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Banner image: Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering, holds up his lab’s sample of the whitest paint on record.
Purdue’s ‘world’s whitest paint’ wins 2023 SXSW Innovation Award
Technology tops sustainability category for world-changing potential
The world’s whitest paint, developed by Purdue University researchers and recognized in Guinness World Records, has been named the winner of the 2023 Innovation Award in the sustainability category by South by Southwest Conference & Festivals (SXSW).
The award “recognizes the most exciting creative developments in the connected world,” and was presented to Purdue in March at the 25th annual SXSW Innovation Awards Ceremony in Austin, Texas. Purdue was chosen in the sustainability category from among four finalists that included another Purdue candidate.
The paint, developed by Purdue Professor of Mechanical Engineering Xiulin Ruan, is fighting global warming by keeping surfaces cool enough to reduce the need for internal air conditioning. SXSW is the latest to recognize the innovation, which was previously featured on "PBS NewsHour" and "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert". Also in March, the paint was named winner of the 2023 Gizmodo Science Fair.
In 2022, Ruan and his team innovated further by developing a new formulation of his groundbreaking paint that is now thinner and lighter – ideal for radiating heat away from cars, trains, airplanes and even spacecraft. According to Ruan and his team’s models, Covering 1% of the Earth’s surface in their technology could mitigate the total effects of global warming, a fact encouraging them to continue pursuing formulas suitable for surfaces like asphalt and roadways.
Painting the town white to go green
Typical commercial white paint gets warmer rather than cooler when subjected to sunlight or other light sources. Paints on the market that are designed to reject heat reflect only 80% to 90% of sunlight and can’t make surfaces cooler than their surroundings. In comparison, the world’s whitest paint reflects 98.1% of solar heat away from its surface.
Because the paint absorbs less heat from the sun than it emits, a surface coated with this paint is cooled below the surrounding temperature without consuming power. Using this formulation to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet could result in a cooling power of 10 kilowatts, more powerful than the air conditioners used by most houses.
While Ruan’s original paint formula is massively efficient, it required a layer 0.4 millimeters thick to achieve subambient radiant cooling. The newer, thinner formulation can achieve similar cooling with a layer just 0.15 millimeters thick.
The new paint also incorporates voids of air, which make it highly porous. This lower density, together with the thinness, provides another huge benefit: reduced weight. The newer paint weighs 80% less than the original paint yet achieves nearly identical solar reflectance – 97.9%, compared with the original formula’s 98.1%.
Ruan and his team of researchers are currently working with the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization to bring their technology to market.
Full-length story can be found on the semiconductor website.
ICON co-directors Mou, Sundaram to lead Saab-ONR project aimed at enhancing battlespace threat awareness
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has selected Purdue University to partner with Saab on the development of next-wave artificial intelligence capabilities to increase battlespace situational awareness by automatically detecting and characterizing threats in complex environments
The Threat and Situational Understanding with Networked-Online Machine Intelligence (TSUNOMI) program will capitalize on Saab’s growing presence in West Lafayette, leveraging its advanced manufacturing facility and engineering resources. While the technologies developed through TSUNOMI are first intended for transition to a naval unmanned surface vessel, they are extensible to other markets, such as military radar systems and commercial airport applications that are complementary to Saab’s growing portfolio in the U.S., according to a Saab release.
The total grant from ONR to Saab is approximately $13 million, of which an anticipated $4.3 million will filter to Purdue as a four-year subcontract through Saab.
Co-principal investigators for the project are Shaoshuai Mou, the Elmer Bruhn Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Shreyas Sundaram, the Marie Gordon Associate Professor in the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Both professors serve as co-directors of Purdue’s Institute for Control, Optimization and Networks (ICON), launched in 2020.
TSUNOMI comes at a time when serious physical attacks on critical infrastructure and intrusions into sensitive areas, in both military and civilian domains, are increasing, Sundaram said.
“There is an urgent need to create technological solutions that allow networks of sensors equipped with sophisticated AI to quickly detect and identify potential threats,” said Arvind Raman, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering.
ICON, which includes 84 faculty from across the College of Engineering, College of Science, College of Agriculture and Purdue Polytechnic Institute, was a natural choice for Saab, Sundaram said.
The objective of the TSUNOMI research is to develop an explainable machine learning framework with multimodal automatic target recognition and sensor resource management for early warning and situational awareness from surface vessels equipped with an automated verification and validation machine learning pipeline.
TSUNOMI is ICON’s first large initiative with Saab and under support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “TSUNOMI is a great win for the Saab and Purdue partnership,” said Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab. “This program represents a real step toward robust and trusted artificial intelligence. TSUNOMI will help stakeholders make decisions quicker and with more confidence.”
Purdue’s funding will primarily be used to support graduate students on the project, as well as some faculty time. Part of the award also will be used to purchase sensors.
Full-length story can be found on the engineering news website.
Air-conditioning the battlefield
There’s a battle going on to create more efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration and air-conditioning systems
But what if those systems are needed on an actual battlefield? The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has enlisted Purdue University researchers to explore refrigerants that are both sustainable and safe to operate in combat conditions.
“The DOD has a big problem to solve,” said Davide Ziviani, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and associate director of the Center for High Performance Buildings. “They have thousands of vehicles with traditional air-conditioning systems, like those used in your car or truck. But military vehicles face unique situations, where current systems might pose an increased challenge on the battlefield. One of our goals is to find refrigerants that are both environmentally friendly and safe to operate in combat.”
Ziviani is leading a team that has received a three-year, $1.9 million grant from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), a program designed to increase the DOD’s environmental resilience.
“Here at Purdue, we have the largest academic HVAC lab in the world: Herrick Labs,” said Ziviani. “We are constantly researching the latest refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, so we are perfectly set up to tackle this challenge.”
