2015

December 2015

Collaborative efforts of researchers at Stanford, University of California Berkeley, University of Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon University are working toward creating a faster and more efficient computing architecture.

The team describes their approach as 'N3XT, Nano-Engineered Computing Systems Technology.' N3XT will eliminate bottlenecks by integrating processors and memory like floors in a skyscraper and by connecting these components with millions of "vias," which play the role of tiny electronic elevators.

The key is the use of non-silicon materials that can be fabricated at much lower temperatures than silicon, so that processors can be built on top of memory without the new layer damaging the layer below.

N3XT high-rise chips are based on carbon nanotube transistors (CNTs). Transistors are fundamental units of a computer processor, the tiny on-off switches that create digital zeroes and ones. CNTs are faster and more energy-efficient than silicon processors. Moreover, in the N3XT architecture, they can be fabricated and placed over and below other layers of memory.

Mitra and Wong have already demonstrated a working prototype of a high-rise chip. At the International Electron Devices Meeting in December 2014 they unveiled a four-layered chip made up of two layers of RRAM memory sandwiched between two layers of CNTs.

In their N3XT paper they ran simulations showing how their high-rise approach was a thousand times more efficient in carrying out many important and highly demanding industrial software applications.

"When you combine higher speed with lower energy use, N3XT systems outperform conventional approaches by a factor of a thousand," Wong said.

 

Excerpts from the Stanford Report.

November 2015

Professor Jelena Vuckovic has been elected as a 2016 Optical Society of America (OSA) Fellow Member. Fellows of the Optical Society are elected based on their significant contributions to the advancement of optics and photonics. Several factors are considered for election, including specific scientific, engineering, and technological contributions, a record of significant publications or patents related to optics, technical or industry leadership in the field as well as service to OSA and the global optics community. 

The OSA Fellow Members Committee reviews nominations submitted by current OSA Fellows and then recommends candidates to the OSA Board of Directors. No more than 10 percent of the total OSA membership may be chosen as Fellows, making the process both highly selective and competitive. As a reflection of the Optical Society's global reach, 60 percent of this year's Fellows reside outside the United States.

Professor Vuckovic's citation reads, "for field opening contributions to the science and engineering of photonic crystals, and in particular, for the use of 2D microcavites for the Purcell-like enhancement of the spontaneous emission rate of embedded quantum dots."

The 2016 class of Fellows will be honored at OSA conferences and meetings throughout 2016. 

 

Read OSA news release.

November 2015

Professor Benjamin Van Roy has been named an INFORMS Fellow by the 2015 Fellows Selection Committee. INFORMS Fellows are examples of outstanding lifetime achievement in operations research (OR) and the management sciences (MS). The INFORM citation reads, "for contributions to decision making in stochastic systems and approximate dynamic programming."

Professor Van Roy's research includes the formulation and analysis of mathematical models that address problems in information technology, business, and public policy.

 


INFORMS.org

November 2015

Professor Arbabian and research professo Khuri-Yakub's research was spurred by a challenge posed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), best known for sponsoring the studies that led to the Internet. DARPA sought to develop a system to detect plastic explosives buried underground – improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – that are currently invisible to metal detectors. The task included one important caveat: The detection device could not touch the surface in question, so as not to trigger an explosion.

Professor Arbabian and research professor Khuri-Yakub detail their latest step toward developing such a device through experiments, which are detailed in Applied Physics Letters and presented at the International Ultrasonics Symposium in Taipei, Taiwan.

The work grows out of research designed to detect buried plastic explosives, but the researchers said the technology could also provide a new way to detect early stage cancers.

"We've been working on this for a little over two years," Khuri-Yakub said. "We're still at an early stage but we're confident that in five to ten to fifteen years, this will become practical and widely available."

 

The research team includes graduate students Hao Nan, Kevin Boyle, Nikhil Apte, Miaad Aliroteh, Anshuman Bhuyan and senior research associate Amin Nikoozadeh.

 

Excerpts from Stanford Report.

October 2015

Stanford EE is pleased to have hosted the first sustainability focused make-a-thon: Earth Hacks. During the 21-hour event, which began Friday, October 30th, teams and individuals were challenged to imagine and make novel solutions to current environmental issues. The event welcomed nearly 100 students from several departments. 

Participating teams demonstrated their projects to judges from faculty and industry during the final leg of the event. "It was impressive to see the intensity and productivity of the students," Professor Bob Dutton said. "After working less than 24 hours, the students presented some quite amazing results."

Because electrical engineering intersects a number of disciplines, the EE department is an ideal makerspace hub. The event kicked off with an Arduino workshop sponsored by Atmel. The Atmel Tech On Tour truck provided a lively, fully equipped makerspace. Tech On Tour also provided technical support for the duration of the event.

"I was also glad to see EE students offering to teach their friends skills like programming and Arduino and soldering," said Earth Hacks organizer, Gary Lee (EE, B.S. '17). 

