Auburn University recently participated in the BIO Alabama conference at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook, showcasing seven of its biotechnology research developments.
BIO Alabama is the trade organization for the state’s biosciences industry. This year’s event—the first meeting following a six-year hiatus due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic—featured approximately 200 scientists and their research developments April 25-26.
Melinda Richter, global head of Innovation at Johnson & Johnson, served as keynote speaker under this year’s theme, “Building Alabama’s Biohorizons,” focusing on the future of the industry’s participation in Alabama’s innovation economy.
Auburn’s presentations included:
Vivosphere cell encapsulation technology platform for drug development and discovery (Elizabeth Lipke; presented by co-inventor Yuan Tian) – This is a 3D cell encapsulation method and device for more accurate and cost-effective drug screening, bioinks and regenerative medicine.
Anti-cancer immunotherapy targeting CD47 (James Gillespie, joint project with VCOM) – Development of an anticancer treatment that could replace immunomodulatory therapies targeting CD47.
Computational tool for speeding discovery of natural beneficial compounds (Angela Calderon and Cheryl Seals; presented by Kabre Heck and Muhammad Gulfam) – A collaborative project about an automated method to analyze mass spectrometry data to identify potential bioactive compounds in complex mixtures.
Engineered bacteria for producing biofuels and other compounds (Yi Wang) – Engineering of bacteria to express record levels of butanol for biofuel or other industrial applications or to express record levels of butyl acetate for use in foods, consumer goods or industrial processes.
Computationally designed compounds for treating Alzheimer’s disease (Raj Amin; presented by Ian Steinke and Fajar Wibowo) – A custom-designed therapeutic compound for treating Alzheimer’s without the side effects seen with other drugs in this class.
Gene therapy vectors for therapeutic treatment of neurological disease (Doug Martin) – Engineered AAV vectors for treating neurological diseases such as rabies.
Medical device for improving diagnosis and monitoring of neuropathy in diabetic patients (Michael Zabala and Thomas Burch; presented by co-inventor Kenny Brock, VCOM) – A medical device for accurately monitoring and measuring loss of feeling in diabetic patients. (Jon Commander is also a co-inventor and is with VCOM.)
BIO Alabama is the leading advocate for Alabama's bioeconomy. The organization represents the state on a national and international stage, promoting the intellectual and innovative capital to make Alabama a premier place to invest, start and grow in bioscience.
Alabama’s bioscience industry provides a $7.3 billion impact on the state’s economy, according to BIO Alabama data. Auburn has participated in BIO Alabama events for a number of years.
"As presenting sponsor for this year’s BIO Alabama conference, Auburn University had an important opportunity to showcase some of our latest technologies during a reverse-pitch session to industry,” said Bill Dean, executive director of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.
“Auburn’s participation in events like the BIO Alabama conference speaks to our role in growing the region’s bioeconomy and demonstrates our commitment to the bio-sector in the form of industry collaboration and partnerships that will advance research and impact quality of life throughout the state.”
BY MITCH EMMONS
Liz Smith, College of Agriculture academic advisor, works at Auburn’s booth during the BIO Alabama conference. She talked with companies about opportunities for applied biotechnology graduates.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about the use of face masks as a means of reducing the airborne transmission of diseases to the center of attention of people around the world. Researchers in aerospace engineering at Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering are leading a study that will help improve our understanding of the science that can be expected to guide the design and use of masks in different situations and environments moving forward.
Their research has found that while basic surgical masks offer a first line of defense to both the wearer and the people around them, they are not foolproof as flow leakage occurs around the mask and their effectiveness under realistic coughing conditions is not known.
Assistant Professor Vrishank Raghav, Sarah Morris, a postdoctoral research fellow, and William McAtee, a graduate research assistant, found that repetitive ‘pulsatile’ coughs allow expiratory particles to escape through a surgical mask’s sides and above the nose in their co-authored paper, “Influence of expiratory flow pulsatility on the effectiveness of a surgical mask.”
Smoke from Gloria, a mannequin designed by Auburn's Applied Fluids Research Group, shows where basic surgical mask leakage can occur during a cough.
The study – part of a $464,846 National Science Foundation grant in collaboration with the University of Michigan funded in 2021 – was published as an invited article by the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, a Nature publication.
“Our research has found that if you are wearing a mask and you cough, the volume of air that leaks is reduced compared to not wearing a mask,” Morris said.
“However, the effect of pulsatility does influence the leakage volume and must be considered when this is modelled.”
Raghav said the source of the problem with basic surgical masks — the blue devices most-commonly sold to and used by the public during the COVID-19 pandemic — is pre-loosening as inhaling, exhaling, double, or even triple coughs provide gaps for germs to become airborne.
Laser imaging and high-speed photography were utilized to show mask leakage during simulated coughs on the top of the mask, above, and the sides of the mask, below.
“The main reason why surgical masks move, and open gaps, is because the air you are breathing in and out cannot easily travel through the tiny pores of the mask,” said Raghav, a recent NSF CAREER Award recipient. “Instead, it slowly pushes the mask out of the way and when you cough, air finds the path of least resistance out of the mask, which is outside the cheeks and above the nose.”
Raghav agreed that masks of higher quality than basic surgical masks can, if worn correctly, provide better protection. “Surgical masks allow significantly more protection than wearing no mask at all, cutting out roughly 85 percent of the expiratory flow,” he said. “Of course, N95s fit tighter, are secure and allow only a fraction of expired air to leak. Further innovations will be required before surgical masks are as effective as N95s.”
Raghav, Morris and McAtee utilized laser imaging, high-speed photography and a coughing simulator to determine surgical mask leakage. This wasn’t any coughing simulator. It was a custom-built mannequin named Gloria – decked out in a blue surgical mask – designed within Auburn’s Applied Fluids Research Group laboratory.
Using the device, a computer-controlled solenoid valve provides desired air flow rates by controlling a pressurized air source at the wall. From there, a pipe ‘throat’ inserted through the mannequin allows air flow from the wall to a one-inch diameter mouth, which is met by the surgical mask.
“We have a computerized control valve that opens and closes to let the air in and out. We control the pulsatility of the air,” Morris said. “We can create a single pulse, a double pulse, or a triple pulse.”
