Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rick Fleeter ’76 PhD ’81 Publishes Third Book

Rick Fleeter ’76 PhD ’81, a Brown University engineering alumnus and an adjunct associate professor in the School of Engineering at Brown, has recently published his third book, Love Is Strong As Death. Written with his late wife Nancy, the book discusses their 15-year battle with cancer.

“This book is our experience, two innocent novices, in dying, death and rebuilding one life where once there had been two,” said Fleeter. “It offers no advice, only a window into this most personal, and at the same time universal, of human experiences.”

Rick and Nancy were both professionals whose work took them all over the world. He founded and managed the aerospace engineering company AeroAstro, while Nancy managed arts organizations including American Ballet Theater and the J.F. Kennedy Center. Rick also wrote books and taught aerospace engineering as an adjunct professor, while Nancy continued to practice and teach ballet.

They lived at various times, sometimes simultaneously, in suburban Washington, D.C., Manhattan, Charlestown, R.I., Rome, Tokyo, and Gold Coast, Australia.

In addition to this book written with Nancy, Rick has written several books and book chapters on the engineering and management of miniature spacecraft and on cycling, triathlon and living nomadically for business and pleasure.

Rick now writes and is a professor in Rome and Rhode Island, teaching at The University of Rome La Sapienza and Brown University.

Rick also blogs at: http://rfleeter.wordpress.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

Brown University Engineering Ranked Among Top 50 Engineering Universities in the World; Top 3 in Ivy League

Times Higher Education has released its 2011-12 top 50 world university engineering and technology rankings, and Brown was ranked No. 45 in the world. There were a total of 22 U.S. universities on the prestigious list, including three Ivy League universities: Princeton, Cornell and Brown.

For the full list of the engineering and technology rankings, please go to:

“We are proud to have been recognized as among the top engineering schools in the world,” said Associate Dean Eric Suuberg. “Considering that we have had the status of a School of Engineering for only a few months, and particularly noting that virtually all of the institutions that ranked ahead of us have much larger programs than do we at Brown, we are very pleased with the result.”

“It is particularly gratifying to see that we are one of the three top-ranked engineering schools among our Ivy League peers, a group that is somewhat distinct from many of the other highly ranked schools,” said Dean Larry Larson. 

For the full list of the overall college rankings, please go to:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brown Engineer Nathanial Cooper ’12 Finishes Third at AIChE Competition

Students in the Brown chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to attend the national AiChE meeting and compete in a student poster competition.

In the environmental category, Nathanial Cooper ’12 won a third place award. His poster was entitled, “Agricultural Waste Based Bio-Char Sorption Potential”. Last year, Cooper finished second in the poster competition.

Four students represented Brown at this year’s competition, including: Henry Mattingly ’12 (supervisor Robert Hurt), William Trinh ’12 (supervisor Indrek Kulaots), Cooper (supervisor Indrek Kulaots), and Ellison Kandler ’13 (supervisors Steve Greenbaum of the City University of New York and Eric Suuberg).

“As I've attended these student conferences over many years, and I do carefully review most of these posters presented, I must say that this year was even beyond what I have seen before,” said Kulaots. “The competition has gotten more and more competitive every year, and the level of science presented by undergraduates is remarkable.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ancient Lamps, Earrings Yield Their Secrets Under Neutron Imaging

“Neutron imaging gives researchers new tools for exploring artifacts and ancient technology”

Brown University School of Engineering Professor Brian Sheldon is the co-principal investigator on an exciting colloborative project that also includes Brown's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

For the first time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), neutron images in three dimensions (3-D) have been taken of rare archaeological artifacts. Bronze and brass artifacts excavated at the ancient city of Petra, in present day Jordan, were recently imaged in 3-D using neutrons at the High Flux Isotope Reactor’s CG-1D neutron imaging instrument.

