December 2013 Newsletter

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Greetings from West Lafayette

As you may have heard, the College of Engineering at Purdue is embarking on a period of remarkable growth over the next five years.  With the support of the Provost and Board of Trustees, the size of the CoE faculty will grow by as much as 30% (from around 360 to 460) and staff by 28% over the next five years.

Faculty growth will form the largest component and will serve as the centerpiece of the CoE expansion plans.  Recognizing that growth on this scale is an opportunity for transformational change, a significant part of our faculty growth will be through the hiring of "preeminent teams" that have the potential for dramatic impact and international visibility and leadership.

For 2013-14, the process for prioritizing and selecting preeminent teams was modeled after an entrepreneurial pitch-competition.  (We anticipate that a similar process will be used in subsequent years as well).  Faculty members were given the opportunity to create interdisciplinary research groups with an ability to have a transformational impact on their field.  These teams then presented brief presentations on their research project to a panel of distinguished professors and industry leaders.  Projects were judged on a set of criteria including strong leadership, potential for collaboration both within the university and with industry, and contribution to innovation, entrepreneurship, and educational enterprise.

32 teams competed in the first round of the pitch competition, and 12 moved on to the second round.  Four teams were ultimately selected.  Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty were represented on all four teams selected in the competition. In three of those teams, ECE faculty were team leaders.  We are proud of the important role that ECE will play in engineering's strategic, transformational growth.  With these hires, we look forward to dramatically building on our existing strengths to become international leaders in our field.  We invite you to read about these projects below.


V. Ragu Balakrishnan
Michael and Katherine Birck Head
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Implantable Networks

Implantable networks of wireless nanoelectronic devices to enable medical treatment through sensors and actuators. The team is led by Pedro Irazoqui, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Associate Professor of ECE.

Wireless implantable devices are being developed for various potential applications including monitoring and suppression of epileptic seizures; prosthesis control for injured military personnel; modulation of cardiac arrhythmias; treatment of depression and gastroparesis, a partial paralysis of the stomach; and monitoring of intraocular pressure and therapeutic intervention for glaucoma.

The research calls for a partnership among the Center for Implantable Devices with the National Science Foundation NEEDS (Nano-Engineered Electronic Device Simulation) initiative led by Mark Lundstrom, the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of ECE; the Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine neurosurgical practice; and the Indiana University School of Medicine.

"The key enabling technologies come from nanotechnology," Irazoqui said. "Access to them comes from our partnership with NEEDS, and the clinical impact, which is the overarching goal, happens as a result of our partnership with the hospitals in Indianapolis."

Quantum Photonics

Quantum Photonics could make possible future quantum information systems far more powerful than today's computers. The research team is led by Vladimir M. Shalaev, scientific director of nanophotonics at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center and the Robert and Anne Burnett Distinguished Professor of ECE.

The technology hinges on using single photons "the tiny particles that make up light" for switching and routing in future computers that might harness the exotic principles of quantum mechanics. The quantum information processing technology would use structures called metamaterials, artificial nanostructured media. The metamaterials, when combined with tiny optical emitters, could make possible a new hybrid technology that uses quantum light in future computers. Computers based on quantum physics would have quantum bits, or qubits, that exist in both the on and off states simultaneously, dramatically increasing the computer's power and memory.

Quantum computers would take advantage of a strange phenomenon described by quantum theory called entanglement. Instead of only the states of one and zero, there are many possible entangled quantum states in between.

"Other important quantum information applications include, for example, a quantum Internet, secure information, quantum simulators, atomic clocks, ultrapowerful sensors, quantum cryptography and teleportation," Shalaev said.

Flexible and Efficient Spectrum Usage

DARPA team Techniques to more efficiently use the increasingly congested radio spectrum for communications in commercial, military and emergency services applications. The growing number of mobile devices in operation threatens a coming spectrum crisis. Advances are needed to ensure reliable communications to reduce dropped calls and slow downloads and to ease congestion over the airwaves. The research team is led by David Love, ECE Professor and University Faculty Scholar.

The effort dovetails with a recent national focus on the problem. Congress approved a national broadband plan in March 2010. The White House announced a $100 million investment in spectrum initiatives earlier this year, and efforts also involve multiple government agencies including the National Science Foundation and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

"The research aims to help reduce interference in radio communications and allow high-priority radios for the military and disaster relief to operate with minimal disruption and loss of life," Love said. Researchers are developing advanced models and mathematical theory to better analyze and understand radio transmissions.

Energetic Materials: Science, Engineering, Sensing, and Detection for Defense and Security Applications

New methods to study energetic materials, including explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics, for applications largely focused on national defense and security.  The research teams is lead by Stephen Beaudoin, a professor of chemical engineering, Professor Charles Bouman, Showalter Professor of ECE, is team leader.

Researchers are working to characterize, detect and defeat existing and emerging energetic materials and to develop new and improved materials for military applications.  The primary driver is in homeland security environments, work that aims to transform the way that explosives screening is performed, allowing the implementation of arrays of complementary sensors designed to detect and track explosives when they are at large distances from intended targets.

Some technologies being developed will analyze the spectrum of light shining through vaporized samples.  Others will analyze solid residues.  The research includes work focusing on detecting traces of explosives, characterizing homemade explosives so that their threat can be better assessed, and using CT and other scanners to detect and identify bulk explosives in containers such as luggage and cargo cases.

"The work we do aims to improve screening for explosives at airports, sea ports and other public venues like football arenas and the civilian infrastructure," Beaudoin said.
Purdue University
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

465 Northwestern Avenue
West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
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