Two main techniques are used to make leakage measurements – flow visualization and particle image velocimetry. With flow visualization – the long pipe carries smoke with two-micron fog particles. When the mannequin coughs, smoke will follow the flow field. A Nikon mirrorless camera is used to capture the expiratory flow — leakage made visible by smoke.
Particle image velocimetry is where laser imaging comes into play.
“This is a quantitative measurement technique where we have these tiny, two-micron particles (representing leaked air) that follow the flow, and we are taking high-speed photos of them,” Morris said. “If we take images at pre-determined times apart, we can actually see where those particles are moving between image one and image two.”
A pulsed, high-speed laser combined with a laser arm and light sheet generating optics illuminates the 2D field of view, providing revealing imagery.
Though mask mandates have currently evaporated in many locations, Raghav pointed out that masks can continue to be useful in many settings.
BY JOE McADORY
Media Contact: Joe McAdory, firstname.lastname@example.org, 334.844.3447
Researchers, from left, William McAtee, assistant professor Vrishank Raghav, and Sarah Morris, used 'Gloria', a mannequin created by the Applied Fluids Research Group, to serve as a pulsatile coughing simulator.
The U.S. Army has asked Auburn University to help build the future of American combat readiness.
Through a recent $4.3 million Army grant, the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME) at Auburn University will soon initiate a two-year project focused on materials, parts and process qualification, all of which are necessary for furthering the adoption and implementation of additive manufacturing in Army operations.
"Material variation is what I call the ‘Achilles heel’ of additive manufacturing," said NCAME director and project principal investigator Nima Shamsaei, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering. "It can make the qualification and certification of additively manufactured materials and parts challenging."
Even more challenging, Shamsaei said, is ensuring the consistency and transferability of process output among different additive manufacturing machines, a project goal that NCAME researchers hope to achieve not only with exhaustive mechanical testing but with AI — machine learning, specifically.
"Machine learning will help us establish structure-property relationships in a much more comprehensive way, which is somewhat transferable among platforms," said co-principal investigator and assistant mechanical engineering professor Elham Mirkoohi.
Shamsaei says Mirkoohi’s experience in AI and machine learning applications for additive manufacturing is the newest addition to NCAME’s research repertoire, which continues to draw high-profile government research grants.
"Simulation and machine learning are effective tools to understand the role of microstructure and defects on mechanical properties,” said co-principal investigator Shuai Shao, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
That understanding can help establish equivalency with less need for extensive experimentation, Shao said.
"This project not only looks into innovative ways to generate materials data, but also emphasizes on transferring the knowledge among different additive platforms by means of establishing equivalency," said co-principal investigator Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Aaron LaLonde, who as technical specialist for the U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center, helped facilitate the Army grant, believes the project will be crucial for further integrating AM into the Army’s modernization and sustainment efforts.
"NCAME,” LaLonde said, “has become one of the main key players in additive research along these lines.”
His comments echo those of Maj. Gen. Darren L. Werner, commanding general of the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), during the Army Additive Manufacturing Summit hosted by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering last June.
"The research being conducted here at Auburn is important to the Army because additive manufacturing is going to provide two different capabilities," Werner said. "It's going to give us capability in our organic industrial base to integrate advanced manufacturing techniques, and it's also going to provide deployability of advanced manufacturing that we can potentially move into a forward location to produce and repair parts for our combat systems."
Established in 2017 through a public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA, NCAME is also one of the founding partners of the ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (ASTM AM CoE), which aims to close additive manufacturing standards and workforce gaps.
The FAA also recently awarded NCAME $6 million for research toward improving commercial air travel through the use of additively manufactured metal components focused on a commonly used materials in aviation and space, titanium alloys.
Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson, email@example.com, 334-844-2224
BY JEREMY HENDERSON
Co-principal investigators, pictured from left to right, are professors Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, Shuai Shao, Nima Shamsaei and Elham Mirkoohi.
So, imagine you’re a female mosquito.
You’re patiently circling, waiting to pounce, while your unsuspecting victim enjoys a picnic with no idea they have unknowingly been placed on your menu. Your multi-lensed eyes have confirmed what your carbon dioxide-detecting and thermal-imaging sensory organs first alerted you to—a likely meal—and although your intended entree is wearing long sleeves, your proboscis, or mouth parts, include six razor-sharp, needle-like appendages that can easily penetrate the tiny spaces in the shirt’s weave.
A perfectly designed biting machine, you close in and stealthily alight on your target’s shoulder, plunging those bloodsucking daggers downward like you’ve done so many times before. But this time they bounce off the sleeve harmlessly. You try and try again, more frantically each time, but the unique weave of the fabric foils your bite and ruins your evening dinner plans. Frustrated, slightly bewildered, and with a noticeably bent proboscis, you drunkenly take flight to look for an easier meal. This time, man beats mosquito.
That’s the kind of “Bug’s Life” scenario that a team led by John Beckmann, assistant professor of entomology and plant pathology in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, hopes to make an everyday occurrence through the development of a lightweight fabric that blocks mosquito bites while also being cool enough to wear during hot and humid weather.
Beckmann’s team includes students Alexa England, Kyle Oswalt, Natalie Wong, Richard Murphy and Bryan Holt, along with collaborator Jim McCann at Carnegie Mellon University. Their work was recently awarded an $868,145 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA, one of three grants made to Auburn professors totaling $1.31 million overall.
Beckmann first came up with the idea of bite-proof clothing while brainstorming possible research projects in his back yard, although he swears it wasn’t a mosquito bite that inspired him. He did recall, however, an earlier Minnesota camping trip where deer flies bit him repeatedly through a heavyweight, long-sleeved shirt. That convinced him his idea was potentially useful, but the first step for him and his team was making sure that available “mosquito-proof” clothing wasn’t already doing the job.
Most bite-resistant clothing currently on the market is either impregnated with pesticide or made with thick, non-breathable fabrics that are both hot to wear, yet still easy for the insects to overcome. Another alternative is to cover oneself from head to toe in regular clothing, but even that gives a false sense of security.
“People say, ‘wear long sleeves’ a lot,” Beckmann explained. “But long sleeves don’t block mosquitos. There are also several companies out there that claim their fabrics resist bites, but we tested them and they really don’t. They’ve never solved the issue of the holes in the makeup of their fabrics, which allow the mosquitos to penetrate them.”