The neutron imaging technique gives eager archeologists and ancient historians significant, and otherwise wholly inaccessible, insight into the manufacturing and lives of cultures that once occupied settlements within the Roman Empire, Middle East, and Colonial-Period New England.  
The samples imaged in 3D in August came from the collections of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University. They include an elaborate hanging bronze oil lamp, a large Roman coin, and—most charmingly—a standing dog figure, which might have been either a religious dedication or perhaps a toy. Although their original provenance is unknown, they are all excellent examples of common metal finds from antiquity.
Principal investigator (PI) Krysta Ryzewski, an assistant professor of anthropology at Wayne State University, and her co-PI Brian W. Sheldon, professor of engineering at Brown University, were loaned the artifacts for study from professor Susan E. Alcock, director of Brown’s Joukowsky Institute. 
In earlier work, the team conducted two-dimensional imaging of copper alloy (bronze and brass) artifacts both from Petra and from Greene Farm, a colonial-period plantation in Rhode Island. The samples include artifacts from daily life: a clothing buckle, a knife, and some building hardware.
Photo and neutron radiograph of ancient Greek lamp
Top: photo of ancient Greek lamp. Bottom: neutron radiograph of the same lamp.
One circular object from Petra was so corroded that it was unidentifiable. But when it was imaged with neutrons, underneath was a piece of jewelry, probably an earring. Petra is most famous as a trading center in ancient times, connecting the Mediterranean world with places as far away as India and China. It was the capital of an independent kingdom of the Nabataeans, until the emperor Trajan incorporated it into the Roman Empire in the early second century A.D.
The earlier imaging and analysis resolved some questions of object identity and raised many new ones about the techniques and materials that crafts people in the past used to make these objects. “We can also examine certain objects (such as the knife or the bronze lamp) to look for trace residues of the oil once burned in the lamp or what the knife was used to cut,” says Ryzewski.
“I first learned of the developing neutron imaging instruments at Oak Ridge in my conversations with Hassina Bilheux (lead instrument scientist for CG-1D). At the time I was a postdoctoral fellow in archaeology and engineering at Brown. I attended a neutron imaging workshop at SNS in November 2008, and became the only archaeologist to be part of the VENUS instrument development team. Brian Sheldon at Brown also joined then. We have been collaborating on all of the experiments with Hassina at SNS and HFIR,” she says.
The neutron imaging beam line is a huge step forward for these scholars. “Archaeologists and scientists can obtain relatively little information about the manufacture of archaeomaterials, ancient objects, and the materials from which they are constructed from external surfaces alone,” says Ryzewski. “Very few historical accounts describe the construction of such objects and archaeomaterials, ancient bronzes, or ceramic vessels. The only source of information about how these objects were constructed comes from their material properties and composition.”
Archaeological objects are reviewed as unique cultural resources. Earlier analysis often entailed extracting a sample from such an object, which meant damage and sometimes even wholesale destruction of an artifact so it could be mounted effectively for analysis. Analysts’ necessarily conservative treatment of archaeomaterials left many questions unanswered.
Imaging archaeological objects comprehensively and systematically with neutrons only became possible with the development of the CG-1D prototype beam line. Neutron activation analysis and neutron imaging at Oak Ridge means scholars can now conduct detailed, nondestructive analysis of samples. “There currently exist a vast array of archaeological objects and research questions about ancient and historical technological development that can now be posed,” says Ryzewski. “The CG-1D beam line has offered us an invaluable alternative for performing nondestructive, noninvasive analysis.”
CG-1D data can reveal the raw materials used, the manufacturing techniques, the historical development of alloys and composite materials and the geological origins of ores and clay. On the cultural side, researchers can learn about the activities of ancient people’s daily lives that such objects served.
“Archaeologists can now begin to precisely reconstruct past networks and patterns of resource extraction, trade and exchange, environmental impacts of industrial activities on ancient landscapes, and the transmission of craft production traditions over time,” Ryzewski says. “These are some of the sorts of questions that our current research and experiments are designed to address.“
The 3-D neutron imaging and quantitative analysis occurs at an instrument that is a time-of-flight beam line, with a chopper for producing pulses of neutrons to take noninvasive images. Neutrons, rather than x-rays, do the work.
“Part of our early work was to test the parameters of the instrument and how we might need to adjust the instrumentation to suit the artifacts, which tend to vary in composition, size, and density,” Ryzewski says. 
“We anticipated that we would be able to see beneath the surface and find evidence of manufacturing steps (mold seams), impurities or other organic inclusions in the metals, residue from the objects’ use, and microstructural or compositional elements,” she says.
Their data are still being processed, but preliminary results from the bronze lamp suggest that they will be able to see and examine aspects of all of these areas of interest once the 3-D data are compiled. 
“Our work is still in its early stages. We hope to reexamine these objects in further rounds of testing in 2012. We will expand our sample base to other types of metal artifacts, perhaps some excavated from shipwrecks. We hope to examine ceramic artifacts as well, Ryzewski says.
More broadly, the scholars may be in a position to offer information to scientists who specialize in the conservation and stabilization of museum collections. Other findings may provide insights into materials behavior of interest to materials science. “Each round of experiments raises many more questions about the materials in the object and about the instrumentation itself,” Ryzewski says.
This fall the researchers will return to HFIR to image some of the bronze objects for Bragg-edge peaks in the materials. Collaborating with Ryzewski and Sheldon are Bilheux and Lakeisha Walker of SNS and Susan Herringer, a doctoral student in materials science engineering at Brown and the Joukowsky Institute.
The group will publish their results in both archaeological and neutron sciences academic publications. In addition, they will present their initial findings at the annual Society for American Archaeology meetings in Memphis in April 2012.

Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Written by Agatha Bardoel

Professors Kenny Breuer and Eric Suuberg Named Associate Deans of Engineering

Brown University School of Engineering Dean Larry Larson has announced that Professor Eric Suuberg has agreed to accept an appointment as Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Graduate Initiatives and Professor Kenny Breuer has agreed to accept an appointment as Associate Dean of Engineering for Academic Programs. Both will serve three-year terms.

“I want to thank them both for their willingness to serve the School of Engineering, and for the commitment of their time and energy in moving the School forward in the coming years. Professors Suuberg and Breuer bring decades of experience and wisdom to the School leadership.” said Larson.

The Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Graduate Initiatives will be responsible for enhancing and expanding the research and graduate enterprise and profile of the School of Engineering, including development of an enhanced master’s program for the School of Engineering and development of a plan for improved engineering research laboratory and instructional space.

The Associate Dean of Academic Programs will be broadly responsible for the academic mission of the School of Engineering, and will work closely with the Director of Undergraduate Programs, Director of Graduate Programs and the Curriculum Committee on curriculum development, educational outreach, student career development and instructional technology.  

Professor Breuer received his Sc.B. from Brown and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from M.I.T. He spent nine years on the faculty of M.I.T. in department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, before returning to Brown in 1999. His research interests are in fluid mechanics, covering a wide range of topics, including the physics of flows at micron and nanometer scales, animal flight (bat flight in particular), and the physics and control of turbulent flows. He is author of over one hundred refereed technical publications, has edited and co-authored several books, including “Microscale Diagnostic Techniques”, “A Gallery of Fluid Motion”, and “Multimedia Fluid Mechanics”. Breuer was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2010.

Professor Suuberg has been at Brown since 1981, when he was one of the founding members of Brown's Chemical Engineering program. His research interests have been in the areas of energy and environmental engineering. He has served as Associate Dean of the Faculty (2002-2005), as Chair of the Psychology Department (2004-5) and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Division of Engineering. He is currently Co-Director of the Superfund Basic Research Program, and a co-founder of the Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship concentration as well as a co-founder of the PRIME master’s program. He is a principal editor of the journal Fuel. He was elected fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2011.

Professor Suuberg's research interests center on energy and environmental areas, involving study of fuel chemistry (coal, oil shale, biomass), activated carbons (production and properties), materials reuse (automobile tires, coal fly ash), fire safety and, most recently, the characterization and cleanup of lands and sediments contaminated with mixed pollutants with a focus on thermodynamics of mixtures of high molecular weight organic compounds and the related problem of vapor intrusion.

He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from M.I.T., a master’s degree in management science from M.I.T., and an Sc.D. in chemical engineering from M.I.T.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Brown Engineering Alumnus Michael Escuti wins Presidential Award for Young Scientists and Engineers

Dr. Michael Escuti ScM '99 PhD '03, who received both his master's degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Brown University and is now a North Carolina State University engineering professor has won the U.S. government's top award for early-career scientists and engineers.

Escuti, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, will receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers later this fall, the White House announced. The awards program, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, honors researchers for working at the frontiers of science and technology and serving the community through scientific leadership, public education or outreach.

Winners receive research grants of up to five years to support their work.

Escuti was honored for his pioneering development of liquid crystal "polarization gratings," which consist of a thin layer of liquid crystal material on a glass plate. The White House also recognized him for educating students through collaborations with international academic teams and industries, as well as for outreach work in underserved communities.

Escuti's research has shown how polarization gratings, as well as devices and applications based on them, can solve problems in optics that had been previously thought unsolvable. One result of the work is a very energy-efficient way of steering laser beams that is precise and relatively inexpensive. The research has potential applications in laser radar and free space communication, which uses lasers to transfer data between platforms – such as between satellites or between aircraft and soldiers on the battlefield. Escuti's team, consisting of NC State students along with partner Boulder Nonlinear Systems Inc., has already delivered prototypes of the technology to the U.S. Air Force and is working on other applications.

Another result is a low-loss light switch, which inherently acts on all components of light rather than just the correctly polarized half, meaning that it is very transparent when it is open and very dark when closed. Other results include high-resolution spectral/polarization cameras, which enable compact and low-cost imaging beyond what our eyes can see for platforms such as aerial vehicles, satellites and biomedical imaging.

