Electrical engineering team’s work makes for a ‘cool’ cover story

ADFM-24-9-Cover.inddWork by a team led by Qiming Zhang, distinguished professor of electrical engineering, was recently featured on the cover of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

The work, “Giant Electrocaloric Response Over A Broad Temperature Range in Modified BaTiO3 Ceramics,” was published in the journal’s March 5 issue.

Zhang’s team discovered a class of ferroelectric ceramics that exhibit giant electrocaloric effect (ECE) near room temperature. ECE is the electric field induced temperature change in insulation materials which have the promise of high efficiency electric coolers with compact size for on-chip cooling as we as for air conditioning and refrigeration.

However, the very small ECE observed in the past presents the effect to be attractive for practical applications.

The cover image shows a device simulation of a flat panel chip-scale cooler, employing the ECE materials developed.

The entire paper can be view online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adfm.201302386/abstract.

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Breaking down the U.S. News rankings

Earlier this week, U.S. News & World Report released its “2014 Best Colleges Rankings,” where Penn State was ranked No. 8 among all public national universities and the College of Engineering was ranked No. 19 among undergraduate engineering programs.

U.S. News ranked the following undergraduate programs:

  • Aerospace Engineering: 12th
  • Chemical Engineering: 17th
  • Civil Engineering: 14th
  • Engineering Science and Mechanics: 10th
  • Industrial Engineering: 6th
  • Materials: 10th
  • Mechanical Engineering: 16th

The University’s undergraduate programs in biological engineering, bioengineering, computer engineering and electrical engineering were not ranked.

According to U.S. News, the undergraduate results are based solely on the peer judgments of deans and senior faculty who rated each program using a scale of 1 to 5 in a mail survey.

U.S. News does not include the disciplines of architectural engineering, computer science and nuclear engineering as part of its survey.

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PSFEI serves all of Pennsylvania

The Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute (PSFEI) proudly boasts on its website: WE ARE PENN STATE to thousands of Pennsylvanians who come in contact with us everyday.

I got the opportunity to hear just how that happens from PSFEI Director Jim Myers, PE, when I visited the Institute today.

PSFEI works with government-related organizations across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to consult on the maintenance and operations of their facilities, including energy-related issues. Jim explained that a client may call the Institute to uncover a simple maintenance item, consult on a large building or renovation project, or provide training and education for employees.

And when Jim says they ARE Penn State to many Pennsylvanians, he’s not kidding. PSFEI does work in all 67 counties – through relationships with the State System of Higher Education, PA Department of Transportation, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Department of Corrections, PA Historical & Museum Commission, and many more.

What I found amazing, beyond just how efficiently the Institute serves its clients (there are 31 engineers, technicians and staffers on the team, supplemented by student interns who have the opportunity to learn from experienced engineers and take this real-world experience to jobs in the ‘real’ world), is that the Institute was working with clients to deal with energy markets, energy procurement, and energy savings programs long before it was ‘cool.’ Jim joked during our conversation, “We were Green before it was even a color!”

Jim has been with PSFEI since 1985, rising to director in 1995 and seeing the 66-year-old organization through a period of intense growth. And it’s easy to see how he’s contributed to that growth. Jim’s passion for the work PSFEI does is truly contagious. He’s just hired an assistant director, John Hajduk, MBA, to help in the next phase of growth for the Institute.

I look forward to working with Jim and his team to highlight the value that PSFEI brings to its clients, the residents of Pennsylvania and the many, many others who are touched by the work that PSFEI does. And, of course, to see what happens next!


Dana Marsh, director of marketing and communications for the College of Engineering, freely admits that she’s not an engineer but is fascinated by how the work of engineers impacts every aspect of a human’s day-to-day existence: from the houses we live in and the roads we drive on, to the smartphones and computers we rely upon. She’s now made it her mission to educate non-engineers about the real-world applications of leading-edge engineering initiatives. 

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Inspired by nature

Penn State electrical engineer Mohsen Kavehrad is one of the experts interviewed for the upcoming book, The Shark's Paintbrush.

Penn State electrical engineer Mohsen Kavehrad is one of the experts interviewed for the upcoming book, The Shark’s Paintbrush.

An upcoming book titled “The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation” includes an interview with Mohsen Kavehrad, the W.L. Weiss Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Author Jay Harman interviewed Kavehrad on a paper he published through a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/Air Force Research Laboratory project.

“We had discovered the dolphin chirps look like a wavelet waveforms we used to transmit optical pulses through clouds,” Kavehrad said in an email. “The book is meant to encourage people to get inspirations from nature to imagine and invent.”

Kavehrad is director of the National Science Foundation Industry and University Cooperative Research Center on Optical Wireless Applications and the Center for Information and Communications Technology Research.

The book is due out as a hardcover and audiobook in June.

More on Kavehrad’s work can be found here.

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