Beckmann says the vulnerability of current textiles lies in the weaving method, which leaves gaps the mosquitos can easily exploit.
“Clothing is constructed by taking a linear fiber and essentially weaving it over another fiber, or by looping loops, as in knitting,” he said. “Both these processes leave microscopic holes. It’s hard to see them with the naked eye, but if you hold your clothes up to the sun, you’ll see how much light shines through. Every one of those holes is far larger than the mosquito’s proboscis. So it’s actually very easy for them to bite through even supposedly mosquito-resistant clothing.”
Since they tested various shirts currently advertised as mosquito-proof by wearing them and sticking their arms into a tank full of the hungry mosquitos, Beckmann and his team know more than they want to about bites. Research can sometimes itch. But while the solution to the problem seems simple—find a way to eliminate the holes, or at least make them smaller than a mosquito’s proboscis—that’s easier said than done. Because not only is the Auburn group trying to design clothing that will resist bites, they are also trying to make that clothing cool and comfortable, which traditionally has meant using a breathable material that will allow air to circulate. And fabric breathability has always required holes.
“That is the precise reason why this project is not as easy as people think,” Beckmann noted. “You obviously need your clothes to be breathable. Paradoxically, that usually comes at the cost of letting mosquitos bite through them. So the basic problem is keeping the holes there while simultaneously sealing them off from microscopic mosquito mouth parts.”
A key to solving this paradox is the team’s acquisition of a CNC, or computer numerical control, knitting machine—thanks in part to the ADECA grant—that provides the ability to produce textiles at a very fine level of resolution. In comparison to traditional weaving, these so-called “weft-knitting” machines build textiles by interconnecting loops of yarn in a horizontal fashion. The result is multiple interconnected layers within a single seamless fabric, and the process is often referred to as “3D knitting.” With the added ability to use multiple types of yarn, CNC machines allow the fabrication of a much greater range of textile types and provide many more options of structural geometry.
“Alabama used to be a big source of textile manufacturing and research, and Auburn was a major part of that.” Beckmann said, “But over the last few decades, much of that manufacturing went overseas, and Alabama lost its place in the textile industry. The ADECA grant is to some degree attempting to help restore that place by establishing this knitting laboratory in Auburn. We want to do more with what we were given and bring Alabama back as a textile innovator and manufacturer.
“Another important thing to emphasize about the knitting lab,” he added, “is that we are looking for collaborations. There are applications in engineering, aerospace, fashion, art, entomology, agriculture and many other areas. With this CNC machine knitting and the ability to twist our own fibers, we are certainly capable of more than just mosquito-resistant textiles. We can potentially help with any textile research or with trying to make new textiles from novel inputs. So we are open for business, and anyone who wants to collaborate should directly contact me.”
For now, however, the first challenge for the new lab is mosquito-defeating apparel. While other researchers are working on that same problem, Beckmann says there is room for many potential solutions.
“Textiles are very complex and there are many variables that go into constructing them,” he said. “You can generate almost infinite iterations, and in that search space of theoretical textiles, some of those iterations will block mosquito bites and some won’t. And some of those materials will be comfortable and others won’t.
“It’s all about finding the best combinations,” he added. “Obviously, there are different brands of shoes, cars, etc. So there is room for more innovation. We hope to contribute to the field and generate the best product. With a few good minds contributing independently, the problem should get solved one way or another. That’s how science works.”
Beckmann and his team are also testing their results against a variety of mosquito species—hoping for a “one size fits all” approach than can resist multiple types. In the U.S. alone that means 176 different known species, while there are more than 3,000 species worldwide.
“What we hope to do is generate a product that blocks multiple mosquitos, not only the most common Aedes, Culex and Anopheles species,” Beckmann said. “But this has to be tested, and it’s one area that has not been tested enough. It is one definitive reason why what we are doing is different from other researchers. We are trying to explore all the worst mosquitos, and not just the easiest ones to culture.”
After a year of testing and gathering data, Beckmann and his team have developed a fabric that foils mosquitos with help from roboticist McCann at Carnegie Mellon, a researcher who programs knitting robots. But it is not yet as comfortable as they would like. The next step is to make it more breathable and cooler to wear.
“Think of it as athletic apparel that blocks mosquito bites,” Beckmann said. “The knitting machine lab is what allows us to try different methods of manufacturing. In the end, clothes have to be mass-manufactured. So you have to find a solution to the problem that is scalable. And that is what the knitting machines allow us to explore.”
Eventually, Beckmann hopes to repay ADECA’s investment in the idea many times over by developing a product that can be made in Alabama, bringing new industry and jobs to the state.
“We hope to manufacture our product in state,” he said, “and we are already talking to business collaborators within Alabama to begin setting up that process. But we have a long road still ahead.”
But if Beckmann and his Auburn team succeed, it will be a sweet—and notably bloodless—victory in the long, ongoing war between people and mosquitos. Enjoying the outdoors without fighting off hordes of the hungry, biting insects will be as easy as slipping on the right clothing, and that clothing will hopefully be made in Alabama.
The only real losers will be the mosquitos. For once, being a mosquito will bite in a whole new way.
BY MIKE JERNIGAN
John Beckmann, Auburn University assistant professor of entomology and plant pathology, examines mosquitos as part of his research on material to block mosquito bites.
Auburn University is ranked in the top 11% of U.S. research institutions, coming in at No. 100 among 915 universities, according to the National Science Foundation’s recent Higher Education Research and Development, or HERD, Survey. Among public universities, Auburn is ranked No. 67 out of 415 institutions.
“Auburn’s ranking among the nation’s top 100 research institutions is a significant accomplishment,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn vice president for Research and Economic Development. “Our innovative researchers have remained committed to engaging in impactful research even during the challenges of a global pandemic. Their dedication and ingenuity are reflected in Auburn’s rise in the rankings.”
The annual survey, compiled from fiscal year 2020 research expenditures, saw Auburn climb five spots from the previous year.
During the five-year period of 2016-20, Auburn’s annual research expenditures increased from $152.4 million to $255.3 million, resulting in a rankings jump of 26 places. Among Southeastern Conference universities, Auburn had the highest percentage increase in research expenditures over that time period: a jump of 67.5%.
For universities without a medical school, Auburn ranked No. 61 nationally and No. 1 in the state. Auburn also was highly ranked nationally in a number of specific fields of research, including No. 54 in engineering, No. 54 in mathematics and statistics and No. 93 in physical sciences, all tops in the state.
A hallmark of Auburn’s research is the diversity of its funded projects. Highlights include:
- The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence is working with NASA under a $14.6 million contract to develop additive manufacturing processes for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The center also is using $6 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to advance the use of additive manufacturing in commercial aviation.
- The state of Alabama recently awarded Auburn $1.6 million for four sustainability projects: advanced jet and diesel fuels from woody biomass grown in the state and from waste plastics; biotechnology that enables conversion of organic wastes into bioplastics; 3D printable polymer smart machines, such as actuators, sensors and energy harvesters; and a new, high-value aquaculture feed binder made from soybean hulls.
- The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Auburn a $1.5 million Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement grant to broaden participation in the sciences for traditionally underrepresented students.
In addition to the high ranking in the NSF HERD Survey, Auburn is recognized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as a top-level, or R1, university with “very high research activity.”
Auburn University is ranked in the top 11% of U.S. research institutions, coming in at No. 100 among 915 universities, according to the National Science Foundation’s recent Higher Education Research and Development, or HERD, Survey. Pictured, scientists in Auburn’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence conduct fatigue testing on an additively manufactured part.
Auburn University expands research footprint in Huntsville with purchase of former LogiCore facility
Auburn University is expanding its footprint in the Huntsville area with the acquisition of a new research facility located in the Cummings Research Park.
The university reached an agreement with LogiCore Corp. to purchase two buildings with more than 40,000 square feet of space situated on a nine-acre parcel of land at 345 Voyager Way NW. Located within minutes of Redstone Arsenal’s Gate 9 entrance and near many of Auburn’s research partners in defense, aerospace, law enforcement and biotech sectors, the facility will significantly expand Auburn’s presence in the fastest-growing tech hub in the country, establishing a permanent foundation from which Auburn can leverage its regional reputation and thriving public-private partnerships into unprecedented national prestige and influence.
Designed to foster a new era of interagency and interdisciplinary collaboration necessary to secure the nation into the next century, the facility will serve as a state-of-the-art research space, collaboration engine and conference center that will focus Auburn’s expertise and next-generation resources on the defense, aerospace and law enforcement agencies that call Redstone Arsenal home.
“We are excited about the opportunities to expand our research capability in Huntsville, which is home to many members of the Auburn Family and our valued research partners,” said Auburn University President Jay Gogue. “We hope this facility will quickly become the primary connection for the Huntsville community to Auburn University and will be the go-to destination for government and industry entities around Redstone looking to meet in an unbiased, trusted location for technical interfacing.”
Plans for the facility include configurable laboratories for on-site research and development in critical technology areas; meeting spaces and engagement opportunities for government, industry and academia to allow for in-person and virtual meetings; exercises and more.
“This is a defining moment for Auburn University and the Huntsville community where today meets tomorrow,” said Jim Weyhenmeyer, university vice president for research and economic development. “This facility will fast-track connections that change the world through our valued research partnerships.”
LogiCore — a technology services company providing life cycle logistics, systems and software engineering, cybersecurity, information technology, programmatics and training services — operated the facility from 2015-22. Samples Properties acted as the university’s broker for this transaction.
“May the footprint be used to advance research excellence for students for years to come,” said Miranda Frost, LogiCore founder and CEO.
Media Contact: Austin Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org, 334.844.2444
BY AUSTIN PHILLIPS
The 40,000 square-foot facility is located within minutes of Redstone Arsenal.
Chemical engineering professor becomes Auburn’s first senior member of National Academy of Inventors
The Walt and Virginia Woltosz Professor in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is also Auburn’s first female faculty member to be named a senior member or a fellow of NAI. Since starting its fellows program in 2013, NAI has named seven Auburn faculty members to its esteemed list; all seven are male. Fa Foster Dai, the Godbold Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, joined the 2021 fellows’ class.
“It’s wonderful to be recognized as an inventor and, in particular, a female inventor,” said Wang, who has been a part of the Department of Chemical Engineering since 2006. “I hope this will encourage female students to pursue technology innovation.”
Wang joins 82 other academic inventors from 41 research universities as part of the 2022 senior membership class. They are named inventors on more than 1,093 issued U.S. patents. Wang is also one of 40 female and/or minority inventors in the class.
Wang’s research innovations center around effectively converting waste into value-added products. In particular, she focuses on using a novel microbial coculture to convert agriculture waste-derived biogas into bioplastic feedstock. This method has shown great potential to reduce greenhouse gas emission and water and land pollution.
Throughout her academic career, Wang’s expertise in biogas conversion and sustainable food production have earned her national and international recognition, and her technological innovations have resulted in numerous patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“I hope and believe that our research will open new doors to greatly improve the sustainability of U.S. food production and help promote the transition of the current linear food production model (take-make-dispose) into a sustainable, circular and bio-based economy that minimizes, or even eliminates, waste generation,” she said.
NAI senior members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.
BY CASSIE MONTGOMERY
Jin Wang, the Walt and Virginia Woltosz Professor in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, is the first Auburn faculty member to be named a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors.
Interdisciplinary research team receives NSF grant to develop waste-reducing, biodegradable paper electronics
Current electronics and electronics device printing technologies rely on wet processes such as screen or inkjet printing that require extensive development of inks or solutions with limited sources of functional materials. These inks are often impure, incompatible with biodegradable paper substrates, and printed on eco-unfriendly plastics leading to a huge amount of electronic waste (or E-waste).
Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, the principal investigator and assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering, and a team of scientists representing multi-disciplinary units and centers from Auburn University were awarded a $499,940 grant by the National Science Foundation for their project, “Multi-material Manufacturing of Eco-Friendly and Biodegradable Paper-Based Flexible Hybrid Electronics.”
Co-principal investigators are Shuai Shao, associate professor in mechanical engineering, Nima Shamsaei, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Distinguished Professor in mechanical engineering and Director of the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME), and Michael C. Hamilton, James B. Davis Professor in electrical and computer engineering and director of the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center (AMNSTC).
