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Four initial ‘Preeminent Teams’ set early course for college’s growth

By Amy Raley and Emil Venere

Four initial ‘Preeminent Teams’ set early course for college’s growth

Author: Amy Raley and Emil Venere
Magazine Section: Strategic Growth Initiative
College or School: CoE
Article Type: Section Feature
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Feature Intro: Four research teams within the College of Engineering emerged victorious this fall in the college’s entrepreneurial Preeminent Teams competition.
Four research teams within the College of Engineering emerged victorious this fall in the college’s entrepreneurial Preeminent Teams competition. From a field of 32 teams, they most impressed panels of distinguished faculty from inside and outside the college as well as leaders in industry, start-ups and government.

The selection process — similar to that used by venture capitalists screening entrepreneurs — spotlighted the teams' potential for dramatic impact and international preeminence. By winning, the four teams have set the priorities for faculty hiring during the coming year and will be among focal points within the college’s strategic growth plan to add as many as 107 faculty through 2016.

“We are going to engineer change through the expansion of the College of Engineering,” Leah H. Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, told an audience recently gathered in the South Ballroom of Purdue Memorial Union for a President's Forum with Purdue President Mitch Daniels. Jamieson introduced the Preeminent Teams as a focus of the college’s expansion plan, which is a core component within Daniels’ Purdue Moves agenda. The Purdue Moves agenda to broaden Purdue’s global impact and enhance educational opportunities for students was announced in late summer.

Jamieson says that the four winning teams will be given resources, space, and added faculty: “We will provide what each team needs to position itself for genuine global preeminence.”

The four Preeminent Teams research will develop:

• Implantable networks of wireless nanoelectronic devices to enable medical treatment through sensors and actuators. The team is led by Pedro P. Irazoqui, director of the Center for Implantable Devices. Irazoqui is also associate head of biomedical engineering, Showalter Faculty Scholar, and
associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
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 Electrical and Computer Engineering; the Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine neurosurgical practice; and the Indiana University School of Medicine. “The key enabling technologies come from nanotechnology,” Irazoqui says. “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, which 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 Electrical and Computer Engineering. 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 says.

• New methods to study energetic materials, including explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics, for applications largely focused on national defense and security. The research team is led by Stephen Beaudoin, professor of chemical engineering. 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, seaports and other public venues like football arenas and the civilian infrastructure,” Beaudoin says.

• 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, professor of electrical and computer engineering 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 says. Researchers are developing advanced models and mathematical theory to better analyze and understand radio transmissions.

“These teams have the potential to dramatically build on their current strengths with strategic hires,” Jamieson says. “Their research will have far-reaching impact.”