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Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
June 2014

At first glance, Titan has little in common with Earth. The largest moon of Saturn, temperatures on Titan's surface dip nearly 300 F below zero, its seas slosh with liquid methane, and its sky is a murky shade of creamsicle.

And yet, fresh analysis of mysterious features spotted on the moon indicates that it experiences one of the same global processes that is important here on Earth.

In a study published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience, scientists operating the Cassini satellite, including Stanford's Howard Zebker, present evidence that Titan has seasonal cycles analogous to Earth's, and that the moon's surface conditions change as the Titan year unfolds.

The Cassini satellite has been orbiting Saturn and its moons since 2004. Zebker, a professor of electrical engineering and of geophysics, is one of the lead scientists operating the spacecraft's radar instruments. Radar is critical for studying Titan in particular because the moon's atmosphere is typically too cloudy and thick for optical instruments to see through easily.

During five fly-bys of Titan's Ligeia Mare – a liquid methane sea larger than Lake Superior – the scientists noticed bright features that appeared and changed shape on the sea's surface. After ruling out a technical glitch or an exotic artifact of radar scattering, the group focused on three causes most likely for the phenomena.

"We are driven to use our imaginations and picture what could be happening on the sea to produce a transient feature," Zebker said.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

September 2013

A team of Stanford engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes, a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips.

This unprecedented feat culminates years of efforts by scientists around the world to harness this promising material.

The achievement is reported today in an article on the cover of Nature Magazine written by Max Shulaker and other doctoral students in electrical engineering. The research was led by Stanford professors Subhasish Mitra and H.S. Philip Wong.

"People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon," said Mitra, an electrical engineer and computer scientist and Chambers Faculty Scholar of Engineering. "But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here is the proof."

Experts say the Stanford achievement will galvanize efforts to find successors to silicon chips, which could soon encounter physical limits that might prevent them from delivering smaller, faster, cheaper electronic devices.

For the full story, visit Stanford Engineering.

Ron Bracewell
October 2013

The world’s first and only radio sundial has been erected in memory of Ron Bracewell, a professor of electrical engineering and a pioneer in radio astronomy. The sundial was unveiled at the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope Observatory in New Mexico. It was constructed using pieces of a famous radio telescope that Bracewell built near the Stanford campus.

Bracewell, who died in 2007, was a pioneer in the transition from giant dish antennae to radio telescopes comprised of large-scale arrays of antennae.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

Shanhui Fan
October 2013

Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter, an element used in specialized solar cells, that could significantly improve the efficiency of the cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can than be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity – a technology known as thermophotovoltaics.

Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart before temperatures reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius), the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 2,500 F (1,400 C).

"This is a record performance in terms of thermal stability and a major advance for the field of thermophotovoltaics," said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. Fan and his colleagues at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (Illinois) and North Carolina State University collaborated on the project. Their results are published in the Oct. 16, 2013 edition of the journal Nature Communications.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

Research at Stanford
November 2013

Nanotechnology is a relatively new field at the confluence of physics, science, and engineering, but its impact on our lives is astounding. From the phones and computers we use to the solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity, nanotechnology is pushing our understanding of what is possible.

Nanomanufacturing refers to the production of nano-scaled materials—meaning a billionth in size—and it is used in a multitude of electronics and other non-biological technologies. As the site of some of the most important technological advancements in the last few decades, Nanomanufacturing is a popular course in Stanford’s School of Engineering. This fall, EE292L: Nanomanufacturing was delivered for the second time as a flipped style course, engaging students with its Discovery-Channel-like video approach, guest lectures by Silicon Valley innovators and experts in the field, and thought-provoking in-classroom demonstrations using real products from current industries.

According to instructor Aneesh Nainani, a consulting assistant professor in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, the course offers an opportunity for students to explore the field of nanotechnology and “to see how developments at nano-scale are impacting the electronics they use in everyday life.”

For the full story, visit Stanford Online.

BBC's Adam Shaw with Ada Poon. Courtesy of BBC World News.
November 2013

On an episode of BBC World News Horizons focusing on ways engineering and medicine work together to tackle illness and disease, Stanford Electrical Engineering Professor Ada Poon and her team discuss their groundbreaking research in this area with reporter Adam Shaw.

The show, which aired Nov. 16-17, 2013 (GMT), featured Poon’s use of cell phone technology to develop a new generation of implanted robotic and medical devices. Her group’s revolutionary prototype device is powered and controlled by radio waves generated outside of the body, and the devices are small enough to move through a patient's bloodstream. They hope these miniature chips can eventually be directed to specific organs such as the heart, where they can measure and feedback accurate information on biological functions.

The episode, titled "Technobody," is currently available online at www.bbc.com/horizonsbusiness (Poon's group is featured in Part 3).

For a related story, visit http://engineering.stanford.edu

January 2014

How do the neurons in the brain control planned versus unplanned arm movements? Krishna Shenoy, a Stanford professor of electrical engineering, neurobiology (by courtesy) and bioengineering (affiliate), wanted to answer that question as part of his group’s ongoing efforts to develop and improve brain-controlled prosthetic devices.

In a paper published in the journal Neuron, Shenoy and first author Katherine Cora Ames, a doctoral student in the Neurosciences Graduate Program, present a mathematical analysis of the brain activity of monkeys as they make anticipated and unanticipated reaching motions.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

Stephen Boyd
February 2014

Stephen P. Boyd, Samsung Professor of Engineering at the Stanford University School of Engineering, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). He becomes the 110th member of the Stanford Engineering faculty to join this prestigious academy.

According to the NAE, membership honors outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice or education" and to the "pioneering of new and developing fields of technology," among other acts of professional distinction.

The NAE cited Boyd for his contributions in applying the methodology of convex optimization to machine learning, signal processing, circuit design and other applications.

For the full story, visit Stanford Engineering.

February 2014

Data centers cost millions of dollars to build and operate, and buying servers is the single largest expense. Yet at any given moment, most of the servers in a typical data center are only using 20 percent of their capacity, because the workload can vary greatly depending on factors such as how many users log on. Since data centers must always be ready to meet peak demand, having excess capacity is the best way to ensure this today.

As cloud computing grows, so will the cost of keeping such large cushions of capacity. That’s why two Stanford engineers have created a cluster management tool that can triple server efficiency while delivering reliable service at all times, allowing data center operators to serve more customers for each dollar they invest.

Christos Kozyrakis, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Christina Delimitrou, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, will explain their cluster management system, called Quasar, when scientists who design and run data centers meet for a conference that begins March 1.

For the full story, visit Stanford Engineering.

March 2014

Two staff members each received a $50 Visa card in recognition of their extraordinary efforts as part of the department’s 2014 Staff Gift Card Bonus Program. The EE department received several new nominations in February, and previous nominations were also considered.

Following are February’s gift card recipients and some of the comments from their nominators:

Katy Klemme, Associate Director of Admissions

  • “Katy is a true team player. She works collaboratively with her colleagues to handle sensitive information in special cases and works to find an optimal solution for both the students and the department.”
  • “She has gone above and beyond her duties to ensure that our department is recruiting and admitting the best students.”
  • “Katy has done an excellent job organizing and running the admissions system.”

J Provine, Senior Research Engineer, Integrated Circuits Lab

  • “J volunteered to help with my class… He spent upwards of 4-5 weeks of lecture time plus many hours teaching the students how to use (a tool) for a class project.”
  • “He goes way beyond the normal call of duty!”

The School of Engineering once again gave the EE department several gift cards to distribute to staff members who are recognized for going above and beyond. More people will be recognized next month, and past nominations will still be eligible for future months. EE faculty, staff and students are welcome to nominate a deserving staff person by visitinghttps://gradapps.stanford.edu/NotableStaff/nomination/create.

Katy Klemme  J Provine

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February 2014

Three staff members each received a $50 Visa card in recognition of their extraordinary efforts as part of the department’s 2014 Staff Gift Card Bonus Program. The EE department received several nominations in January, and nominations from 2013 were also considered.

Following are January’s gift card recipients and some of the comments from their nominators:

Ann Guerra, Faculty Administrator

  • “She is very kind to students and always enthusiastic to help students… every time we need emergent help, she is willing to give us a hand.”
  • “Ann helps anyone who goes to her for help with anything, sometimes when it’s beyond her duty.” 

Teresa Nguyen, Student Accounting Associate

  • “She stays on top of our many, many student financial issues, is an extremely reliable source of information and is super friendly.”
  • “Teresa’s cheerful disposition, her determination, and her professionalism seem to go above and beyond what is simply required.”

Helen Niu, Faculty Administrator

  • “Helen is always a pleasure to work with.”
  • “She goes the extra mile in her dealings with me, which is very much appreciated.”

The School of Engineering once again gave the EE department several gift cards to distribute to staff members who are recognized for going above and beyond. More people will be recognized next month, and past nominations will still be eligible for future months. EE faculty, staff and students are welcome to nominate a deserving staff person by visitinghttps://gradapps.stanford.edu/NotableStaff/nomination/create.

Ann Guerra  Teresa Nguyen  Helen Niu

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