“The team’s extensive expertise in theory and computation, additive manufacturing, mechanical reliability, and micro/nanoelectronics, not only guarantees the success of this research but also opens up a new opportunity for future collaborative activities,” said Shao.
Hamilton believes the infrastructure is well suited for such research activities. “The AMNSTC provides valuable scientific and technical expertise as well as international visibility to this work,” he added. “AMNSTC also provides access to a wide variety of electronic device fabrication and characterization instrumentation that allows us to test the functionality of our printed devices.”
“We are definitely excited about this interdisciplinary research activity among the NCAME, AMNSTC, as well as the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Auburn University,” said Shamsaei. “At NCAME, most of our capabilities lie in fabricating metallic materials with micro-level accuracy. This research is not only a new addition to the center’s activity and field of additive manufacturing but also can potentially grow into a new field of Functional Additive Nanomanufacturing here at Auburn.”
The team’s research demonstrates a transformative dry additive nanomanufacturing approach that enables the printing of eco-friendly papertronics. Currently, substrates in use are made of polymers, which never decompose.
“What are you going to do with those products, many of which are designed for specific short-term tasks such as smart package labeling and sensors, once you have used them?” Mahjouri-Samani asked. “Throw them away, right? But, again, they don’t decompose. They aren’t biodegradable because they aren’t printed on biodegradable substrates such as paper. We can help prevent a huge waste problem.”
How can electronics and sensors be printed on biodegradable papers? The team has that answer, too.
“We have designed and developed the first printer in the world that can print on any substrate,” said Mahjouri-Samani, who dubbed this creation an “additive nanomanufacturing printer.”
This printing method is based on what he deems an “in-situ and on-demand” generation of nanoparticles by pulsed laser ablation of target materials at atmospheric pressure and at room temperature. These nanoparticles flow out of a nozzle creating a stream of nanoparticles. A substrate is then placed under the nozzle on a programmable X-Y-Z stage where these nanoparticles can be laser sintered (compacted into a solid mass) and crystallized in real-time to form desired patterns and devices.
“Overall, our additive nanomanufacturing process is capable of printing a wide range of dry, contamination-free, multi-layered, and intrinsically pure structures,” he added. “This approach also offers the flexibility of printing onto different types of substrates, including metals, ceramics, plastics, paper and flexible substrates such as thermoplastic polymers.”
Mahjouri-Samani said the primary purpose of this research effort is “to make a positive impact on humanity. We want planet Earth to be as clean as possible for this generation, and generations to follow,” he added. “If we can develop another way to reduce waste, then we are making a positive difference.”
Media Contact: Joe McAdory, email@example.com, 334.844.3447
BY JOE McADORY
From the left: Michael C. Hamilton, Shuai Shao, Masoud Mahjouri-Samani and Nima Shamsaei.
Four Auburn Engineering professors from three different disciplines will research the best way to design a sustainable, economically feasible building structure using timber and steel thanks to nearly $500K in federal and industry funds, including $237,000 from the USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant program.
The goal of the project is not only to provide an environmentally friendly construction option but also a structurally efficient and widely applicable building method.
According to Kadir Sener, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-principal investigator on the project, steel and timber are ideal structural partners. The combination of steel and timber have a degree of structural performance that the individual materials could never reach, he said.
“In order to open the market for mass timber, we wanted to use it with steel structures, since timber alone is not economically feasible for high-rise buildings,” Sener said. “We ended up designing a very sustainable construction system, too.”
The current construction practice for mid-rise steel frame buildings uses 60-70% of the overall material in the floor alone. Additionally, most of the material used is concrete — an inexpensive, yet environmentally detrimental material which leaves a substantial carbon footprint. For this reason, cross-laminated timber panels will replace the concrete in this new design.
“Southern pine, the species that we are going to be using, is stronger than most other species of wood commonly used,” said David Rouche, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and specialist in the cross-laminated timber (CLT) component of the project. “It grows quickly, it's abundant in the southeast and the industry is growing so there is a lot of great potential for it in regards to this project.”
Replacing concrete floor elements with CLT panels has numerous advantages, such as significant reduction in structure weight, which will reduce gravity and seismic demands, reducing the carbon footprint by eliminating cement production and replacing time-consuming concrete field work. Additionally, it offers more convenient repair methods, providing more favorable structural performance and being a more sustainable option during repurposing or deconstruction.
The industry partners providing financial and technical support for the project include American Institute of Steel Construction, the Softwood Lumber Boards, the American Wood Council and Simpson Strong-Tie.
Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 334-844-3591
BY VIRGINIA SPEIRS
Pictured from the left: Kadir Sener and David Roueche
Auburn to expand Industry 4.0 research, education, training and innovation capabilities with $7.2M DoD award
The Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems (ICAMS) at Auburn University is the recipient of a $7.2 million award from the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of Industrial Policy’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program to encourage small and medium-sized manufacturers to adopt the advanced technologies associated with Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing. The award will allow the center to increase efforts to improve the skills of the next generation of engineers and the existing workforce to take full advantage of those technologies in their operations.
“With this award, we are building upon our original mission and expanding our research and services in key areas,” said Gregory Harris, ICAMS director and associate professor in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Gregory Purdy, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, is a co-principal investigator on the award and an ICAMS collaborating faculty member. He explained that one new focus of the funding will be devoted to the creation of the nation’s first cyber-physical manufacturing range (CpMR) housed on a university campus. The CpMR will provide a testbed to research, test, demonstrate and teach the technologies and processes to significantly improve technology adoption in small and medium-sized manufacturers and overcome the fear of malicious cyber activity in their systems.
“Industry 4.0 driven manufacturing environments are a collection of different equipment and technologies that increase the potential attack surface for malicious cyberattacks,” Purdy explained. “We are trying to understand what vulnerabilities exist in these systems and the potential impacts of a cyberattack on both the process and resulting part. However, it is not feasible to simulate attacks on a production resource that is used day-in and day-out.”
The CpMR solves this dilemma by incorporating modern manufacturing technologies in an Industry 4.0 ecosystem with current generation automation, thereby allowing a safe environment for testing and evaluating malicious cyber activity in an Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing platform.
