Category Archives: Electrical Engineering

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 (

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

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.)

A Stretchable Smart Screen? MSU Says Yes

EAST LANSING — Engineering researchers at Michigan State University have developed the first stretchable integrated circuit that is made entirely using an inkjet printer, raising the possibility of inexpensive mass production of smart fabric.

Imagine: an ultrathin smart tablet that can be stretched from mini-size to extra large. Or a rubber band-like wrist monitor that measures one’s heartbeat. Or wallpaper that turns an entire wall into an electronic display.

Continue reading A Stretchable Smart Screen? MSU Says Yes

Wearable technology could help detect health risks, depression

EAST LANSING — It may be small, so small it’s hardly noticeable, but it could someday save lives.

“It” is wearable technology that can monitor a person’s eating, drinking, coughing, and social habits, and that’s information a health care provider could find useful when treating someone dealing with obesity, diabetes, asthma, or depression.

This next generation of wearable technology, known as “HeadScan,” is being developed by a team of engineers at Michigan State University in collaboration with researchers at Bell Labs. Unlike existing technology, it’s radio-based, which means it’s less intrusive, better able to protect one’s privacy, and more comfortable to wear.

The primary focus of this emerging technology is on health care.

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Michigan Tech Alum Donates $250K For Electrical Engineering Scholarships

HOUGHTON — David Brule Sr., an alumnus and longtime supporter of Michigan Technological University, has donated $250,000 to support student scholarships in electrical engineering.  Scholarships totaling $50,000 will be awarded each year for five years.

The scholarships are designed to promote the study of electrical power engineering.  Recipients of these scholarships will be designated as Systems Control Scholars, in recognition of Brule’s Iron Mountain-based company, Systems Control Inc.

The first recipients have been chosen and will be honored at a luncheon on campus on Thursday, Feb. 25. They are Ester Buhl, Lauren Clark, Dustin Hanes, Zachary Jensen, Jonathan Schulz, Casey Strom and Troy Johnston, all electrical engineering majors.

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GR Firm’s Wireless Charging Part Of High-Tech Apartment Complex

GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids wireless power and charging technology developer Gill Electronics Inc. said Tuesday that the company’s TesLink products have been chosen for wireless charging at an apartment complex in Denver meant to combine affordability, the latest technology and energy efficiency.

A startup called iUnit is building its Highland Park complex in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood. The project consists of 40 “iUnits” — 30 studios and 10 one-bedroom apartments.

“We’re focused on providing the best user experience and performance related to wireless power and charging,” said Gill Electronics CTO Brad Miller. “People have enough frustration in their daily lives, charging their devices shouldn’t be one of them. Our goal is to support iUnit’s vision of a cable-free environment utilizing next generational wireless charging environments.”

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Altair Adds Electric Field Simulation to Software Lineup

TROY — Altair, the Troy-based engineering technology developer, announced Wednesday that Fieldscale PC has joined the Altair Partner Alliance with its electromagnetic simulation software, Charge.

The software specializes in electrostatic simulations, also known as electric field simulations.

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Saturday Course At ESD Offers Electric Engineering Refresher

SOUTHFIELD — Holders of the Professional Engineer certification in Michigan who need professional development hours — and who want to brush up on their electrical engineering skills — can accomplish both Saturday, Sept. 26 at The Engineering Society of Detroit.

A few seats remain open for week’s Electrical Engineering PE Continuing Education class, “Electric Power Transmission & Distribution.”

The course costs $125 for non-members and offers four hours of credit. It runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at ESD Headquarters, 20700 Civic Center Drive, Suite 450, in Southfield.

To register or for more information, visit or contact Fran Mahoney at or (248) 353-0735, ext. 116, or Elana Shelef at or (248) 353-0735, ext. 119.

The course covers the following electric power issues:
* System Representation
* Voltage Drop
* Power Factor Correction
* Modeling of Transmission Lines
* Load Sharing
* Fault Current Analysis
* 3-Phase Short Circuits
* Unbalanced Short Circuits
* Grounding
* Transformer Connections
* Instrument Transformers
* Wattmeters
* Insulation Testing
* Ground Resistance Testing
* Protection against Lightning and Surges
* Illumination
* Demand and Energy Management
* Overcurrent Protection Relays
* Fuses and Circuit Breakers
* Coordination

Georgia Prof Takes Over At MSU Electrical, Computer Engineering

EAST LANSING — Ioannis “John” Papapolymerou has been named
chair of the Michigan State University Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering, effective Aug. 16.

He replaces Tim Hogan, who served as the interim chair of the
department for a year. Previously, Tim Grotjohn served as chair from 2007 to 2014. Both are now focusing on teaching, research, and service as faculty members in the department.

Papapolymerou comes to MSU from Georgia Tech, where he was
serving as the Ken Byers Professor in the School of Electrical and
Computer Engineering and associate director of the Georgia
Electronic Design Center. His research interests include the
development of microwave-, millimeter-, and submillimeter-wave
circuits, antennas and modules for wireless communication, radar and sensing systems.

Continue reading Georgia Prof Takes Over At MSU Electrical, Computer Engineering

IEEE Event Shares ‘Humanitarian’ Engineering

LIVONIA — The Southeastern Michigan chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers put a human face on their technical profession Friday night at Burton Manor in Livonia, at the IEEE Southeastern Michigan Humanitarian Technology Conference.

More than a dozen presenters shared how they’re using engineering to better the lives of people around the world in the event, which drew a crowd of more than 100.

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Kettering, Hella Working To Improve EV Chargers

FLINT — Researchers in Kettering University’s Advanced Power Electronics Lab have become a go-to resource for global companies seeking innovations in electric vehicle charging technology.

That’s according to the lab’s latest partner, Hella KgaA Hueck & Co., the Lippstadt, Germany-based developer of lighting and electronics systems for the automotive industry.

Kettering and Hella’s Plymouth-based U.S. subsidiary are working together to improve the company’s Level 2 electric vehicle charger.

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