An experiment by a Rensselaer researcher to grow homogenous semiconductor crystals in microgravity will be the first materials science experiment conducted on the International Space Station.The experiment will be launched in February 2002, and after processing in space, the semiconductor crystals will be brought back to Earth five months later, in July.
Aleksander Ostrogorsky, associate professor of mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, and mechanics, and materials science and engineering, will use the microgravity environment to study how impurities, or dopants, in semiconductor crystals can be redistributed to yield a more homogenous material. Also involved in the research are Carlos Marin, postdoctoral associate, and Linda Jeter, project manager from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
The experiment, called Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA), is labeled a Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) investigation, and is the first such experiment on the International Space Station. An MSG is a sealed box that contains the experiment. Astronauts can manipulate the experiment by inserting their hands into a pair of gloves that reach inside the box, although much of the experiment will be remotely controlled.
Semiconductor material, in this case, indium antimonide, will be melted in a thermal chamber and processed by solidifying it into a crystal under microgravity conditions. The disk-shaped baffle in the chamber acts as a partition that creates a small melt zone at the solid-liquid interface. Microgravity conditions significantly reduce the melt flow, or fluid motion, at the interface, which results in a simpler solidification process. This method also is easier to study and interpret, says Ostrogorsky.
Ostrogorsky began related ground-based research in 1993. It has been a long process, but the wait will be worth it, he says. We hope that SUBSA will help us understand the process of semiconductor crystal growth, which could lead to more efficient production of semiconductors.
SUBSA is part of a larger project called Space- and Ground-Based Crystal Growth Using a Baffle, which has received almost $1 million from NASA since 1993.
ProductivityNet Inc., a company run by a foursome of 20-somethings, has received $250,000 in venture funding from iDeal Partners, an Albany-based investment group.
In addition to the funding, iDeal has agreed to finance capital equipment, provide strategic corporate advice and management, and assist with identifying and facilitating potential partnerships.
Based in Rensselaers Incubator Center, ProductivityNet is the first company run by Rensselaer undergraduates to obtain such a lucrative venture capital windfall.
In addition, the company was recently recognized as Promising New Enterprise by the Tech Valley Software Alliance.
ProductivityNets first product, intranet Management Solution (iMS), will enable a systems administrator to manage the companys network over the Web or by using any wireless device. This will be the first product of its kind in the marketplace.
Its a mobile toolbox for any network systems administrator, says Vinny Pasceri 01, 21-year-old founder and CEO of ProductivityNet. Using a Palm Pilot, cell phone, pager, or laptop, one person can manage, control, and monitor a companys network environment wherever one happens to be in the world.
Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett Packard tout similar products, but they are geared for enterprise companies, cost $100,000 or more, and do not have wireless capability. ProductivityNets iMS will sell for substantially less and is targeted toward small to medium-sized businesses.
SUCCESS Puts Rensselaer in Top 10
Success Magazine has ranked Rensselaer sixth on its annual list of the 50 Best Entrepreneurial Business Schools in the nation.
Schools in the survey were ranked on: caliber of students, faculty, curriculum, community outreach, innovative programs, follow-up of graduates, and reputation among fellow schools.
To make the list of Best Entrepreneurial Business Schools shows superior innovation and accomplishments, said success publisher Victoria Conte. The rankings appeared in the February/ March edition of success.
Rensselaers Lally School of Management and Technology distinguished itself from more than 250 entrepreneurship programs in the country. The Lally School and its Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship have long been a hotbed for budding entrepreneurs.
In the success rankings, Babson College was ranked first, followed by UCLA, University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University, and the University of St. Thomas (Minn.).
Recently, The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurial Leadership selected the Severino Center to lead a nationwide pilot program called Technology Enhanced Entrepreneurship Education (TE3). In May, more than 30 professors from around the country were scheduled to gather at Rensselaer for a three-day clinic designed to introduce faculty to the state of the art in technology-enhanced learning.
|Earth and Environmental Sciences|
Are microbes capable of cleaning up pollution that has collected in river sediments?
The question has been hotly debated by policy-makers and corporations, and scientists have been frustrated by the lack of a satisfactory way to learn what goes on beneath the rivers surface.