“It allows students, researchers and other professionals to execute attacks and see what the outcome is in a state-of-the-art machining cell,” Purdy said. “I could unleash the most potent and sophisticated attack that I have and completely make everything go haywire, without endangering a key production resource.”
The new funding will also support the purchase of additional manufacturing equipment to further develop an Industry 4.0 manufacturing environment, including the creation of a digital manufacturing demonstration cell. The manufacturing and metrology cell will demonstrate the full digital manufacturing process flow starting by automatically scanning a subject and creating a point cloud from the 3D scan that is converted into a solid model. This model will be sent to a vertical machining center that will produce the part. A robotic arm will remove the part from the mill and deliver it to a coordinate measurement machine. The automated inspection process will then confirm the part matches the reference design. The digital manufacturing demonstration cell will be able to continuously run a product and show the capability of the connected enterprise.
“This additional equipment is going to make us more capable and allow us the ability to better showcase digital manufacturing demonstrations on site,” Harris explained. “We can show that this artifact can go all the way from design through production with little to no human intervention, really highlighting digital manufacturing capabilities. Manufacturers will be able to relate to that and say, ‘if they can do that with this artifact, I can envision what I’m trying to do using this technology.’”
According to Harris, another of those key areas of service is a “Path to the Plains” partnership with Southern Union State Community College (SU), where SU students can take Auburn University courses while completing their associate degree. The partnership also outlines a plan for a graduate certificate in advanced manufacturing and an advanced manufacturing minor. Additionally, any Auburn undergraduate student will be able to obtain a certificate in mechatronics through the partnership with SU. Participating students will be assisted by scholarships to support their educational success.
“The ability at ICAMS to create tailored programs upon request from industry allows local industries to adapt to changing industry trends much more easily using existing personnel,” said Lewis Payton, ICAMS associate director and professor of practice in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “Auburn students in the new manufacturing minor will also be graduating with hands-on experience using industrial grade equipment. ICAMS is poised to become the premier fabrication and teaching laboratory in the Southeast, including future expansion into the area of die fabrication and repair.”
Other ICAMS services that will be introduced or enhanced with this recent award include:
- An annual call for undergraduate and graduate research proposals to be evaluated and awarded to those that expand the demonstration, education training and research capabilities of ICAMS.
- Research into inspection technologies to understand how to provide real-time quality data as feedback to adjust equipment controls to continuously improve control limits and reduce the possibility of a defective product.
- The creation of a smart cyber-physical sensing, modeling and control digital twin infrastructure with augmented and mixed reality.
- The extension of annual survey research for three additional years, for a total of a five-year study into technology adoption amid small and medium-sized manufacturers.
“ICAMS represents a major, transformational change in the areas of outreach, innovation and education at Auburn University,” Payton said. “By early in 2022, ICAMS will be the most capable prototyping laboratory within the state of Alabama for innovation, creating a unique opportunity for companies and for student design teams across the campus.”
Adele Ratcliff, director of the DoD IBAS program which is funding the effort, commended the ICAMS project’s goal of reducing the barriers against Industry 4.0 technologies being implemented in small and medium manufacturing company operations.
“The ICAMS comprehensive approach of providing technical support, project planning, skilled workers and a way to test new technology’s real-life impact on production flows is a forward-leaning model that has been proven to overcome technology-adoption hesitancy in companies of all sizes,” Ratcliff said. “Larger manufacturers have the resources to fund these risk reduction activities on their own. By partnering with small and medium manufacturers, ICAMS allows these companies to have confidence that their technology implementation projects will provide valuable process and capability improvements with limited operational risk.”
ICAMS, which launched in 2018, has formed and strengthened relationships with the city of Auburn Industrial Development Board and the Alabama Community College System. Through these relationships, ICAMS has doubled its facility footprint from 10,000 square-feet to 20,000 square-feet, providing adequate space for its dedicated operations, and utilized the space to educate and train students and industry personnel to use the advanced manufacturing technologies and capabilities to benefit the DoD and its supporting manufacturing sector.
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BY CASSIE MONTGOMERY
ICAMS collaborating faculty members and graduate students.
Auburn University researcher selected for NSF’s prestigious CAREER program, seeks to address critical societal issues with new products from engineered biomass
Maria Soledad Peresin, assistant professor of forest biomaterials in the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, has been selected for the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, program.
The CAREER Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Applicants must be untenured assistant professors at the time of application.
Funding for Peresin’s research, which began in April and will last five years, is expected to total $691,619.
Peresin—recently promoted to associate professor with tenure, effective this fall—aims to unlock the potential of certain components of plant or animal biomass to design engineered biomaterials. To do this, she will work to advance the fundamental understanding of naturally occurring systems to address critical societal issues, such as the removal of emerging contaminants from drinking water.
“I am delighted to be one of the 2021 NSF CAREER Award recipients,” Peresin said. “The proposal was a lot of work, but it was worth every bit of effort in terms of the doors that this grant opens to us. I certainly consider this achievement to be a reward to my entire research team, to whom I am very grateful. Without their hard work, resilience and professionalism, I would have not been able to establish this program.”
At Auburn’s Forestry Products Development Center, or FPDC, Peresin’s multidisciplinary research team gathers expertise in chemistry, pharmacy, materials sciences, engineering and product development to stimulate ideas for new businesses in food, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical sectors. The team achieves this through the development of novel value-added product development from biomass—including wood, annual crops, agro-forestry and sericulture, among others—focusing on surface modification of nanocellulose fibers for water remediation, macromolecules immobilization and developing composite materials using biobased polymers.
This project will focus on developing and using renewable, natural polymers—chemicals composed of the building blocks of smaller repeating molecules—to design efficient and sustainable absorbents, which are highly porous structures for the removal of contaminants such as antibiotics, analgesics and herbicides from water bodies. Natural polymer systems are inexpensive and could lead to more affordable filtration systems across the globe—increasing the economic impact of this research.
“There is still a lot to do and learn, but this award certainly gives my research program a great boost,” she said.
This program also provides her with an impactful platform for education and contributing to improved science literacy in Alabama. Peresin has established a successful mentoring program within Auburn University that involves internships and exchange programs with Tuskegee University and international institutions, such as the University of British Columbia and KU Leuven of Belgium for both undergraduate and graduate-level students.
