ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Researchers Devise Safer “Water-In-Salt” Alternative To Lithium-Ion Batteries.

Phys (UK)  (11/24) reports that researchers at the University of Maryland and the US Army Research Laboratory “have devised a groundbreaking ‘Water-in-Salt’ aqueous Lithium ion battery technology that could provide power, efficiency and longevity comparable to today’s Lithium-ion batteries, but without the fire risk, poisonous chemicals and environmental hazards of current Lithium batteries.” The researchers said that their work “demonstrates a major advance in the long history of water-based (aqueous) batteries by doubling the voltage, or power, of an aqueous battery.”

Forbes  (11/21, Hicks) reports that such a battery that is safer and “can still power our disposable device lifestyle will have a long-term impact on the environment and consumers.”

Green Car Congress  (11/24) reports that the researchers said the breakthrough “holds great promise, particularly in applications that involve large energies at kilowatt or megawatt levels, such as electric vehicles, or grid-storage devices for energy harvest systems, and in applications where battery safety and toxicity are primary concerns.” Manufacturers have been slow to adopt current lithium-ion batteries for “strategically important applications such as vehicle electrification and grid storage” due to safety risks.

Higher Education

University Of Iowa Lowers Test Score Bar, Increases In-State Aid.

The AP  (11/23, Mercer) reports that the University of Illinois has “shifted course” this year, increasing in-state financial aid and “taking the unusual step of accepting lower test scores.” The article reports that for years, the university has courted international students to increase per-student tuition revenues. The AP also reports that its analysis “found that ACT test scores for incoming freshmen from Illinois dropped for the first time in at least a decade.” The school has been facing “pressure from lawmakers, university trustees and parents to enroll more in-state students.”

NSF Gives Tennessee College STEM Scholarship Grant.

The Chattanoogan (TN)  (11/23) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Tennessee’s Lee University a $600,000 grant through its Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (S-STEM) program “that will provide scholarships and educational opportunities to Lee students majoring in science and mathematics.”

Adrienne Minerick on Diversity in Chemical Engineering
ASEE’s Diversity Committee chair is interviewed by AIChE.

ASEE Membership Benefits
Our members say why ASEE membership is important to them professionally.

Research and Development

Delaware Researchers Working On Solar Power Breakthrough.

Philadelphia Inquirer  (11/24, Avril) reports that amid growing demand for solar power, “many research groups are on the hunt for ways to boost efficiency,” including a University of Delaware team which is “developing materials to harness portions of the sun’s spectrum that in today’s conventional solar panels are largely wasted.” The researchers “believe their materials would combine the energy from two low-energy particles to make one photon with enough energy to clear” the so-called “band gap.” The work “involves using extremely thin layers of semiconductors to coax electrons to higher energy states.”

NSF Gives RIT Grant For Sensor Research.

The Rochester (NY) Business Journal  (11/24) reports that the National Science Foundation has awarded a $2 million grant to a partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology and Raytheon Vision Systems “to develop infrared detectors grown on silicon wafers for ground-based astronomy.” The research “also could have applications for use in homeland security, remote sensing and biomedical imaging.”

Ledios, USC Announce Partnership On Computing Projects.

The Washington Exec  (11/24, Budik) reports that Leidos and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute announced a partnership on two research projects “aimed at achieving advances in the fields of network analysis and high performance computing.” Leidos Chief Technology Officer Dr. Gulu Gambhir highlighted that the company partners with universities as one way of bringing “innovative solutions” to customers.

ExecutiveBiz  (11/24, Edwards) adds that Leidos will fund the projects through “a five-year, $500,000 grant under the Strategic University Alliances Program.”

MIT Researchers Develop Ingestible Vital Sign Monitor.

Fierce Medical Devices  (11/24, Lawrence) reports that ingestible drug monitoring is on the way, “with the first drug to incorporate the technology already being considered by FDA.” Massachusetts of Institute Technology researchers published an animal proof-of-concept study of “their ingestible vital sign monitor that tracks heart and respiratory rates in real time” that is expected to “work in conjunction with telemedicine, as well as to monitor high-performance athletes and endangered workers such as those in the military or first responders.” Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, explained, “Through characterization of the acoustic wave, recorded from different parts of the GI tract, we found that we could measure both heart rate and respiratory rate with good accuracy.” The research was sponsored by the Air Force as well as the National Institutes of Health and published in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal PLOS One.

Global Developments

Netherlands’ Switch To Electric Vehicles Powered By Coal Plants.

The Washington Post  (11/24, Birnbaum) reports on the growth in electric vehicles in the Netherlands, where they are powered chiefly by “three new coal-fired power plants.” Because of that, they may actually “worsen the overall climate impact of driving.” The Netherlands is “second only to Norway” in its use of EVs, which amounted to “four percent of all cars sold last year.” The country is expected to fail to meet its 2020 emissions targets as electricity demand increases, and coal is expected “to provide about the same amount of electricity in 2030 as it did in 2014.” The Post notes that in the US, because of the shift away from coal to natural gas in power plants, EVs are expected to benefit the climate, with the exception of some areas where coal continues to be the dominant fuel for power plants.

Industry News

Cybersecurity Industry To Grow 121 Percent Over Next Five Years.

