Tech review: Electrospinning – Weaving tiny fibres

Electrospinning: An ancient nanotechnology rediscovered for modern demands

Electrosinning, the closely related cousin of electrospraying, is a method of using high voltage electric charge to draw a polymer into a fine fibre [1]. Depending on the strictness of your definition it can be considered a nanofabrication process. Electrospun fibre is commonly between 150 nm to 600 nm with extreme cases being an order of magnitude in either direction [2-3]. This places it neatly between formal nanotechnology (a single dimension less than 100 nm) and traditional microfibers (1-5 µm). The process has been known since the turn of the 20th century, not long after mass production of synthetic polymers began [4]. During the Second World War Soviet researchers developed the technology to produce high performance gas mask filters [5]. The subsequent iron curtain resulted in the technology remaining a forgotten scientific curiosity until it was rediscovered by accident in the early 90’s [6].

Figure 8 - Colour Online Only.jpg "Photo Credit: Robert Lamberts, Plant & Food Research, New Zealand"

Figure 8 – Colour Online Only.jpg
“Photo Credit: Robert Lamberts, Plant & Food Research, New Zealand”

There are three main benefits that electrospun fibre offers [7]. From geometry, the narrow diameter of the manufactured fibre results in a very high surface area to volume ratio ideal for catalytic reactions [8] and similar processes. Due to the high degree of stretching the fibre experiences it is likely that the fibre produced will have a tensile strength that begins to approach the theoretical limit making it of great interest for nanocomposites [9]. Finally, at the nanoscale, mater sometimes obtains new properties intrinsic to its scale leading to applications in filtration and tissue engineering [10]. With emerging consumer concern over nanotoxicology, electrospun fibre has the additional benefit of being relatively unlikely to contaminate biological systems. Electrospinning usually produces one long continuous fibre. Unlike asbestos, the fibre aspect ratio is very high allowing the immune systems defences to cope efficiently with exposure without requiring safety equipment.

"Electrospun poly(vinyl alcohol) fibres embedded with dispersed magnetic nano iron oxide particles"

“Electrospun poly(vinyl alcohol) fibres embedded with dispersed magnetic nano iron oxide particles”

Electrospun fibre does carry some downsides. During manufacture, the fibre is ejected from a highly charged polymer droplet and pushed towards a collector by forces due to carried electric charge and high voltage static fields [11]. Part way through the process, the ejected jet becomes unstable resulting in traditional electrospinning producing random fibre coils spread over the entire deposition area. There are techniques on the market that can produce aligned fibre to varying degrees [1,5,11] however, they are almost all limited to batch processing making scale up challenging. A similar problem extends to precision placement of individual fibres which requires post-handling of the manufactured material. This limits applications in microscale electronics despite the ability to directly create insulated conductive fibres [12]. The final challenge faced by the technology since its discovery is a detailed theoretical understanding of the process itself. The current level of public knowledge often slows down commercial development due to trial and error still being required.

"Lycopodium fungal spore trapped on an electrospun poly(vinyl alcohol) membrane"

“Lycopodium fungal spore trapped on an electrospun poly(vinyl alcohol) membrane”

Electrospinning has the potential to impact many industries. With mater manipulating nanomachines still a long way from practical realization, manufacturing methods that can produce nano structured materials are the logical intermediate step. Using a two-step process it is possible to manufacture most ceramics in the form of nanofibers [13]. These fibres find their use in catalytic chemical reactions, dye sensitized solar cells and piezoelectric energy harvesting. Using conductive polymers it is possible to create conductive meshes or using co-axial technology create insulated fibres. These fibres can find use in sensors by grafting chemical sensor groups to the fibre surface. The same fibres also find use in lithium polymer batteries and high capacity capacitors [14]. The use of co-axial fibre production has also allowed the nascent development of optical waveguide fibres [15]. Rather than use co-axial fibres it is possible to directly mix mutli-component polymer fibres or electrospin multiple fibre types into a single membrane. This technology can be used to produce various energy storage devices or organic solar cells [16].

Vac-High PC-Std. 10kV x1000 (46mm)

Vac-High PC-Std. 10kV x1000 (46mm)

The industrial market for electrospun fibre has experienced variable growth over its history. Early years saw growth driven by entrepreneurs such as Cooly and Morton [4] primarily aimed at the textile industry. Ultimately the technology lost against cheaper manufacturing methods. After the Soviets recognized the value of electrospun fibre for air filtration they started producing “Petryanov filters” and scaled up to 20 million m2 of filter per annum [4-5]. The infrastructure resulting from this industry lives on in one of the largest electrospinning companies Elmarco Ltd., one of the few produces of industrial scale electrospinning equipment. Much like the Soviet utilization of electrospinning, from the 1980’s onward Donaldson Inc. in the USA has been producing high performance filter materials predominantly for military applications [17]. Public information is sparse due to the intellectual property being protected as trade secrets. Other early electrospinning companies include Electrospinz Ltd. and MECC Co. Ltd. producing lab scale equipment. In the modern era there are over 30 companies around the world manufacturing products or machines.

Electrospinning is a fascinating technology with a long rich history. Steeped in potential, the technology has been tackled by a number of great minds but has yet to attract the right scientist or engineer to realize that potential. While electrospinning has seen commercial products developed in the filtration and medical markets, electrospinning has yet to see a company corner the market either in product or technology. These untapped solutions may just be the next solution key to solving a major commercial problem.

Article contributed by Dr. Jonathan Stanger

jonathanstanger

 

References:

[1] S. Ramakrishna, An introduction to electrospinning and nanofibers. Singapore: World Scientific, 2005.