Now, a powerful new technique utilized by a Rensselaer biogeochemist may provide an answer. The technique, called compound-specific stable isotope analysis, has already provided answers to previously unsolvable questions about what happens to pollutants in the environment.
Teofilo Abrajano Jr., professor of earth and environmental sciences, has successfully applied the technique to narrow down the sources and fates of contaminants in a number of rivers, harbors, and other aquatic environments. He and his colleagues will soon begin studying PCBs and other pollutants in the Hudson River, through funding from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation.
Abrajanos process combines two pieces of sophisticated equipmenta gas chromatograph and a mass spectrometerin a new way. The technique can detect tiny differences in the ratios of isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, and chlorine, yielding a distinctive isotopic signature for each sample.
Because microbes tend to impart a recognizable isotopic signal during degradation, tests should show how much of an effect they are having on PCBs released into the Hudson River by General Electric from 1947 to 1977. The EPA has indicated it will provide $500,000 over the next five years to study the question.
Similar tests in the lower Hudson and New York Harbor should help identify the sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, a group of more than 100 harmful chemicals formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, and other organic substances.
Abrajano notes that current tools for measuring pollutant sources and fate in water supplies are not definitive. Laboratory experiments involving microbes and pollutants cannot duplicate real-world conditions precisely, while simple measurements of concentrations of pollutants in the water or fish do not reveal where the pollutant is from or where it will go.
The Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE) received the National Electrical Engineering Department Heads Association (NEEDHA) Innovative Program Award for its successful implementation of studio courses. The award, which has been given only twice in the last 10 years, was presented at the annual NEEDHA meeting in San Diego in March.
Since the mid-1990s, ECSE has revised most of its core undergraduate courses to the studio format as part of Rensselaers pioneering efforts in interactive learning. In addition to designing and building studio classrooms specifically for ECSE courses, the department also developed a large body of interactive multimedia materials to help make the studio environment effective.
Adding studio courses to the core undergraduate curricula has resulted in a more educationally rewarding experience and a more fertile environment in which to develop faculty as teachers, says Kenneth Connor, acting ECSE chair, who accepted the award on behalf of the department.
This work involved the efforts of essentially all of the staff and faculty of the ECSE department, said Connor. We worked hard to create our studio-based curricula, and now the leaders of all of the other electrical engineering, computer science, and similar academic departments around the country have seen that we did something very special.
The success of studio learning at Rensselaer is reaching other universities. Several schools have begun to implement their own version of studio courses, including City University in Hong Kong and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana.
A team of earthquake researchers from Rensselaer will receive $2.38 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of a larger NSF effort to form an Internet collaborative that will promote earthquake engineering research and information sharing across the country.
The 10 institutions involved will receive a total of $45 million in equipment awards as part of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). NEES is a collaborative effort to improve the seismic design and performance of the U.S. civil and mechanical infrastructure. NSF plans to spend up to $81.9 million by 2004 under NEES to meet its goals.
Ricardo Dobry, professor of civil engineering and principal investigator on the Rensselaer project, says the NSF funds will be used to upgrade, develop, and install new equipment and software on the 100-gravity-ton geotechnical centrifuge in the basement of the Jonsson Engineering Center. New equipment will include an in-flight earthquake simulator (shaker) and in-flight robot.
The tremendous progress and increase in capabilities of sensors, Web-based data acquisition systems, and other technologiesas well as the fast growth of Internet-based capabilities for teleobservation and teleoperation of experiments and distributed computationsmeans that the context and meaning of our experimental work will be completely transformed in the next few years, says Dobry. This is a great use of information technology in earthquake research.
Dobry adds that Ahmed-W. Elgamal, a former colleague and now professor at the University of California, San Diego, will help the Rensselaer team conduct the first remote tests of the system through teleobserving and teleoperating of centrifuge experiments at Rensselaer.
A six-month scoping study, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is already under way to define user requirements, computer hardware and software technologies, and support infrastructure needed for the network, which will cost about $10 million. Eventually, a community-led consortium of earthquake engineers will be selected to manage and operate NEES until at least 2014.
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