"The best part about Earth Hacks was having the parts, tools, and a mentor from Atmel to explore Arduino freely," said Anna Zeng (CS, B.S. '18). "Suddenly gaining access to a full-fledged makerspace really changed my attitude towards tackling hardware. Additionally – and quite remarkably – what I found curiously liberating was the lack of the pressure of a hack-a-thon, as everyone around me was learning about the platform just as I was."

Earth Hacks first place

Judging took place on Saturday afternoon. Earth Hacks judges included Stanford professors Bob Dutton and Juan Rivas-Davila; aerospace reliability consultant, Gary Swift; and Y.C. Wang, Atmel's University Program Manager.

First place went to Zero Fire team, who fully integrated sensors with an Atmel microcontroller and Bluetooth wireless hardware to create a heat/smoke/combustibles detection system; the software then relayed warnings and initiated first-responder calls. 

The 'Zero Fire' team included Rubi Mendoza (MS&E, M.S. '17), Fabian Badillo (ME, B.S. '19) and Valerie Garcia (CS, B.S. '19). "We had a lot of fun developing our 'zero fire' project", said Rubi Mendoza, a first year MS&E graduate student. "We were encouraged to come up with a crazy idea and make it happen."

The opportunity to move beyond the design stage and into implementation gave the students confidence in new areas, allowing them to expand their comfort zone. 

"I did not have any experience in electrical engineering before participating," said Fabian Badillo (ME, B.S. '19). "This was definitely a rare opportunity to be able to imagine what the future may hold as I become more involved in the maker culture."

Valerie Garcia (CS, B.S. '19) shared this perspective. She said, "I'd never built anything before and I knew next to nothing going into Earth Hacks. But the resources there were amazing. Bob, Atmel's 'Arduino guy' taught me so much and it was a great experience to get to build something, basically from scratch, and see it working and actually being functional."

Earth Hacks 2nd place
Second place went to Anna Zeng (CS, B.S. '18) whose project measured and reported on varying humidity levels, allowing the user to manage percent of humidity in an environment.

Third place went to three students who built an energy conservation system. The team included Monica Chan (ME, B.S. '17), Mary Cirino (CS, B.S. '17) and Qian Li (CEE, M.S. '17). "It was our first time experiencing the magic of Arduino, and we all had a great time solving a real problem using what we had learned about hardware and software," said Qian Li.

The concept behind their energy conservation project developed an advanced illumination system for buildings on Stanford's campus. The basic idea consisted of two main sensors: the photo sensor and the pressure sensor. When there is enough daylight, the lights in the buildings automatically turn off. Otherwise, the lights will turn on only when someone touches the door at the entrance.

Earth Hacks 3rd place

Winning teams received prizes from sponsors, and included Myo armbands, a drone copter, Fitbits, and Kindle Fire tablets. Y.C. Wang, Earth Hacks sponsor and judge thanked the Electrical Engineering department and Stanford Robotics Club for making the event possible. "We were very excited to sponsor the Make-A-Thon at Stanford and really appreciated the opportunity to interact with the many talented students," Wang said. "We are extremely grateful for their support in bringing the Atmel Tech On Tour truck on campus."

Other Earth Hacks sponsors included Stanford IEEE Student Chapter, Red Bull, and DigiKey.

October 2015

Recent articles published by EE Professors Eric Pop and H.S. Philip Wong describe advances in memory and data storage using graphene. The three experiments demonstrate post-silicon materials and technologies that store more data per square inch and use a fraction of the energy of today's memory chips.

The unifying thread in all three experiments is graphene, an extraordinary material isolated a decade ago but which had, until now, relatively few practical applications in electronics.

"Graphene is the star of this research," said Eric Pop, associate professor of electrical engineering and a contributor to two of the three memory projects. "With these new storage technologies, it would be conceivable to design a smartphone that could store 10 times as much data, using less battery power, than the memory we use today."

Professor H.-S. Philip Wong and Pop led an international group of collaborators who describe the graphene-centric memory technologies in separate articles in Nature Communications, Nano Letters, and Applied Physics Letters.

"Data storage has become a significant, large-scale consumer of electricity, and new solid-state memory technologies such as these could also transform cloud computing," Wong said.

Pop and Wong agree that these studies show that graphene is far from a laboratory curiosity. The material's unique electrical, thermal and atomically thin properties can be utilized to create more energy-efficient data storage. Such properties do not exist in the silicon world, yet could potentially transform the way we store and access our digital data in the future.

 

Excerpts from the Stanford Report

October 2015

Two groups were awarded the 2015 NEC C&C Foundation Awards for their contributions to the development of big data technologies and network virtualization technologies.

Professor Nick McKeown, Dr. Martin Casado (PhD, '07) and Scott Shenker (Berkeley) are the originators of the Software-defined networking (SDN) movement, and OpenFlow protocol which was created as an interface to program the communication devices.

The NEC C&C citation reads, "For Pioneering Research in Advancing Networking Technology and Outstanding Contributions Promoting the Development of Software-Defined Networking".

They have combined their various talents and taken leadership roles in developing technologies for SDN and OpenFlow. The team developed various open-source platforms and tools. In addition, by involving academia, device vendors, telecommunications carriers, and service providers in research at an early stage, they have been able to cultivate and operate eco-systems that have led to widespread practical application of the SDN concepts. They also promoted the development and adoption of SDN by leading the standardization movement and encouraging the open-source community. Their achievements as ICT infrastructure innovators are highly remarkable.

The prize ceremony and acceptance speeches will be held on Monday, December 21 from 15:00 at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo.

 

Excerpts from the NEC C&C press release.


Read EE Spotlight, featuring Professor Nick McKeown

 

 

September 2015

EE Professor Shanhui Fan, research associate Aaswath P. Raman, and doctoral candidate Linxiao Zhu describe their research in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The group's discovery, tested on a Stanford rooftop, addresses a problem that has long bedeviled the solar industry: The hotter solar cells get, the less efficient they become at converting the photons in light into useful electricity.

Their solution is based on a thin, patterned silica material laid on top of a traditional solar cell. The material is transparent to the visible sunlight that powers solar cells, but captures and emits thermal radiation, or heat, from infrared rays.

"Solar arrays must face the sun to function, even though that heat is detrimental to efficiency," Fan said. "Our thermal overlay allows sunlight to pass through, preserving or even enhancing sunlight absorption, but it also cools the cell by radiating the heat out and improving the cell efficiency."

In 2014, the same trio of inventors developed an ultrathin material that radiated infrared heat directly back toward space without warming the atmosphere. They presented that work in Nature, describing it as "radiative cooling" because it shunted thermal energy directly into the deep, cold void of space.

In their new paper, the researchers applied their previous work to improve solar array performance when the sun is beating down.

The Stanford team tested their technology on a custom-made solar absorber – a device that mimics the properties of a solar cell without producing electricity – covered with a micron-scale pattern designed to maximize the capability to dump heat, in the form of infrared light, into space. Their experiments showed that the overlay allowed visible light to pass through to the solar cells, but that it also cooled the underlying absorber by as much as 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Excerpts from the Stanford Report.

 

September 2015

The Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ) presented their Funai Achievement Award to Professor Bill Dally, recognizing his accomplishments in computer architecture, particularly in the areas of parallel computing and Very Large Scale Integration processing. The IPSJ noted that Dally has made major contributions in education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and in industry as NVIDIA's chief scientist.

Dally is the first non-Japanese scientist to receive the award since the first two awards were given out in 2002 to Alan Kay (a pioneer in personal computing) and in 2003 to Marvin Minsky (a pioneer in artificial intelligence).

"I'm honored to be selected for one of the world's major prizes in computer science. It's particularly rewarding to be in the company of computer science luminaries like Alan Kay and Marvin Minsky," said Dally, who received the award at an IPSJ event in Matsuyama, Japan. "I'm grateful to the IPSJ for acknowledging the importance of my research in parallel computing."

Professor Shuichi Sakai, dean of the Computer Science Department at the University of Tokyo, said, "Bill Dally has always been a revolutionary rather than a revisionist in computer science."

Dally's achievements across more than 30 years of work and research include developing the system and network architecture, signaling, routing and synchronization technology found in most large parallel computers today. He also introduced the Imagine processor, which employs stream processing architecture, providing high performance computing with power, speed and efficiency.

Prior to joining NVIDIA in 2009, Dally served as chairman of Stanford's Computer Science department from 2005-2009, where he taught beginning in 1997. Previously, he led the group at MIT that built the J-Machine and M-Machine, parallel machines that pioneered the separation of mechanism from programming models.

 

Excerpts from NVIDIA press release.

August 2015

The first fully internal method of delivering optogenetics has been established. Miniature implanted devices are being wirelessly powered by a special power source that transmits frequencies that resonate in certain lab mice.

The device dramatically expands the scope of research that can be carried out through optogenetics to include experiments involving mice in enclosed spaces or interacting freely with other animals. The work is published in the Aug. 17 edition of Nature Methods.

Professor Ada Poon states, "This is a new way of delivering wireless power for optogenetics. It's much smaller and the mouse can move around during an experiment." See video.

The device can be assembled and reconfigured for different uses in a lab, and the design of the power source is publicly available. "I think other labs will be able to adapt this for their work," Poon said.

This novel way of delivering power is what allowed the team to create such a small device. And in this case, size is critical. The device is the first attempt at wireless optogenetics that is small enough to be implanted under the skin and may even be able to trigger a signal in muscles or some organs, which were previously not accessible to optogenetics.

The team says the device and the novel powering mechanism open the door to a range of new experiments to better understand and treat mental health disorders, movement disorders and diseases of the internal organs. They have a Stanford Bio-X grant to explore and possibly develop new treatments for chronic pain.


Professor Poon's lab recently sponsored a summer program for local female high school students, providing them a chance to explore several introductory concepts of EE. View article.

Excerpts are from the Stanford Report. View full article

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