[2] M. Costolo, J. Lennhoff, R. Pawle, E. Rietman and A. Stevens, ‘A nonlinear system model for electrospinning sub-100 nm polyacrylonitrile fibres’, Nanotechnology, vol. 19, no. 3, p. 035707, 2007.

[3] Q. Pham, U. Sharma and A. Mikos, ‘Electrospun Poly(ε-caprolactone) Microfiber and Multilayer Nanofiber/Microfiber Scaffolds:  Characterization of Scaffolds and Measurement of Cellular Infiltration’, Biomacromolecules, vol. 7, no. 10, pp. 2796-2805, 2006.

[4] N. Tucker, J. Stanger, M. Staiger, H. Razzaq and K. Hofman, ‘The History of the Science and Technology of Electrospinning from 1600 to 1995’, Journal of Engineered Fibers and Fabrics, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 63-73, 2012.

[5] Y. Filatov, A. Budyka and V. Kirichenko, Electrospinning of micro-and nanofibers. New York: Begell House, 2007.

[6] J. Doshi and D. Reneker, ‘Electrospinning process and applications of electrospun fibers’, Journal of Electrostatics, vol. 35, no. 2-3, pp. 151-160, 1995.

[7] J. Stanger, ‘Experimental Assessment of Charge Flow in Electrospinning’, Ph.D., University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 2013.

[8] S. Chuangchote, J. Jitputti, T. Sagawa and S. Yoshikawa, ‘Photocatalytic Activity for Hydrogen Evolution of Electrospun TiO 2 Nanofibers’, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 1140-1143, 2009.

[9] J. Kim and D. Reneker, ‘Mechanical properties of composites using ultrafine electrospun fibers’, Polymer Composites, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 124-131, 1999.

[10] K. Hofman, N. Tucker, J. Stanger, M. Staiger, S. Marshall and B. Hall, ‘Effects of the molecular format of collagen on characteristics of electrospun fibres’, J Mater Sci, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 1148-1155, 2011.

[11] A. Andrady, Science and technology of polymer nanofibers. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2008.

[12]A. Luzio, E. Canesi, C. Bertarelli and M. Caironi, ‘Electrospun Polymer Fibers for Electronic Applications’, Materials, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 906-947, 2014.

[13] V. Tomer, R. Teye-Mensah, J. Tokash, N. Stojilovic, W. Kataphinan, E. Evans, G. Chase, R. Ramsier, D. Smith and D. Reneker, ‘Selective emitters for thermophotovoltaics: erbia-modified electrospun titania nanofibers’, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, vol. 85, no. 4, pp. 477-488, 2005.

[14] L. Wang, Q. Xiao, Z. Li, G. Lei, L. Wu, P. Zhang and J. Mao, ‘Synthesis of Li2CoTi3O8 fibers and their application to lithium-ion batteries’, Electrochimica Acta, vol. 77, pp. 77-82, 2012.

[15] G. Kwak, G. Lee, S. Shim and K. Yoon, ‘Fabrication of Light-Guiding Core/Sheath Fibers by Coaxial Electrospinning’, Macromol. Rapid Commun., vol. 29, no. 10, pp. 815-820, 2008.

[16] S. Chuangchote and T. Sagawa, ‘Application of Electrospun Nanofibers in Organic Photovoltaics’, Nanostructure Science and Technology, pp. 141-162, 2014.

[17] S. Cavaliere, Electrospinning for advanced energy and environmental applications. CRC Press, 2015.

Robotics and Automation Society Young Reviewers Program

IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Young Reviewers Program

The Young Reviewers Program (YRP) is intended to introduce the Robotics and Automation Society’s young members to the best practices in peer-reviewing of scientific papers. This is achieved by establishing a mentor–mentee relationship in which Senior Reviewers (SR) give reviewing assignments to the Junior Reviewers (JR) and oversee the review process.

How does it work?
Traditionally, the papers are submitted to the Paper Plaza conference management system and the review request is sent by the associate editor to the reviewers. Once the review request is confirmed, the paper’s quality is evaluated, and the review is submitted.

Now, let us assume that the reviewer is an invited SR for the YRP, which runs separately from Paper Plaza. In that case, the SR may upload the paper assigned to him/her in Paper Plaza to the YRP website, and then our program begins:

  • SR chooses a JR from the pool of applicants by searching keywords,
  • SR assigns the paper to the JR and mentors him/her throughout the process (by providing guidelines, corrections, etc.),
  • SR uploads the final review (revised by the senior member) to the Paper Plaza by the review deadline, as carried out traditionally (indicating the YRP involvement towards the Associate Editor).

yrp

To facilitate such a mentor–mentee relationship, YRP

  • provides the JR with enough (starting) material to enhance his/her reviewing skills (e.g., by providing documents, webinars, etc.),
  • provides the senior member with tools to search for the JR by using the keywords, assign the paper and communicate with the JR,
  • applies safeguards to protect the review’s confidentiality.

Noteworthy, serving as a SR in YRP will not increase the number of papers that the SR is asked to review. Only papers that a SR has already accepted to review would be eligible for the YRP.  In this way, there will be no net increase in SR’s reviewing workload. Therefore, the time a SR would normally spend writing a careful review would be invested instead in developing skills of a Junior Reviewer.

Once the required skills are obtained, JR will be graduated with an overall qualification grade. High-profile JRs will be given the opportunity to participate to the ICRA/IROS RAS-YRP events and will be provided with certificates and awards to recognize the effort.

To become a YRP member as a Junior Reviewer, please register here.

