum use of solar energy. In this project, the student team will use solar cells, batteries and/or solar thermal storage, power electronics, and control algorithms to create a highly efficient solar energy storage systems.
Advisors: Muhammad Alam and Peter Bermel


 

Shifting the cost curve with radiatively-cooled CPV

Description: Concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) take advantage of the natural increase in efficiency associated with focusing the sun onto a smaller region and reducing the number of PV cells needed. CPV is, however, not as widely used as one might expect, because these systems must operate either at high temperatures and/or with a large balance of systems. The former cuts down the lifetime significantly, while the latter renders the solution uneconomic. In this project, students will demonstrate the potential of radiative cooling to provide a lightweight, passive cooling solution for CPV cells and predict the impact on temperature, reliability, and costs.
Advisors: Peter Bermel and Muhammad Alam


 

Food, Water, Energy Miniature Testbed 

Description: The goal of the project is to create a replicate in miniature the ingredients of an eco-system that must dynamically allocate the solar spectrum for crop production, water purification, and energy generation. The student group will use implement a miniature system and optimize it through computation modeling.
Advisors: Peter Bermel, R. Agrawal, and Muhammad Alam


 

Semiconductor Manufacturing and Statistical Process Control

Description: Semiconductor manufacturing is a technology platform for micro/nanoelectronics, as well as micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and photonic-system components. In modern fabrication facilities (“fabs”) there are typically a few process families being run on many (thousands of) wafers every day.  For this large scale mass production, tight process control is paramount in maintaining high yields and quick-turn analysis of process problems, drifts, and assignable causes.  One analysis tool used extensively in wafer fabs is Statistical Process Control (SPC). In SPC, key parameters are logged for each batch of wafers that are run throughout every fab process, and focused statistical methods are used to monitor the process performance and identify assignable cause issues outside of standard random process variations. In this project, student teams will design and implement sets of experiments suitable for statistical process analysis during various phases of micro/nano-fabrication process development. Each team will address one or more unit process steps or a process integration challenge defined in collaboration with staff and users at the Birck Nanotechnology Center. The student team will implement and document fabrication steps and analysis techniques, including definition of process parameter space, design of test patterns for monitoring key material/performance parameters, characterization approaches and statistical analysis of both process parameters and electrical test results.
Advisors: David Janes and R. Reger