Research Breeds Discovery; Discovery Compels Invention
If you are reading this on a laptop or any LCD monitor, research done more than 20 years ago by a materials science engineer at CIT made the illumination of your screen possible. The true goal of research is to discover technologies, standards, methods, products, and processes that improve the world we live in. The list below is a just a few of the innovations and inventions that have made the journey from research to reality.
Wireless Software in Construction
Fast-Cat is a tablet-style computer, conceived by Ray Streeb of Streeb Construction, that allows construction employees to view and annotate construction drawings on-screen instead of managing multiple sets of paper plans. The software for Fast Cat, developed in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, allows field superintendents to navigate from one set of plans to another, using a stylus to mark up drawings and wirelessly email annotations and communicate with other project team members.
Water Contaminant Research
The development of a patented method of in situ (in ground) treatment of cyanide in groundwater, as described in a paper by Rajat S. Ghosh, David A. Dzombak, Richard G. Luthy, John R. Smith, received the Jack Edward McKee Medal of the Water Environment Federation in 2000.
Mitchell Small and his student Patrick Gurian and collaborators from Statistics at Carnegie Mellon developed a cost-benefit analysis of different potential maximum contaminant levels for arsenic in drinking water that helped inform the revision of the arsenic MCL by USEPA in 2001. (Gurian, P.L, M.J. Small, J.R. Lockwood III and M.J. Schervish. 2001. Benefit-cost estimation for alternative drinking water maximum contaminant levels. Water Resources Research, 37(9): 2213-2226.)
Surface Complexation Modeling
The first general, reaction-based model and associated database for modeling adsorption of metal cations and anions on oxide minerals was developed at CIT. The model and database has been incorporated in the general chemical equilibrium model (MINTEQ) of the USEPA, and has been used widely by practitioners and researchers. The discovery is chronicled in the book, Surface Complexation Modeling: Hydrous Ferric Oxide by D.A. Dzombak and F.M.M. Morel, Wiley-Interscience, New York, 1990, 393 pp.
Fibrin Plastics for Tissue Engineering
Phil Campbell of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems and Lee Weiss of the Robotics Institute have discovered a way to create fibrin, a naturally occurring protein, from bioengineered sources. The synthetic protein can be used to repair soft tissue in orthopedic, neurosurgical, and maxillofacial surgical procedures and in other clinical disciplines. Also, the fibrin can be reabsorbed into patients’ bodies, as opposed to current methods such as metal pins, which enhances the healing process. (Patent Pending.)
CAD Software Startup
The work of Jonathan Cagan and his graduate students over a 10-year period has resulted in two platforms that support automated computer aided design (CAD) and electronic design automation (EDA) design-synthesis software tools to drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to design products. In partnership with Randy Eager, Cagan has launched Desantage, Inc. an engineering software startup. Their first product, LayoutSpace, will automate the design of a printed circuit board (PCB) cutting weeks from the design process, saving thousands of dollars on each project, and allowing products to reach market sooner.
Zero-Tolerance Face Recognition Software
A major challenge in biometric recognition is overcoming changes in facial expressions, illuminations, and pose. Vijayakumar Bhagavatula and Marios Savvides have developed a technology to overcome these difficulties by using advanced correlation filters that can recognize images of faces, fingerprints, irises, and hand geometry. When tested with Carnegie Mellon’s database of 1,408 images with varying facial expressions, illumination, and poses, the correlation filters had ZERO verification errors. Similarly, better than 0.5% equal error rates are achieved on the NIST-24 fingerprint database, and no verification errors were observed when tested on a small database of iris images.
Controlling Vibration in Jet Turbine Engines
Jerry Griffin and Drew Feiner of Mechanical Engineering have formed Blade Diagnostics Corporation to commercialize their research in identifying and controlling vibration in jet engine turbine blades. Their technology measures the amount of mistuning, or frequency differences, in blades. Blades of the same frequency exhibit the same amounts of vibration, but even small amounts of mistuning can cause large changes in the amount of vibration, which makes the blades more likely to fail. Blade Diagnostics will focus its efforts on blade inspection system for stationary blades, offering quality control in manufacturing or inspection, and an inflight-monitoring system that will help prevent engine failure during flight.
This new soft magnetic material, developed at Carnegie Mellon by Hieyuki Okumura and Mike McHenry of Materials Science and Engineering, maintains its magnetism at high temperatures (700 degrees Celsius). This material is expected to be especially beneficial for use in electrical transformers. The resulting transformers would be made more cheaply and would operate more efficiently than current models. The ability to function at high temperatures also makes the technology a good candidate for applications involving lasers.