This is a fantastic initiative from RAS and will provide young professionals with the right training in becoming research reviewers and we hope that other technical societies will follow in their footsteps.

YP Member Spotlight – Anthony Deese

IEEE PES Young Professionals is an international community of enthusiastic, dynamic, and innovative members and volunteers. A spotlight on selected PES YP members is provided here to provide insight into this great community. These members provide unique insight into their education, career goals and progression, and personal lives.

37e35b7

Anthony please tell us about yourself 

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The College of New Jersey as well as director of the NSF-funded Smart Electric Power System (SEPS) Laboratory.  I teach a number of courses on power system analysis, power electronics, electronics, circuits and systems, as well as differential equations.  My research areas include field-programmable analog array (FPAA) technology, artificial neural networks, measurement-based load modeling, demand response, and state estimation in distribution systems.  Much of my work examines applications to power system planning and operation.  I completed both my undergraduate and graduate work at Drexel University, working on my doctorate as a research assistant within the Center for Electric Power Engineering (CEPE) under advisors Dr. Chika Nwankpa, Ph.D. and Dr. Karen Miu, Ph.D.  I am a member of the IEEE Power and Energy Society as well as IEEE IEEE Young Professionals Committee.  My hobbies include running as well as playing piano and guitar.  Please refer to my website: www.anthonydeese.com for further information.

Dr. Deese with students during a hydroelectric power plant visit

Dr. Deese with students during a hydroelectric power plant visit

What professional achievements are you most proud of?

I am very happy that I have had the opportunity to establish a power engineering laboratory at The College of New Jersey.  Not many undergraduate institutions have a facility like SEPS.  It has been a great asset in both teaching and research.  I look forward to further expanding the capability of the laboratory in coming years.

What were your early career goals (first 10 years in industry)? Which have you accomplished? How did you plan/execute these goals?

My early career goals included acquiring a tenure-track faculty position at a highly-regarded institution of higher learning as well as starting my own laboratory.  I have been able to achieve these goals through hard work and the assistance of many colleagues from Drexel University, The College of New Jersey, and the IEEE.  I cannot overstate the importance of IEEE and PES involvement; the resources it provides are invaluable to young electrical engineers.

tv

What are you career goals moving forward?

One of my primary career goals moving forward is the acquisition of additional research funds that 1) allow more undergraduate students to participate in research and 2) provide students and faculty at TCNJ with more robust power engineering research and educational facilities.  I am also interested in learning more about the utilization of artificial neural networks and machine learning in power system planning and operation.  I hope to include these topics in both my future teaching and research.

How are you involved in PES?

I serve on the IEEE PES Young Professionals Committee.  Additionally, I have attended the IEEE PES General Meeting every year for the past 5 – 7 years.  It is a great opportunity to present work, learn about emerging topics in the field of power engineering, and connect with others in the power community.

Do you have any advice for Young Professionals getting involved in PES?

First, I would advise YP members to learn about and take advantages of all the opportunities the IEEE provides.  There many sources of scholarship, travel funding, and job placement assistance that go under-used.  Subscribe to IEEE Spectrum as well as IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, and make time to read them monthly.  The IEEE uses these publications to communicate with its membership and inform them of new and exciting opportunities.  Second, I would advise YP members to always maintain a five-year career plan, formal or informal.  It is important for young engineers to ask themselves important questions regarding: 1) technical areas to focus on, 2) interest in graduate education, 3) desire to work in academia vs. industry, as well as 4) expectations for income and lifestyle.  I have always maintained an informal five-year plan.  And, although it’s constantly changing, this vision for the future encourages me to devote some time to career development in spite of more pressing / immediate tasks.

hydro_pres

You have been in the power industry for approximately ten years, what was the biggest challenge you faced in your career? How did you deal with this challenge?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my career is learning how to turn negatives into positives.  Almost everyone faces setbacks in their career.  However, it is important to realize that these setbacks are invaluable learning experiences essential to self-improvement and long-term career success.

In your experiences, how important has/is continuing education to career advancement and personal development?

No one succeeds in their chosen profession without devoting time to continued education and personal development.  This education may take place in the university classroom, research laboratory, or corporate / industrial environment.  However, it is essential that professionals look ahead and obtain the skills that will be needed in the future, especially in a fast-changing technical field like engineering.

What advice do you have for newly graduated power engineers?

I strongly believe that you (aka. the recent graduate) have chosen the right field to enter at the right time.  I suggest that you use the early years of your career to gain as much experience and as many skills as possible.  They will pay high dividends in the future.

Profile was provided by the Young Professionals of Power & Energy Society (PES)

Finished study? Where to next?

You have your necessary engineering tertiary qualification; check!

You are a member of various engineering related organisations; check!

You are actively partaking in numerous co-curricular activities; check!

……. however you are struggling to ‘land’ that first job, relevant work experience and job ready skills.

This is the problem facing many current graduates from all over the world.  I was not immune to what seems to be a common scenario in the industry today.  I graduated from a leading university in Melbourne, Australia with an engineering degree, majoring in civil engineering. Although the construction and design industry has been vibrant over the last few years, I always found it difficult to obtain the exact skill employers apparently require; that being “experience”.

Every summer during my university vacation throughout my degree, I would try to arrange some form of relevant work experience while away from my studies.  The work ranged from obtaining formal roles with local councils to enrolling in appropriate software CAD classes (for upskilling), in my spare time. Basically, I made it my mission to ensure that no employer at any interview could suggest that I supposedly “did not have enough experience”.  While it is not entirely imperative that the work experience be in your exact field of study, I believe that it is important that all upcoming graduates attempt to immerse themselves in areas and experiences that allow for opportunities to build upon their transferable leadership, teamwork and self-responsibility skills.