Peresin is also a founding faculty member of the Sustainable Biomaterials and Packaging, or BIOP, program at Auburn, which provides another forum for disseminating information, recruiting new students and informally educating others on the utilization of bio-based materials, including its use to address water quality issues.
“This award is a game changer in many aspects, not only for the prestige, but also because of the unique nature of this five-year funding,” Peresin said. “This will allow me to focus on developing my research program in alignment with my education and outreach efforts toward increasing opportunities in STEM for underrepresented minorities.”
Peresin has partnered with Professor Becky Barlow, the school’s Alabama Extension coordinator and the Harry E. Murphy Professor, to disseminate the outcomes of her work through outreach events such as the yearly ForestHER workshop, an educational program for female forest landowners. Additionally, she will work with Auburn High School teachers on developing specific modules to be included in advanced placement biology and environmental sciences classes, with the aim of making them available to the entire state of Alabama through the Alabama Science in Motion program.
Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said Peresin is at a stage in her career to expand and strengthen the programs with which she is involved through the NSF CAREER Award.
“Dr. Peresin cares about students, their progress and their well-being,” Alavalapati said. “She is a co-lead to promote diversity and inclusion in the school, and her colleagues view her as being fully engaged in her profession and scientific organizations.
“She is the type of professor who climbs to the top of the ladder while being very humble and approachable. Her work is already making a difference in the lives of students and citizens of this country and beyond.”
The NSF CAREER Award opens new doors for both new and existing developments, an exciting prospect for Peresin and those who work with her.
“This funding will enable the consolidation of already established partnerships with national and international research groups and will take the quality of the research we conduct at the FPDC to the next level,” she said.
BY TERI GREENE
Maria Soledad Peresin, assistant professor of forest biomaterials in the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, has been selected for the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, program.
As consumer electronics get smaller, the need for smaller parts, such as batteries, grows. Researchers are actively exploring additive manufacturing techniques to create the necessary smaller parts, but they first need to establish a fundamental understanding of the nanomaterial known as MXenes.
Virginia Davis, the Dr. Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden Professor of chemical engineering, and Majid Beidaghi, associate professor of materials engineering, are working to evaluate the properties of MXenes with a $328,420 National Science Foundation award for their project “Understanding the Effects of Sheet Size and Salt Addition on Aqueous MXene Dispersions: Phase Behavior, Rheological Properties and Printability.”
“MXenes are a new material and they have a lot of amazing properties and potential in applications such as batteries, supercapacitors and things that power our everyday devices,” Davis said. “However, in order to enable them to be used in these applications, we have to understand how to process them into different structures.”
MXenes are a family of 2D crystalline nanomaterials composed of transition metal carbides, nitrides or carbonitrides. One advantage of MXenes is that they can be dispersed in water and processed into devices and structures using fluid phase processing techniques such as direct ink writing, a specialized 3D printing technique. To date, advances in MXene processing have required time-consuming and expensive trial-and-error approaches.
“Our grant is looking at using fundamental tools for understanding how solids disperse in liquids and to gain new insight as to the behavior of (MXenes) to enable them to be printed into small devices using additive manufacturing,” Davis said. “In this grant we’re particularly looking at MXenes in the context of other 2D or sheet-like nanomaterials. If we can understand those fundamental principles that govern these sheet-like materials, then we can apply it to other new materials that we may discover or make materials we already know about, such as nanoclays, work even better.”
This topic represents a natural cross-section of Davis’ and Beidaghi’s specialized research areas. Beidaghi has studied MXenes and their potential since he was a post-doctoral research fellow at Drexel University. Davis is interested in understanding how to effectively process nanomaterials and how they flow in liquids.
“Really it was both of us coming together at Auburn that allowed us to tackle both parts of the problem, the materials chemistry part and the phase behavior part,” Davis said.
The two plan to collaborate with other researchers to advance the experimental and theoretical methods to study dispersions of nanomaterials.
Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, firstname.lastname@example.org, 334.844.3668
BY CASSIE MONTGOMERY
From the left: Virginia Davis and Majid Beidaghi
Auburn University will soon help strengthen the economic and force posture of the United States’ lead-free defense electronics industrial base through participation in the newly-launched Defense Electronics Consortium (DEC).
The DEC was established by the U.S. Partnership for Assured Electronics through an award from the U.S. Department of Defense. The total award amount is expected to exceed $42 million – $7 million of which is expected to come to Auburn – and will be distributed during a period of five to seven years.
The first year of the project was funded at $3.9 million, with $830,000 awarded to Auburn Engineering. Auburn faculty will partner with researchers from Purdue University and the University of Maryland to focus on the Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project, the first initiative to flow through the DEC.
When compared to consumer electronics, defense electronics are subjected to harsher environments and are often designed for a much longer lifespan. Auburn faculty, led by principal investigator Sa’d Hamasha, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, will develop a comprehensive evaluation system for solder selection to meet specific defense-related requirements.
“The outcome of this research is a lead-free Solder Users Handbook to ensure a safe transition of aerospace and defense electronics to lead-free technology,” he said. “The lead-free project includes a plan for developing a comprehensive solder agnostic evaluation system for defense lead-free technology. The goal is to enable future new solders and electronics packaging technologies and processes for specific defense use cases.”
The interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between faculty in Auburn’s industrial and systems engineering and mechanical engineering departments. From the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Hamasha will direct the research program, department chair John L. Evans is a co-principal investigator and will manage the USPAE consortium interface, and assistant professors Daniel Silva and Peter Liu are also co-principal investigators. Participating faculty from the Department of Mechanical Engineering include department chair and Quina Professor Jeffrey Suhling and professor George Flowers, Graduate School dean, as co-principal investigators. Emeritus professors Wayne Johnson from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Michael Bozack from the Department of Physics will also contribute.
“Auburn’s involvement comes after 25 years of excellence in electronics packaging, manufacturing and reliability and one of the largest research efforts in lead-free solder in the United States,” said Evans, the Charles D. Miller Chair Professor.
Hamasha explained that in addition to the Auburn team’s wealth of research experience, Auburn’s state-of-the-art facilities will be used to fill the gaps in thermal cycling, drop shock and vibration testing, all important factors to determining military suitability.