One unique feature of Herrick Labs is its psychrometric chambers, large rooms where air-conditioning and heating systems can be put through their paces. These chambers simulate the extreme conditions that military vehicles might encounter, from arid deserts and humid jungles to polar winters. Two of Herrick’s psychrometric chambers have been built to test flammable refrigerants and other specialty systems that can’t be tested elsewhere.
The other aspect that makes Purdue the perfect choice for this niche of research is Zucrow Labs, the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. “Steve Son has one of the few academic labs in the world devoted to energetic materials,” Ziviani said. “He can safely simulate situations where these systems are exposed to fire, explosions and other military-style threats.”
Full-length story can be found on the engineering news website.
Purdue celebrates Air Force Research Laboratory’s Regional Hub Network – Midwest to further research and development in areas of national security
Leaders from Purdue University and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) gathered in April for the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the AFRL Regional Hub Network – Midwest, located on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus
Through the Regional Hub Network, AFRL scientists and engineers engage and collaborate with universities, small and large businesses, other government agencies, and venture capitalists to assemble a new science and technology ecosystem in which partners help the lab research high-risk case studies. The goals of this collaboration are to leverage research, translation and workforce development successes across the U.S., encourage science and technology exchanges, and drive innovation.
In February 2022, Purdue was selected as one of two lead universities in the country and headquarter locations for the AFRL Regional Hub Network. The network includes more than 60 academic and industrial partners from across 12 Midwest states. Cornell University is the academic lead and headquarters location for the AFRL Regional Research Hub – Mid-Atlantic.
Purdue’s hub will host space for AFRL staff members to work on special projects that further research efforts and national security for the U.S.
As the Midwest lead, Purdue is tasked with developing a region-specific science and technology roadmap; piloting partnership models with programmatic interventions, adopting and implementing best practices with a focus on expansion and identifying pathways for long-term impact on the science and technology ecosystem of the U.S. Air Force/Space Force.
Full-length story can be found on the engineering news website.
ISE Magazine: Humanitarian supply chains get 'LASER' focus with Yuehwern Yih
The intersecting needs of healthcare, supply chain logistics and humanitarian aid have led an industrial and systems engineering faculty member into a rewarding career path
IISE member and Fellow Yuehwern Yih, professor in the School of Industrial Engineering at Purdue University, has been involved in applying her Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) skills to assist humanitarian aid organizations to improve their processes while offering assistance in countries stricken by poverty and disasters. She currently serves as academic director [now director] of LASER PULSE, a $70 million program funded by USAID’s Innovation, Technology and Research Hub. Purdue University won this award in 2018 over more than 100 submissions. Catholic Relief Services, Indiana University, Makerere University and the University of Notre Dame are consortium partners. Its aim is to provide research-driven solutions to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through cross-sector partnerships, localization and research translation. The program comprises a network of more than 3,500 researchers and development professionals in 74 countries seeking to find innovative solutions to overcome global challenges.
In 2015, Arvind Raman, then executive associate dean for the College of Engineering, invited her to join another effort.
Yih and Dawei Wang, her former PhD student, worked closely with CRS first responders and humanitarian assistance specialists to analyze the workflow. They then developed the cloud-based, multiplatform, supply chain management system called ETRA (Electronic TRAnsparent TRAcking) to connect warehouses across different country programs, request and approve relief materials, check inventory, track materials from donors to beneficiaries and generate accounting and beneficiary reports.
ETRA aims to track humanitarian commodities more efficiently and accurately to foster transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain. “This research has to be translational,” Yih said. “It’s not helpful unless it can be used by the people doing the humanitarian work every day. It can’t just be a theory. It’s about addressing the need in the field.”
ETRA was field tested in the Dominican Republic in 2018 and is currently licensed through Purdue and fully deployed in two countries, South Sudan and Ukraine, for humanitarian response.
In parallel, Yih joined with ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) at Makerere University and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) developed E+TRA Health to bridge the data gaps in the supply chain of medications and laboratory supplies in Uganda. They collaborated with local care providers in Mukono District to address medication shortages and focus on 13 essential maternal and child health commodities to ensure safe and healthy childbirth. E+TRA Health was deployed in a pilot program in two health centers in 2019 in Uganda.
Yih’s health supply chain efforts earned an award from the Melinda and Bill Gates Grand Challenge, one of 51 awarded out of 1,500-plus proposals from more than 50 countries. Purdue PhD student Rhoann Kerh won the Global Good by Intellectual Ventures award for her poster on the project at the Purdue Engineering I2D Exposition for Global Programs and Partnerships in Engineering in 2018.
LASER PULSE ‘another new territory to apply ISE principles’
LASER PULSE collaborates with USAID missions, bureaus and independent offices and other stakeholders to identify areas in need of improvement. Its mission is to provide the necessary resources for teams of researchers and practitioners to design development research that is relevant and usable to inform policies and practices.
As academic leadership, Yih oversees the technical aspects and system design of this program to continue improving its operations and adapting to unexpected events with a system lens and user-centered design principles.
In addition to outcomes of the research projects, the LASER PULSE program is designed to systematically transform how the research is identified, conducted, translated and disseminated to inform evidence-based policymaking and practices in global development with consideration of sustainability and localization.
LASER PULSE currently funds 47 research projects in 19 lower-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) including South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, Malawi, Iraq and Colombia. The research topics cover a wide variety of USAID sectors, such as nutrition/food security, education, youth development, humanitarian assistance and violence and conflict prevention.
This year, Yih was selected for the 2023 Outstanding Leadership in Globalization Award at Purdue for her commitment to humanitarian aid and global development.
Reprinted with permission of ISE magazine.
Read the full-length story.