University specific job sites and job boards are often a very good resource to use in order to find relevant opportunities for experience.  Generic job sites often are ill-equipped to cater for the requirements often facing newly graduated and current engineering students.  The following list highlights a few engineering specific job sites from around the world that should be visited by engineers, graduates, students and employers alike.

  1. Monster – monster.com

While not exclusive to showcasing engineering jobs, this job site should be visited by job seekers and those looking for experience.  Region dependant, this site provides extra services such as resume guidance and help, together with career resources and insightful interview technique tips.

monster-login

  1. Engineering & Technology Jobs – engineering-jobs.theiet.org

Hosted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, this site allows prospective employees to search for available positions based on the engineering and technology disciplines.  The site is based in the United Kingdom, with the jobs primarily focussed toward this region. The site also allows for job seekers to connect with recruiters in the area who have an intimate knowledge of the specific working landscape.

Untitled

  1. EngineerJobs – engineerjobs.com

EngineerJobs is one of the leading engineering job sites visited in the world. Attracting nearly 400,000 monthly visitors to the site, its users can filter search results based on a combination of criteria including engineering discipline and home city.  There are approximately 300,000 jobs advertised on this site at any one time. This site is a great place for all prospective seekers from North America to begin their search. EngineerJobs also allows applicants to upload a copy of their resume for easy access from any potential recruiters.

Untitled

  1. EngineeringJobs – engineeringjobs.net.au

Hosted by Webjobz, this website performs a search on available engineering specific job availabilities across Australia.  The search function allows a search by job title, location and even company name.  Although this site slightly favours the mechanical engineering discipline, the search results often provide a diverse mix of available jobs, with varying entry requirements.

Untitled

  1. EuroEngineeringJobs – euroengineeringjobs.com

EuroEngineeringJobs, as the name suggests, caters to prospective job searchers looking for roles in predominantly Europe.  The built-in search function allows for job advertisements to be filtered by country or job field. In addition, job advertisements can be further sorted by the level of experience required; namely 0-2 years’ experience, 3-4 years’ experience, 5+ years’ experience and at the manager and executive level. An applicant’s CV and resume can also be uploaded into the job website and a job alert is provided when matched with criteria set by the user.

Untitled

  1. Engineering – engineering.com

Engineering.com (don’t you love the name?) provides a search portal for various job listings, predominately located in the United States, Canada and even the United Arab Emirates. Focussing mainly on automotive and aerospace engineering, this job site sorts the job advertisements based on discipline. In addition, job seekers can access valuable resources on career tips and industry information.

Untitled

  1. IEEE Job Site: – careers.ieee.org

The IEEE Job site provides access to a searchable database of jobs available in the electrical, electronic, engineering, computing and other IEEE related fields. The site also provides updates to the many upcoming career fairs and provides a dedicated job seeker tool to assist in building a proficient resume and CV. Internship and entry level jobs are separated on the site, allowing for more appropriate results to be displayed.

Untitled

  1. Tech Careers: – techcareers.com

While not as widely known as some of the other tech industry job sites online, TechCareers.com offers nearly 200,000 tech and engineering jobs, as well as the ability to create your own career portfolio to attract interested businesses and recruiters.

Untitled

  1. Electrical Engineer: – electricalengineer.com

Plenty of great job opportunities for those interested in electrical engineering. This site contains electronic and electrical engineering jobs ranging from microcontroller engineering, power distribution engineering to project management.

Untitled

  1. Indeed – PhD Jobs: – indeed.com/q-PhD-Engineering-jobs.html

To finish off our list, a PhD related job site called Indeed. It can be very frustrating for graduate school students to find that ideal job so rest assured we did not forget you.

Untitled

Article contributed by Michael Gough, Assistant Editor, IEEE IMPACT

Article edited by Tim Wong, Senior Assistant Editor, IEEE IMPACT and Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief, IEEE IMPACT

Tech Update: Bacteria eating and breathing electricity

How do we use bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity using renewable resources to produce something we can use? This could potentially be very powerful here in Australia as we have abundance of land, sun and wind but in areas that aren’t populated” says Dr Ashley Franks.

microDr. Ashley Franks is a researcher at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) use bacteria to convert organic waste material into electrical energy. This environmentally-friendly process produces electricity without the combustion of fossil fuels. MFCs have various practical applications such as in breweries, domestic wastewater treatment, desalination plants, hydrogen production, remote sensing, and pollution remediation, and they can be used as a remote power source. Widespread use of MFCs in these areas can take our waste products and transform them into energy.

Today I am going to tell you about my big fat idea and I’ll be talking to you about bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity. When we talk about electricity with bacteria what we’re actually talking about is the way they can gain energy. And while the idea might seem sort of quite interesting and unusual it all goes back to the way that all living organisms can gain energy. When we gain energy, we have a nice meat pie, have some tomato sauce, we actually eat this, it’s organic food, but what we do is we breathe oxygen so we take in our organics, it has energy, we transfer energy to oxygen and form carbon dioxide. Without the oxygen we don’t really do very well, we end up dying and we call this respiration. But there’s lots of bacteria all around our world that can actually keep on surviving and respiring without oxygen. So what these bacteria are able to do is use what we call alternate electronic acceptors. Oxygen for us accepts our electrons, these bacteria can use different things.

