The research that can be undertaken with Tier One resources offers an institution the chance to pursue important, even ground-breaking work. Meanwhile, professors and students alike are already forging a path to a bright future that includes using science and engineering to forge new discoveries.
Dr. Yonas Tadasse, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas, is working on a team that has created an undersea vehicle inspired by the common jellyfish.
The underwater robot runs on renewable energy and could be used in ocean rescue, surveillance missions or to detect water pollutants.
Tadasse was the lead author of the study, Smart Materials and Structures that dubbed the creation Robojelly, which feeds off hydrogen and oxygen gases found in water.
"We've created an underwater robot that doesn't need batteries or electricity," said Tadesse. "The only waste released as it travels is more water."
The Robojelly consists of two bell-like structures made of silicone that fold like an umbrella. Connecting the umbrella are muscles that contract to move.
These muscles are made of a nickel-titanium alloy wrapped in carbon nanotubes, coated with platinum and housed in a pipe. As the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen encounters the platinum, heat and water vapor are created. That heat causes a contraction that moves the muscles of the device, pumping out the water and starting the cycle again.
The study, a collaboration between researchers at UT Dallas, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Virginia Tech, was funded by the Office of Naval Research.
Dr. Kenneth O is a professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas and director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE). His team has designed an imager chip that could turn mobile phones into devices that can see through walls, wood, plastics, paper and other objects.
The team's research linked two scientific advances to make use of the often untapped "terahertz" band in the electromagnetic spectrum.
"We've created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use and life-saving medical applications," said O. "The terahertz range is full of unlimited potential that could benefit us all."
Consumer applications of such technology could range from finding studs in walls to authentication of important documents. Businesses could use it to detect counterfeit money. Manufacturing companies could apply it to process control. There are also more communication channels available in terahertz than the range currently used for wireless communication, so information could be more rapidly shared at this frequency.
Terahertz can also be used for imaging to detect cancer tumors, diagnosing disease through breath analysis, and monitoring air toxicity.
"There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven't yet thought about," said Dr. O, holder of the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair.