MSU Engineering researchers turn a flag into a loudspeaker

EAST LANSING — A paper-thin, flexible device created at the Michigan State University College of Engineering not only can generate energy from human motion, it can act as a loudspeaker and microphone as well, nanotechnology researchers reported May 16 in the scholarly journal Nature Communications (https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15310).

The audio breakthrough could eventually lead to such consumer products as a foldable loudspeaker, a voice-activated security patch for computers, and even a talking newspaper.

“Every technology starts with a breakthrough and this is a breakthrough for this particular technology,” said Nelson Sepúlveda, MSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and primary investigator of the federally funded project. “This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.”

A video explaining the technology may be viewed at https://youtu.be/mXtjKVb__ME.

In late 2016, Sepúlveda and his team successfully demonstrated their sheet-like device – known as a ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG – by using it to power a keyboard, LED lights and an LCD touch-screen. That process worked with a finger swipe or a light pressing motion to activate the devices – converting mechanical energy to electrical energy.

Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering pose with his FENG techonology on Wednesday April 5, 2017.

The current breakthrough extends the FENG’s usability. The researchers discovered the high-tech material can act as a microphone (by capturing the vibrations from sound, or mechanical energy, and converting it to electrical energy) as well as a loudspeaker (by operating the opposite way, converting electrical energy to mechanical energy).

To demonstrate the microphone effect, the researchers developed a FENG security patch that uses voice recognition to access a computer. The patch was successful in protecting an individual’s computer from outside users. “The device is so sensitive to the vibrations that it catches the frequency components of your voice,” Sepúlveda said.

To demonstrate the loudspeaker effect, the FENG fabric was embedded into an MSU Spartan flag. Music was piped from an iPad through an amplifier and into the flag, which then reproduced the sound flawlessly.

“The flag itself became the loudspeaker,” Sepúlveda said. “So we could use it in the future by taking traditional speakers, which are big, bulky and use a lot of power, and replacing them with this very flexible, thin, small device.”

Imagine a day when someone could pull a lightweight loudspeaker out of their pocket, slap it against the wall and transmit their speech to a roomful of people, Sepúlveda said.

“Or imagine a newspaper where the sheets are microphones and loudspeakers,” he said. “You could essentially have a voice-activated newspaper that talks back to you.”

Wei Li, an MSU engineering researcher and lead author of the paper in Nature Communications, said other potential applications of the FENG include noise-cancelling sheeting and a health-monitoring wristband that is voice-protected.

“Many people are focusing on the sight and touch aspects of flexible electronics,” Li said, “but we’re also focusing on the speaking and listening aspects of the technology.”

The process of creating the FENG starts with a silicone wafer, which is then fabricated with several thin layers of silver, polyimide and polypropylene ferroelectret. Ions are added so that each layer in the device contains charged particles. Electrical energy is created when the device is compressed by human motion, or mechanical energy.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation. Other co-authors are David Torres, Ramon Diaz and Chuan Wang from MSU, and Zhengjun Wang, Changsheng Wu and Zhong Lin Wang from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

A research breakthrough by Nelson Sepúlveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, could eventually lead to consumer products such as a foldable loudspeaker, a voice-activated security patch for computers, and talking newspaper.

(Story and photo courtesy MSU Today.)

Baker College adds online grad degrees in cloud security risk management

FLINT — Baker College will launch two graduate degrees fall 2017 for those wishing to enter or advance in the cybersecurity field: an MBA in cloud security risk management and a Master of Science in information systems (MSIS) in cloud security risk management. Enrollment is now open for courses that begin Aug. 28.

“These new graduate degrees will help address the critical need for cyber and cloud security professionals in the U.S. as cyberattacks, security breaches, compliance challenges and new technologies fuel demand for qualified workers,” said Jill Langen, president of Baker College Online and its Center for Graduate Studies.

Courses in the concentration of cloud security risk management will be provided through a partnership with Mission Critical Institute (MCI) of Reston, Va. MCI is a developer of cybersecurity education programs recognized by the Department of Homeland Security.