Market Realist  (11/24, Thomas) reports that according to research by MarketsandMarkets, the cybersecurity industry is expected to grow 121 percent globally over the next five years. The article adds that much of this growth can be attributed to the increased use of technology in business activities. The article also reports that a study sponsored by IBM Security revealed that, 46 percent of respondents from companies across different sectors think their company is spending the correct amount on cybersecurity, and 64 percent said they spend more than their peers.

Engineering and Public Policy

Administration Offers Aid To Help Communities Dependent On Coal Industry.

The Washington Times  (11/24, Wolfgang) reports on “the coal business” which has been in a “steep decline,” having “lost about 50,000 jobs,” from 2008 to 2012 due to “both Obama administration environmental regulations and the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.” Altogether, “fewer than 70,000 people now work in the coal-mining industry.” The industry is expected to continue to lose jobs “as the administration moves ahead,” on its Clean Power Plan. In response to concerns about regional unemployment, the Administration has developed the “POWER + Plan” that would “pour billions of dollars into coal communities for job training, infrastructure investments and other efforts.” Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton “has embraced” the idea with her own “detailed plan to keep coal communities from sinking into an economic abyss.”

FAA Releases Proposed Drone Regulations.

The New York Times  (11/24, Kang, Subscription Publication) reports that proposed drone regulations outlined by a Federal Aviation Administration-appointed task force are “widely expected” to be approved in a few weeks. The task force recommends that owners with drones weighing between half a pound and 55 pounds be required to register their drones with the federal government and have their names and addresses entered into a national database. Owners would also have to display a government-issued registration number on their drones. However, owners would not have to submit any information about their drones, and drone users would not have to be citizens or permanent residents. Task force members “stressed that many compromises were made” in coming up with the proposal.

Federal Government To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Nearly 42 Percent.

Reuters  (11/23, Volcovici) reports that the White House on Monday announced that the Federal government will cut greenhouse gas emission from its operations to 41.8 percent below 2008 levels by 2025. Solar projects by NASA and DHS will be among the efforts which cover the government’s 360,000 buildings, 650,000 vehicles, and extensive supply chain.

GOP Senators Want Update On SolarCity Investigation.

The Arizona Republic  (11/23, Randazzo) reports that Sens. Jeff Flake, John McCain, and seven other Republican senators sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew seeking “an update on a federal investigation into whether SolarCity Corp. and other solar installers inflated the price of solar projects to increase federal subsidies.” They expressed concern that “cash grant program and the administration of the investment tax credits lack sufficient transparency, oversight and enforcement to protect taxpayers.” The Treasury investigation “kicked off an ongoing disagreement between Treasury and SolarCity regarding the value of its solar projects.”

DOJ Seeks To Shut Down Solar Power “Abusive Tax Scheme.”

The AP  (11/24) reports that the Justice Department filed a federal complaint to shut down RaPower-3 LLC, International Automated Systems Inc., and LTB1 LLC, for “allegedly selling ‘solar thermal lenses’,” claiming they qualify customers for tax breaks, despite knowing “that alone doesn’t meet the specific Internal Revenue Code requirements to qualify for such breaks.” Officials called it an “abusive tax scheme” connected to at least 70 related cases.

Elementary/Secondary Education

University Of Tennessee Engineering School Working With Local High School Counselors.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel  (11/20, Mccoy) reports that high school counselors in Knox County, Tennessee are working in partnership with the University of Tennessee College of Engineering to meet high school students needs. College officials want to work with high school counselors so that resources are available as students are formulating their career plans.

Mid Florida Tech Students Create Educational Simulation Games.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (11/23, Martin) reports that Mid Florida Tech high-school students are learning how to create educational simulation games at a facility called Launch Site, as part of a two-year program which serves to train students as entry-level technicians. Commenting on the content of the program, the school district’s senior executive director for career and technical education Mike Armbruster stated that, “We really try to customize [the programming] to our local industry needs,” and added that, “Our goal is the work force.”

Pennsylvania District Builds STEAM Labs To Help Students Develop Skills.

The Hechinger Report  (11/24, Berdik) reports South Fayette School District in Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh has built multiple STEAM labs for the students to learn about problem solving and engineering using creativity and STEM skills with interactive exercises. The STEAM labs feature opportunities for students to learn about computer programming, 3-D printing, robotics, and other high-tech fields. The article gives many examples of projects that students can do in the labs to learn skills.

Florida State University Panama City Hosts “Girls Who Code” Program Teaching Local Students.

The AP  (11/24) reports Florida State University Panama City is now running a “Girls Who Code” program, which teaches female students from sixth-grade to twelfth-grade how to code. The program currently has 26 regular participants learning through assignments and with the help of student instructors. The program aims to increase gender diversity in the technology industry. The Panama City (FL) News Herald  (11/23, Breaux) highlights some of the students in the program. Madeline Magness is 13 years old and interested in coding as a career. Hana Tabbaa is also 13 years old and has learned how to make computer graphics through the program.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Musk Makes Autopilot A Top Priority For Tesla.
Virginia Tech Chemical Engineering Professor Wins Carnegie Award.
Pacific Northwest Lab Scientist Explains Potential Use For Cooling Via Lasers.
Science And Technical Jobless Numbers Contribute To New Mexico’s High Unemployment Rate.
Ivanpah Shows The Risk Solar Thermal Poses To Birds.
USA Today: Exxon’s Climate Change Denial Not Reason For Prosecution.
Indiana Elementary School Receives STEM School Award.

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