“Our team has experience investigating mechanical properties, failure and fatigue behavior and reliability of more than 50 standard and enhanced lead-free solder alloys, as well as the manufacturability of these materials,” Suhling said. “And our research has targeted mission critical electronic products for military, automotive, aerospace and industrial applications that are exposed to harsh environments.”
Overall, the work produced by the DEC has the potential to make a great impact in the defense industry.
“The DEC work will accelerate the use of advanced electronics technology for the defense industry, while also improving product quality, reliability, performance and reducing product costs,” Evans said.
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BY CASSIE MONTGOMERY
From left, Sa'd Hamasha, John L. Evans, Jeffrey Suhling and George Flowers
Two Auburn University research projects are among the recipients of a $2.57 million award by the Alabama governor’s office to five of the state’s research institutions, Gov. Kay Ivey announced recently.
Brian Via and Beatriz Erramuspe, director and research fellow, respectively, of the Forest Products Development Center in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, were awarded $247,142 to research development of a paper-based device for a cost-effective method to detect dangerous formaldehyde emissions in wood panels.
Sabit Adanur, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, was awarded $75,374 to conduct research relating to the design, fabrication and testing of novel medical face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or future contagious viruses.
The grants are from the Alabama Research and Development Enhancement Fund, or ARDEF, a state-funded program created in 2019 under the Alabama Innovation Act and administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA.
The funding provides support and encourages new and continuing research that will result in products and services to improve the lives of Alabamians either from the products themselves or from new job opportunities.
“This funding from the Alabama Research and Development Enhancement Fund will help Auburn researchers continue to solve real-world problems through discovery and innovation,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn’s vice president for research and economic development.
“The research being performed at our universities and institutions offers strong evidence that innovation is alive and well in Alabama," Ivey said when making the announcement. “These grants will help provide the needed resources to bring even more ideas and research to light, eventually resulting in new products and new job opportunities.”
Other institutions named in the award announcement include the Basham Institute of Science in Dadeville, Alabama, and various campuses of the University of Alabama. This is the second round of ARDEF funds awarded in this program in 2020.
Ivey earlier this year awarded $2.27 million in grants to state research institutions and programs. Three Auburn research projects were recipients in that earlier announcement.
BY MITCH EMMONS
From the left: Brian Via, Beatriz Erramuspe and Sabit Adanur
An Auburn Engineering faculty member recently received a United States Office of Naval Research subcontract to work on a new technology that will use custom additively manufactured micro-scale shields to help protect electronics from magnetic fields, while also allowing integration of fiber optics for optical communication.
Michael Hamilton, the James B. Davis Professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center, will work with Systems Visions, a local company that provides engineering principles to design and develop structures, systems and processes, on new technologies to help shield sensitive superconducting electronic chips from magnetic fields while still allowing for signals to be sent and received through integrated fiber optics.
Hamilton will collaborate on this project with Robert Candler, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. Hamilton and Candler graduated in the same class from Auburn University with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering in 2000.
“Interestingly enough, Rob is not just my colleague, but my friend who also went to Auburn at the same time I did,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been looking for a project to work on together for a while, so it was nice to find something that lined up both with what he’s working on and with what I’m working on.”
Hamilton said the duo are in phase one of the project with multiple challenges to overcome before a working prototype can be developed. Some challenges include engineering the technology to withstand ultra-cold temperatures around 4 Kelvin (-452 degrees Fahrenheit) and scaling down the integration of the fiber optics to about 10 millionths of a meter in diameter – 10 times smaller than a strand of hair.
“We’re characterizing these magnetic shields and making big strides in the steps toward building those little photonic structures,” Hamilton said. “Another piece of this project is observing how these micro-scale structures behave when we cool them down to a very low temperature and seeing if there’s a way we can engineer the interfaces and materials to perform better when you make it cold.”
Hamilton said he is confident that he and his team will work through the challenges of social distancing in the new normal with COVID-19 and that he is eager to contribute to the advancement of this technology under this subcontract.
“We’ve actually been really fortunate at Auburn where research can continue,” Hamilton said. “I know there are some places that had to just shut everything down, but we’ve been able to keep things going at a pretty good pace.”
BY VIRGINIA SPEIRS
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The Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems, or ICAMS, at Auburn University has received a $4.26 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense to explore the digitalization of manufacturing and become a resource for small and medium manufacturers throughout the country.
“The most significant way ICAMS can make a difference is in helping small and medium manufacturers understand the technologies they should be utilizing and helping them understand the need for adopting Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing concepts, therefore really digitalizing the full supply chain,” said Gregory Harris, ICAMS director and associate professor of industrial and systems engineering.
There is a growing digital divide between large manufacturers and the small- to medium-sized manufacturers that make up 85% of the industrial base in the United States. These large, original equipment manufacturers have blended their manufacturing physical and virtual domains into an Industry 4.0 environment, achieving positive productivity results. ICAMS researchers hope to help close this gap, in part by promoting advanced manufacturing principles to create a skilled workforce pipeline that starts in high school and continues through community college and beyond.
“The ideal student coming into this program is somebody who is a cross between a mechanical engineer, an industrial and systems engineer and a computer scientist. It’s a very interdisciplinary environment where, if you’re interested in computers and making things and realizing innovations, you will thrive. That’s the kind of student we’re looking for,” Harris said.
ICAMS is led by Harris and several additional faculty members from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering: assistant professor Peter Liu, assistant professor Konstantinos Mykoniatis, associate professor Lewis Payton and assistant professor Gregory Purdy. The center is also supported through a partnership with the City of Auburn’s Industrial Development Board, which has provided a facility to house large equipment and provide a hands-on learning laboratory for ICAMS students.
“Part of what we’re doing with ICAMS is helping develop the skill base and the skillsets needed so that the community college system and high schools can train students in the new technologies to be potential employees,” he explained. “We’re working with industry to train their current employees in these new capabilities and create a more effective system. Finally, we’re training engineers to be able to go out and help design, build and run these systems, thus ushering in the future of manufacturing.”
BY CASSIE MONTGOMERY
The Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing, or ICAMS, at Auburn University, housed within the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is led by, from left to right, Lewis Payton, associate research professor; Greg Purdy, assistant professor; Greg Harris, ICAMS director and associate professor; Peter Liu, assistant professor; and Konstantinos Mykoniatis, assistant professor.