Defining Purdue Engineering research in the next decade
Building preeminent teams is a research-centric approach to faculty hiring that asks: How would you put your research expertise and leadership skills to use in forming a team to catapult your research area, or an emerging research area of potential, to international preeminence? What existing faculty expertise and infrastructure exist at Purdue and what is still needed to maximize our potential for success in this area? These investment areas have been developed in a process akin to entrepreneurs pitching to venture capitalists –part of the College’s ongoing theme of bringing characteristics of the entrepreneurial world to the research world.
Criteria for the Preeminent Teams competition included:
- Strong Leadership in multiple dimensions, including organizational and technical leadership
- Promise of preeminence (being in the top 1-5)
- Promise of transformative impact
- Potential for collaboration
- Potential and strategies for sustainable research funding from diverse sectors
- Contribution to the education enterprise
- Contribution to innovation and entrepreneurship
- Leveraging existing strengths and infrastructure
The preeminent team process is part of the College’s strategic growth plan that will add as many as 107 faculty over five years. In addition to the team hiring, other hires are related to strengthening disciplines and taking advantage of opportunities to enhance quality and diversity.
Engineering’s strategic growth plan is part of the Purdue Moves, a range of initiatives designed to broaden Purdue’s global impact and enhance educational opportunities for students.
A research center for the manufacture of particulate products including foods and feed, consumer goods, specialty chemicals, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and energetic materials. The work will focus on a model-based process design to produce engineered particles and structured particulate products, develop the understanding of process-structure-function relationships for these products and build capacity through a highly qualified workforce in particulate science and engineering. The research could affect applications in areas including drug delivery and agriculture. Particle products contribute more than $1 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, and a number of companies are headquartered in the Midwest.
Visit the Center for Particulate Products and Processes to learn more
The team is led by Pedro P. Irazoqui, director of Purdue's Center for Implantable Devices, associate head for research, associate professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering 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 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."
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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 one and zero. "Other important quantum information applications include, for example, a quantum internet, secure information, quantum simulators, atomic clocks, ultra-powerful sensors, quantum cryptography and teleportation," Shalaev said.
Visit the Purdue Quantum Center to learn more
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, a 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, sea ports and other public venues like football arenas and the civilian infrastructure," Beaudoin said.
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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, a 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 said. Researchers are developing advanced models and mathematical theory to better analyze and understand radio transmissions.
Extreme density, low-temperature plasmas for electronics, aerospace, food science and biotechnology applications. Low temperature plasmas (LTP) are weakly ionized gases that are being extensively used in fluorescent lights and in microchip fabrication. New ways of generating and controlling LTP could lead to new applications ranging from medicine and food processing to enhancing aerodynamics and propulsion performance of existing and future airplanes. The ability of plasmas to interact with electromagnetic waves, combined with controllability and “tenability” of plasma characteristics, could enable novel radio-frequency devices.
This team will conduct research into composites manufacturing for industries including aerospace and automotive. New materials could bring innovations such as lighter, more powerful and fuel-efficient jet engines. The team will consist of faculty with expertise spanning materials engineering to aviation technology; and the work will include advanced molecular-scale modeling and research into polymers, composites and carbon nanomaterials. Purdue is already part of a diverse team selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop energy-efficient vehicles and wind energy and compressed-gas storage technologies, as part of a $250 million initiative. Under that work, the University was selected to participate in the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) to direct a five-year effort with a $70 million federal commitment from the DOE. The University also has recently formed a Composites Design and Manufacturing HUB, a platform for the browser-based composites learning community of 1,400 users. A second hub, the Composites Virtual Factory HUB, is being used to deploy and integrate simulation tools that capture the manufacturing phenomena under development in the other IACMI -- The Composites Institute -- technology areas. In partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Purdue will develop advanced manufacturing simulations.
This group, added in fall 2015 after competing in 2014, intends to engineer healthier brains through the “assessment, treatment and prevention of neurophysiologic injury and disease.” Purdue researchers were first to demonstrate that repeated non-concussive blows to the head can alter brain physiology, even when clinical symptoms are absent, and that medical imaging technologies can reliably quantify brain injury. By better understanding the underlying neuropathology of brain injury, the team plans to generate new clinical approaches. The team will use data from various imaging technologies to model both normal and injury states and to identify imaging and biochemical markers for injury. Purdue Neurotrauma Group researchers have pioneered the study of sub-concussive injury and are recognized leaders in brain injury research. The team also is developing its new protective technologies, including improved energy-absorbing materials for football helmets, which have been licensed through the Office of Technology Commercialization. The team was instrumental in forming a new Concussion Neuroimaging Consortium with researchers at the University of Central Florida, Michigan State University, University of Nebraska, Northshore University Hospital, Northwestern University, Ohio State University and Penn State University.
Nanomanufacturing research aimed at creating "aware-responsive" films with applications in pharmacy, agriculture, food packaging, and functional non-woven materials for uses including wound dressings and diapers. The team is led by Ali Shakouri, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center. Nanomanufacturing can bring advances such as: smart pharmaceuticals that release medications differently for specific patients; food packaging that contains sensors to monitor food quality; and cheap sensors for health monitoring.
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Research into development of new types of computer memory and electronic devices based on "spintronics." The team is led by Supriyo Datta, the Thomas Duncan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In 2006, the semiconductor industry and the National Science Foundation launched the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) to look for "the next transistor." Purdue researchers led by the Network for Computational Nanotechnology and the Birck Nanotechnology Center have been a visible and active part of the NRI since its inception. Conventional computers use the presence and absence of an electric charge to represent ones and zeroes in a binary code needed to carry out computations. Spintronics, however, uses the "spin state" of electrons to represent ones and zeros. Purdue could play a leading role in this new field emerging from the confluence of spintronics and nanomagnetics.