One of the interesting bacterias that my lab is interested in is ones … is bacteria that can actually breathe metals. So this is a lump of iron oxide, solid bit of rust. It is metal but the bacteria you see sitting on the surface in green are actually breathing the metal. So they’re eating the organics, eating their pie but they’re able to breathe the metal. The difference here is that the metal is a big lump of something outside itself. So to breathe you’d have to go up and touch it, it can’t breathe in oxygen like we do, it has to go and touch the actual lump of metal and give up electricity this way. So the reason why this is interesting to us is because you can actually gather that electricity the bacteria is breathing if you give it an electrode. If you put an electrode into this system this bacteria then will breathe the electrons onto the electrode and you can gather this as an electrical current.

Ashley Franks' eyes light up – a current flows from pond muck

Ashley Franks’ eyes light up – a current flows from pond muck

So the interesting thing here is not only meat pies but all different types of organics from around the world these bacteria can actually use. And it’s actually very beneficial because once you put it into a system like a system what we call here is a microbial fuel cell, this can actually operate like a battery. So bacteria, eating, breathing, they’re electricity, we can actually put into a system and it works together to actually form a small amount of electricity. And these bacteria you can find anywhere in the world. Usually they’re under the ground where there’s no oxygen, there’s lots of them and they use lots of different organics which they can break down and provide us with electricity. People quite often think that this is really exciting ‘cause now we can actually save our electricity problems around the world ‘cause we can just get bacteria to eat our garbage and produce it. But our problem is is that bacteria are only small and they only make a small amount of electricity. So the current and voltage output that they do is quite small but it can still have some very, very beneficial processes.

The US Navy uses these under … in the soil in the actual ocean bottom and having one that’s about 1m3 of these sort of electrodes, these have a big one, is they’re about the same as 30 diesel batteries per year. While it’s not very much electricity in power what this allows you to do is actually leave a device somewhere while the bacteria are happily eating and they keep on eating for a long, long, long time, you never have to go back and change batteries. So if you wanted to actually put sensors in a rainforest, if you wanted to put sensors in a river, if you wanted to power a small device somewhere you could put this into the actual mud and the bacteria will quite happily breathe their electricity onto your electrode and power your small device. And for us in our research lab one of our most interesting points that we like to look at is these bacteria that are breathing the electrode. So these bacteria get a wide different mix, these are just some pictures of some different types but what the bacteria do is they actually go up to this electrode, they touch the electrode and able to breathe it. So this would be like if you and me were able to hold hands across a room with no oxygen and someone can touch a wall and we all can breathe together. And the bacteria are able to do this because they produce this specialised pillon and cytochromes.

chambered BMFC being deployed in Yaquina Bay Oregon in August 2011.  The chamber is pushed into the sediment and in this semi-enclosed state, the inside volume goes anaerobic. Carbon brushes positioned inside the chamber serve as the BMFC anode. Another circular carbon brush, tied to the rope harness above the chamber, serves as the cathode.  The BMFC is wired to a power management system inside the black acoustic modem that floats above the BMFC. Power from the BMFC maintains the modem and a chemical sensor (optode) interfaced with the modem. BMFCs of this design typically produce ~10 mW continuously.  This can sustain longterm sensor measurements in the ocean and can power periodic data transmissions from the acoustic modem.  We think this technology is ideal for extending sensor networks throughout the deep ocean becuase it eliminates the need for replacing instrument batteries.  Image: Oregon State University

Chambered BMFC being deployed in Yaquina Bay Oregon in August 2011. The chamber is pushed into the sediment and in this semi-enclosed state, the inside volume goes anaerobic. Carbon brushes positioned inside the chamber serve as the BMFC anode. Another circular carbon brush, tied to the rope harness above the chamber, serves as the cathode. The BMFC is wired to a power management system inside the black acoustic modem that floats above the BMFC. Power from the BMFC maintains the modem and a chemical sensor (optode) interfaced with the modem.
BMFCs of this design typically produce ~10 mW continuously. This can sustain longterm sensor measurements in the ocean and can power periodic data transmissions from the acoustic modem. We think this technology is ideal for extending sensor networks throughout the deep ocean becuase it eliminates the need for replacing instrument batteries. Image: Oregon State University

So these are like little appendages that come out from the bacteria. They have these proteins called cytochromes that can transfer electrons and they’re able to pass electrons from inside themselves to outside themselves. So these bacteria are now becoming like a material, a biological material that can actually transfer electrons over a long distance, a relative long distance. It’s only 60 micrometres which is very small but for bacteria that’s 60 bacteria. So if 60 of us could actually stand together and hold hands it would be actually like that, transferring the electrons all that way. And this is interesting especially when you’re moving into the field of bioelectronics ‘cause these bacteria can grow an electrical biofilm that can transfer electrons better than biopolymers that people are trying to produce artificially now.

But the other aspects where this is actually quite interesting is that the bacteria themselves can be used in areas such as oil spills where the problem is is you run out of oxygen. An example that people have quite often heard of is the Deep Well Horizon spill. It was in the ocean, it was underwater but oil is organics, bacteria can eat organics but the bacteria themselves out all the oxygen in that environment and they ran out of things to breathe. But knowing about these bacteria that can breathe an electrode, if we put an electrode into that actual environment we give them something more that they can breathe, they can keep on eating this oil and they can keep on breathing and we can get rid of this a lot faster. And these electrodes are just carbon, are just like a HB pencil, that’s all they are. So you put that in, the bacteria can breathe the electricity. You might have a red flashing light but you might not care about the electricity anymore ‘cause you can get rid of the oil spill.

Operational on the ocean floor

Operational on the ocean floor

And another area that people are quite … don’t think about very often ‘cause when you flush your toilet you don’t want to, is wastewater treatment. So wastewater treatment when we do this now we use a lot of oxygen so this requires big tanks, you need to stir that tank, you need to pump oxygen through so the bacteria can eat all that organic waste, get rid of it so we don’t contaminate our rivers. But with these electric bacteria we don’t need that stirring, we don’t need that pumping and that’s just a huge saving in electrical power. So in some places like the US alone 7% of their electricity goes to treating wastewater so if you used electric bacteria instead you don’t really care about making energy but you’re saving a lot of energy.

But what I’d mentioned earlier on before is that we at the moment, this is bacteria eating … oh sorry, this is bacteria breathing electricity but now what I’ll mention is that bacteria can also eat electricity. Because what I was saying is that from the meat pie which is energy that went out to the electrode, this is a transfer of electricity or transfer of energy. But there are some bacteria we have found in the environment as well that can actually take that energy from the electrode in the form of electrons and what they can do is use that as their food source and their power source to do a whole bunch of processes. A lot of people think this sounds really quite strange, a bit like The Matrix but what you probably most commonly know this as is photosynthesis. So a plant gets sunlight in its chlorophyll and produces electrons that power fixing carbon dioxide and make us our organics. But we have found is that these bacteria, they don’t have photosynthesis but they can take electrons from an electrode so rather than needing sunlight now what we can do is actually feed them electricity and get them to produce some type of biological or organic material. And as I mentioned before something like petroleum is an organic material.

Treating sewage

Treating sewage

So these bacteria, we can feed electricity which we can produce from renewable resources and get them to produce something that we can use. And this is very important in somewhere like Australia because we have lots of places where we can have a lot of wind or we have wonderful amounts of sun but our problem is is that these areas are too far from our population, from Melbourne or Sydney or anywhere where people live to get high power electricity lines. So we can’t transfer electricity over long distances. But what we could do is we could make electricity here with solar panels, feed that to bacteria who could convert it into something like butanol  and have that transferred to Melbourne where we can use it as we need. And the big advantage here as well is that we’re not taking away from somebody’s food supply so the land is not being used for food but it’s got a lot of sunlight, we can catch that and we can feed it to bacteria and have something useful. So this is a new type of biofuel and the organics in that biofuel all come from carbon dioxide, so for greenhouse gases that becomes neutral and all we need to do is feed these bacteria electricity.

But one of the things that perplexed us to begin with was that you have bacteria that can breathe electricity and bacteria that can eat electricity and if you think about in the environment there’s not many places where you’re actually having electricity being produced all the time. But the cue there that we found that was interesting is that well you’ve got one that breathes and then one that eats and if you look at these bacteria together that’s quite often you’ll find them together. So they form what we call these syntrophic relationships where they’ll work together to actually carry out some type of process and normally it is somewhere where there’s no other electronic acceptor so there’s no iron, there’s no oxygen, you’ll have two bacteria that will work together and one will breathe electricity and the other one will eat the electricity that’s coming out of it so they get this little syntrophic relationship. What the problem that is quite with this is that the by-product at the very end is methane. So this methane is a great house gas, it’s not very good for the environment but there’s a lot of bacteria in the environment which are actually able to operate together, feed each other electricity to get their food and produce methane.

So it’s interesting ‘cause our research, we’re able to show that in these environments this is actually was what happening. So this is where these bacteria that we actually found to do these amazing things have evolved over millions of years and they’ve already set up their own electrical networks, they’ve already been working together through electricity to interact. And you might be thinking well this is quite interesting but what does it mean to us in the big run? And the thing is if we understand this process then we know how to sort of try and drive these microbes to do things differently because in Victoria one of our big methane producers is dairy cattle. Everybody likes milk, everybody likes cheese but these cattle have bacteria in their stomach that produce most of the methane that they’re able to burp out and gives us a lot of methane problems. But looking at the bacterial communities in the cow what we find is that some of them are these bacteria that are feeding each other electricity. And because they’re actually feeding each other electricity they produce a lot of the methane. So if we know how to give the cow the right type of food so you select not the electric bacteria but if you give them some vitamin supplements to select other bacteria you won’t get this interaction through electricity, you won’t get your methane and we won’t get our greenhouse gases.

And further to that if you actually want more methane then what you can do is actually promote the bacteria because there’s a lot of industrial processes to get rid of waste that convert it in these big vats using bacteria to produce methane. So if you have a lot of organics, if you have some type of food processing plant, if you have something that has a lot of waste, that waste you don’t want to put into our riverstream ‘cause you’re going to harm the environment, what you can do is actually promote these bacteria, get their electrical connections better and they’ll actually improve at getting rid of your waste, giving you methane which you can use as an energy source.

So in summary what we’re able to do with our lab is … in my lab … is able to take bacteria that can breathe metals and end up with ways to stop cows from actually giving out methane.

This interview has transcribed directly from a podcast thanks to La Trobe University and the IEEE Student Branch. The article has been edited by Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief.

Entrepreneurship: Startup Weekend in Chennai

Ever wondered what it takes to be an entrepreneur? The professional and personal challenges, the high and lows, the failures and the success?

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014. Today we speak to Mr. Nivas Ravichandran, an IEEE volunteer at heart of this program.

Big Picture

Nivas, tell us a little about yourself and your IEEE involvement.

I am Nivas Ravichandran and I work as a Growth Specialist at a startup called Frilp. I have been an IEEE Volunteer for the past 6 years and have organized more than 150+ events under IEEE. I belong to IEEE Madras Section and I volunteer with IEEE Region 10 as a member of the Electronics Communication and Information Management (ECIM) committee. I am also a part of the IEEE India Strategic Initiative in the Entrepreneurship Wing to foster Entrepreneurship amongst IEEE members across India. I am very passionate towards IEEE and love to give back to the society. A Social Media savvy person too.

Mr. Nivas Ravichandran

Mr. Nivas Ravichandran, IEEE Young Professional driving Entrepreneurship

What is Startup Weekend Chennai, how did it come about and what role does an IEEE volunteer such as you play in this?

Startup Weekend is a three day event during which groups of developers, business folks, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists, aspiring entrepreneurs and many others pitch ideas for new products, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by the evening of the third day. Startup Weekend Chennai was started in 2014 and this is the 4th Edition with a specific focus theme on Finance Technology. Finance Technology encompasses organizations and applications that provide financial services through the engagement of technology. During the three days, ideas were validated, user research was conducted and a minimum viable product was built over a period of 54 hours.  I was an organizer of the Startup Weekend Chennai and IEEE Madras Section Young Professionals also partnered with Startup Weekend Chennai to help reach out to Students and Young Professionals across cities. IEEE members were provided an exclusive discount to be a part of the event.

Demo Pitch 1

Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups.

Who are the participants of the startup weekend? 

The participants comprised predominantly of three categories – Hustlers (Business folks), Hackers and Designers. There were 110 participants from industry and academia from various parts of India in the age group of 17 – 55. It must be said that a majority of them were in their the early 20s. In total we had 36 Pitches and 15 Teams formed during the FinTech Edition.

Who are the mentors and coaches in the program? Can you highlight a few of the key personnel?

The program had 7 mentors, 2 speakers and 5 judges for the event. The mentors included Ashwini Asokan (CEO, Mad Street Den – An Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision based Startup), Deepak Natarajan (AVP Growth, Freecharge – An Online Recharge Application), Vijay Babu (Founder – India Operations, Altiscale), Krish Subramanian (Co-Founder & CEO, Chargebee Subscription Billing), Alladi Ram, CR Venkatesh & Ramanathan RV. As it is a Hackathon format of an event, there were not many speaker sessions. We hosted 2 lightning talks from Harshal Deo (VP Data Technology – Paypal) and Anupam Pahuja (GM APAC Technology Paypal). The judges comprised of senior folk in the FinTech space from Chennai and a few Angel Investors.

Interaction and Mentoring

Interaction and Mentoring

Can you tell us about some of most impressive ideas you have had a chance to hear about this weekend? 

There were 36 ideas pitched out of which 15 were short listed based on voting by the participants. A few of the interesting ideas were

  • PaysnapA system that optimizes your online transactions while maximizing returns
  • Loan SenseHelps monitor your loans against new loan schemes in financial market
  • SmartpayAn app that enables local merchant who do micro transactions to accept digital payments
  • PrepayRA platform to help SMEs sell their Account Receivables to Banks and increase profits.

Demo Pitch 2

The IEEE Young Professionals group has started to focus on Entrepreneurship as one of its key projects. In your view how can the IEEE Young Professionals help IEEE members with entrepreneurship?

I believe it is the right time for IEEE Young Professionals to start focusing on Entrepreneurship. IEEE YP could play a very crucial role in encouraging IEEE Student and other members to pursue Entrepreneurship. We could organize Section Level or Country Level meet-ups, talks and Hackathons for members to come up with ideas, interact and find the right talent to form teams. If we start setting the stage for young professionals to meet and share ideas in the right platforms we could automatically foster Entrepreneurship among the members. In India (Under the IEEE India Strategic Initiative), we are also working on an Entrepreneurship Development Program, which prepares IEEE Student and Young Professional Members across multiple cities. We recently piloted the program in one of the cities and had an amazing response and reach. In a few months, we are expected to launch the same program across multiple cities in India.

Ideation and Validation

Ideation and Validation

The IEEE GOLDRush team thanks Nivas Ravichandran for his contribution to today’s article which should serve as an inspiration to all IEEE members. We look forward to hearing more about the great ideas and initiatives as a result of the startup weekend.

Interview conducted by Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief, GOLDRush

Who am I? Qualcomm, Motorola, IEEE and San Diego

Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Xun Luo, a research staff member at Qualcomm Inc, an adjunct faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, and a distinguished guest professor at Tianjin University of Technology, China.

Dr. Luo is also a Program Evaluator for the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. In 2014, Dr. Luo co-founded the IEEE San Diego SIGHT group – Connected Universal Experiences Labs, which dedicates itself to breaking the geographical, cultural and lingual barriers between volunteers and people in need. Connected Universal Experience Labs has now evolved into a multi-national, multi-society incubator of for-public benefit projects.

Dr Luo with some of his students

Dr Luo with some of his students

Dr Luo can briefly tell us a little about yourself and the work that you do at Qualcomm.

Well, I grew up in China and I came to the US for my graduate studies. I got my Masters in Mathematics, out of my hobby, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I got fond of Commodity Pricing. While my PhD research was in very topical fields of Pervasive Computing and Visualization. I worked with a professor of finance for a year and published a report on crude oil price prediction and I am still receiving hundreds of requests these days for the model source code. After graduation, I was lucky enough to get into the mobile communication industry, first at Motorola Labs and then at Qualcomm. I worked at the research institutes of these two companies.

At Qualcomm I conduct connectivity research, which spans from radio networks to local area networks.In layman terms, you can say 3G/4G, WiFi and Bluetooth technology. In the past few years, I was have been researching these technologies and I have several numerous research papers and  8 patents.

In my part time, I serve as an adjunct faculty member at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and a distinguished guest professor at Tianjin University of Technology, China.

How did you get involved with IEEE?

That is a very interesting story. San Diego has a very vibrant IEEE community and every year they hold about 50-60 technical meetings. Many attendees are attracted by the interesting topics of these meetings. Back in 2008, I had just started my career and all the topics seemed very exciting to me and they were delivered by volunteers who were experts in their field. For example, one of the local meeting was able to invite Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Qualcomm’s founder as a panellist. This clearly says a lot for the San Diego IEEE community. I was impressed by the dedication and passion of the local IEEE volunteers and eventually I decided to join. I started as the chair of Computer Chapter and ran approximately 40 meetings a year. I became the section chair In 2012 and had the honour of leading the IEEE San Diego Section to win the “Outstanding Section Award of Region 6”.

“The IEEE volunteering experience is very rewarding. I have had the pleasure of working with passionate and bright people, grew my leadership capabilities and was able to to embrace multi-national team work.” 

 

Dr Luo receiving the award for Outstanding Section in 2011

Dr Luo receiving the award for Outstanding Section in 2011

How have you personally benefited from being an IEEE member?

IEEE has helped me in so many ways that it is hard to summarise in short. However the three key area that I would like to highlight are:

  • Technical: Contributions in the form of the IEEE Digital Library proceedings, literature and talks delivered by the individuals/teams who are leading the industry.
  • Leadership: Through volunteering, I was able to developed great organisational skills and to work as a team in order to achieve bigger goals. Several initiatives today are going to impact tens of thousands of IEEE members’ lives; for instance, the IEEE SIGHT initiative.
  • Friendship: I made friends and visited some of the most unexpected places in the world. I have been to several Indian cities and rebellion-controlled areas of Colombia to name a few. What is most exciting is that no matter what people’s political views may be, all engineers love technology and the idea of exchanging information with their peers takes precedence. I have undertaken adventures with friends to some very intriguing parts of our planet and hope to continue doing so.

What advice can you provide to IEEE Young Professionals who are wanting to pursue in highly prestigious companies, like Qualcomm?

First of all, IEEE is a technical institution, not a university; it provides great networking opportunities. My suggestion is make good use of the IEEE network and try to get in touch with professional members in various disciplines. The second thing is grow your leadership capabilities. We live in an age of innovation, more or less of entrepreneurship. Even if you work at a company, you are still required to have the capability and mindset to start a job from scratch. So, innovation, leadership and technical capability are some things that you definitely need to further develop while you study.

qualcomm-office

Another important point is that you need to ensure that you work with the most passionate and bright people. I would say that the IEEE is a vehicle to enable this for young professionals. Ensure that you work in teams and feed of each others knowledge. This team will help you in achieving many things. Firstly, it will help you to establish yourself technically. Secondly, it will provide the network for you to get noticed. You could be a great engineer but not noticed, you could be noticed but are not a good engineer. You need to have talent and you need someone to discover your talent. So, you need to prepare yourself for this and you need to work with people because at the end of the day, you need to do something big, something innovative, something that is by itself of high quality, that is self-contained, where you can prove yourself. Without a team, that is not possible. So, connect with people and make the best use of your connections.

Interview conducted by Neha Dawar, Assistant Editor, GOLDRush

Article edited by Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief, GOLDRush

Professional Awareness Conference: Smart Cities

“Smart Cities” is a buzz phrase that is often heard, so it makes sense that IEEE Young Professionals are engaged at the core of this theme. Today’s report comes from Nigeria, where the Young Professionals and Students have put together a two day awareness conference in Nigeria themed around Smart Cities on the 19th and 20th of March 2015.

Smart Cities utilise readily available and emerging digital technologies to improve  performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. There is a myriad of  ‘smart’ sectors which include energy, transport, health care, waste management, water. 

The conference was made of up of exciting technological exhibitions and keynote presentations. Day one featured exhibitions from special guests Prof. M. O Omoigui and representatives from the Great FM Radio Station, Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) and EEESS Officials.

A total of 17 project were showcased, including; Yellow foot – a piezo electrically powered smart shoe for the blind, Artifind – an application to help visitors to a city where art can be viewed, Voissapp – an application designed to network students and teachers within the campus, Security systems for home appliances and many others.

Day two featured industry guest speakers and exhibitors including; Mr. Adeyinka Aderombi (Konga.com), Mr. Ifeayin Odoh (Schneider Electric), Mr. Samuel Enoch-Oghene (TAHMO), Mr. Oloma Ibrahim (Center4tech), Mr. Richards Boyewa (Sanwo), Mr. Femi Omoniyi  (Topupextra) and Mr. Harry Enahoro (Mettalloids).

Students and Young Professionals at the Smart Cities Conference

Students and Young Professionals at the Smart Cities Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few key highlights include the presentation/demonstrations from Mr. Aderombi who highlighted the importance of e-commerce and smart cities, Mr. Boyewa Richards who demonstrated “Sanwo.me” an offline payment system and Mr. Odoh from Schneider Electric who presented on innovations in Smart Grid Networks.

TopUpExtra – TopUpExtra is a web and mobile application that avails you the opportunity to recharge your mobile phone with vouchers accessed via a very intuitive, simple to use and innovative system to make the process seamless. Mr Enoch Enoch-Oghene from TAHMO examined Green Energy and Renewables for Smart Cities while Mr Oloma Ibrahim from Center4tech delved into the Transportation and Environmental Health.

Over 200 students, staff and industry personnel attended the two day event. The organisers, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) hope that this event will serve as a platform for students and Young Professionals of Nigeria to consider how they can make their city a smarter city. 

Article contributed by Tobi Taiwo, IEEE OAUSB Chair  and Abdullateef Aliyu, Chair of the Nigerian IEEE Young Professionals