“Baker College stood out as an excellent partner because its online programs are rated among the top in the nation, and it offers strong undergraduate cyber defense programs,” said V. N. Berlin, Ph.D., MCI president. “The two organizations are also aligned in focusing on career education that meets workforce needs by preparing students to be job-ready at graduation.”

Baker College appoints MCI-certified expert practicing cybersecurity faculty to teach and mentor students through practitioner-oriented cybersecurity curriculum. Major courses will include in-depth exam preparation for certifications needed for cybersecurity employment in business and government.

The curriculum is based on the U.S. government’s recommended set of industry standards and best practices developed by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to help organizations manage cybersecurity risks.

For more information about the two new degrees in cloud security risk management, contact Christine Olyer, MCI program manager, at colyer@mci-cyber.org.

Baker College is a not-for-profit higher education institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Founded in 1911, Baker grants doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees, as well as certificates in diverse academic fields including applied technology, business, education, engineering, health science, information technology and social science. There are Baker campuses in Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Cadillac, Cass City, Clinton Township, Coldwater, Flint, Fremont, Jackson, NMuskegon, Owosso and Port Huron in Michigan, and in Reading, Pa.  that can be completed 100 percent online without ever visiting a campus. For information, visit http://www.baker.edu.

Feds Give U-M $20M For Great Lakes Research Institute

ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan has been awarded a five-year, $20 million grant from the federal government to form a research institute focused on sustainable management of the Great Lakes.

The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, which will be hosted by UM and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, represents a partnership between nine universities across the Great Lakes region, as well as multiple nonprofits and businesses.

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Compuware Survey: Many U.S. Firms Not Ready For European Data Mandates

DETROIT — A new survey from Detroit-based Compuware Corp. finds that many U.S. businesses with European customers are not prepared to deal with the European Union’s Data Protection Regulations, which go into effect May 25, 2018.

The new laws include “right to be forgotten” customer consent mandates and regulations on how customer data is handled.

U.S. companies will face hefty fines or lawsuits if they don’t comply.

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DataFactZ Adds Clients, Employees and Partners in Q1

NORTHVILLE – DataFactZ, a Northville-based global business analytics company, announced the addition of new clients, new partnerships, and the hiring of 15 new employees in the first quarter of 2017.

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Five Groups Get Grants for Water Quality Monitoring

LANSING — Volunteers across the state are receiving grant funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to perform water quality monitoring work at streams in their area.

The grants are awarded through the MDEQ’s Michigan Clean Water Corps Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program to provide training and support for volunteers. These grants support the DEQ’s work to collect data on the state’s water resources.

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OptimizeRx Names New Board Chair; Founding CEO To Retire

ROCHESTER — OptimizeRx Corp. (OTCQB:OPRX), an aggregator of pharmaceutical-sponsored services in electronic health records, appointed company director Gus D. Halas as chairman of the board, effective June 30. He will succeed retiring chairman and company founder, David Harrell.

As the company’s CEO until February of last year, Harrell created the first technology and network to automate customized copay savings and other patient support directly within doctors’ existing electronic prescribing workflow.

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Bumblebee populations higher in Detroit than in some less-urbanized areas; vacant lots could be a factor

ANN ARBOR — A new study of native bumblebee populations in southeastern Michigan cities found, surprisingly, that Detroit has more of the large-bodied bees than some surrounding, less urbanized locations.

The University of Michigan students who conducted the study suspect that the large amount of vacant or idle land in Detroit may boost the bumblebee population by providing nesting sites and flowers for food.

Continue reading Bumblebee populations higher in Detroit than in some less-urbanized areas; vacant lots could be a factor

Troy’s Altair Part of Swedish Challenge for America’s Cup

TROY — When a Swedish sailboat challenges for the America’s Cup next month in the Atlantic Ocean, a Troy firm’s technology will be at work in the water.

Altair says its HyperMesh, OptiStruct and Radioss software have been used in designing Artemis Racing’s sailboat daggerboards — foils that lift the boat out of the water to cut drag.

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MSU Names New Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Chair

EAST LANSING — Donald Morelli, who has been interim chair of the Michigan State University Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science for almost two years, has been named chair of the department following a national search. His appointment is effective June 1.

Continue reading MSU Names New Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Chair