Escuti is commercializing his research through several industrial partnerships, including his own start-up company, ImagineOptix Corp., that has already prototyped a tiny, highly efficient projection display that could revolutionize displays on hand-held and mobile devices.

His work has resulted in a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, three awarded patents and nine pending patents. He has also received $4.3 million in external research funding from NSF, and many other federal, state, and private sources.

After receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Brown University in 2003, Escuti joined the NC State faculty in 2004.

Portions of this release courtesy of North Carolina State University.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nanoskin Saves Lives and Limbs

Engineers and Orthopedics Experts Reduce Risk of Infection from Medical Prostheses with Nanotech that Mimics Human Skin

Engineers and orthopedics experts are applying nanotechnology to prosthetic medical devices in order to increase patient safety. By closely mimicking human skin, experts hope to reduce the infection-inducing bacteria that grow on prostheses. Changing the texture of the devices in small ways results in a big reduction in bacteria growth, as well as improvement of skin closures and bone growth.

Nanoskin saves lives and limbs - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Losing a limb can be devastating and in the United States there are approximately 1.7 million people living that way. One of the biggest fears for those who use prosthetic devices is getting an infection. But researchers are working on a way to mimic the human skin to cut down on infections.

“I went to bed and woke up the next morning and my body was swollen and I had blisters all over it,” Anthony Buttaro, a man who suffered limb loss, told Ivanhoe.

That morning Anthony Buttaro rushed to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with MRSA the often deadly infection forced doctors to amputate his left arm. Now Anthony uses a prosthetic device but he is still concerned about infections.
“I’m always worried about it,” Buttaro said.

To ease those fears engineers and experts in orthopedics at Brown University are applying nanotechnology to medicine called nanomedicine to mimic the tiniest features and contours of human skin.

“Skin serves as a barrier to keep bacteria out of the body,” Thomas Webster an engineer at Brown University told Ivanhoe.

Screws are often used to attach the prosthetic device to bone, but bacteria can grow on the screws causing an infection.
“We are talking really, really small features that are making a difference,” Webster said.

The difference comes by changing the texture of the screw. First it is dipped into hydrofluoric acid. At the same time voltage is applied to create the tissue like features.

“What we are seeing, we’re reducing bacteria growth, on these implants, we’re improving skin closures around the implants and improving bone growth,” Webster explained.

By mimicking the skin researchers believe it will cut down on infections, saving lives and limbs. The nanoskin technology is still in the study phase, but researchers hope to start human testing in the future.

ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY: Nanotechnology is science at the size of individual atoms and molecules -- objects and devices measuring mere billionths of a meter, smaller than a red blood cell. At this size scale, materials have different chemical and physical properties than the same materials in bulk, because quantum mechanics is more important. For example, carbon atoms can conduct electricity and are stronger than steel when woven into hollow microscopic threads. Nanoparticles are already widely used in certain commercial consumer products, such as suntan lotions, "age-defying" make-up, and self-cleaning windows that shed dirt when it rains. One company manufactures a nanocrystal wound dressing with built-in antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. On the horizon is toothpaste that coats, protects and repairs damaged enamel, as well as self-cleaning shoes that never need polishing. Nanoparticles are also used as additives in building materials to strengthen the walls of any given structure, and to create tough, durable, yet lightweight fabrics.

The Biophysical Society and the Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Heat at the Borders

Brown University School of Engineering professor Vivek Shenoy's work on thermal transport across grain boundaries in graphene (published in Nano Letters last month) has also been featured in the research highlights section of Nature Materials. An abstract of his paper, "Thermal transport across Twin Grain Boundaries in Polycrystalline Graphene from Nonequilibrium Molecular Dynamics Simulations" follows:

Heat at the borders

Fabio Pulizzi
Nature Materials
Published online
Nano Letters http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/nl202118d (2011)

Graphene exhibits the highest thermal conductivity ever observed. Its thermal transport has been studied theoretically and experimentally, mostly in single-crystalline graphene. Unfortunately, large-scale growth, for example by chemical vapour deposition (CVD), usually yields polycrystalline sheets. Akbar Bagri and colleagues have performed molecular dynamic simulations of the thermal transport across various grain boundary orientations in graphene. They assumed a constant heat flow through the material, calculated the temperature profile and from that estimated the thermal conductivity. Interestingly, they found abrupt jumps in the temperature at the grain boundaries, which depend on the boundary orientation and grain size. The estimated grain boundary thermal conductivity is much higher than in the case of other materials with high thermal conductivity, such as nanocrystalline diamond. The results are particularly important in view of potential applications based on CVD-grown graphene. It will be interesting to see how the experiments will compare with these predictions.

For the full html version from NanoLetters, please go to: