NSF Engineering Centers Will Advance Technologies

September 22, 2000

NEWS BRIEFS

San Diego, CALIF. — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched two new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., with an estimated NSF investment of up to $32 million over five years.

The centers, which will also receive support from participating universities, industry and state governments, will conduct pioneering research in the fields of wireless microsystems and subsurface sensing systems. The Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems, based at the University of Michigan, plans to create miniature, low-cost microchip systems with medical and environmental applications to replace bulky and currently limiting technologies. The Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging at Northeastern University seeks to revolutionize the detection and imaging of objects or conditions that are underground, underwater or in the human body.

NSF has awarded $2.6 million for the first operating year of each new center. The federal funds will be supplemented by support from industry, the states of Michigan and Massachusetts and partnering universities. After three years, the NSF support is subject to review before renewal. The potential length of NSF’s support is 10 years, after which ERCs are expected to become self sufficient.

NSF has launched 37 ERCs since 1985; with the two new centers, 20 are currently receiving NSF support. The ERCs provide opportunities for interdisciplinary teams from government, industry and universities to collaborate on crucial research in emerging technologies and to train the next generation of engineers. Participation in these centers has significantly boosted the competitiveness of partner firms, and graduates of the centers have an excellent record of technological innovation in industry.

“Integration of multiple paths of research is critical for continuing progress in science, engineering and technological innovation,” said NSF’s Lynn Preston, director of the ERC program. “The NSF Engineering Research Centers partner universities and industry to provide the next generation of technology and an effective engineering work force, both of which are increasingly important to the economy and to peoples’ lives.”

The new centers will develop specialized engineering courses, internships and summer training programs for undergraduate and graduate students and teachers. They also plan programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, see: http://www.eng.nsf.gov/eec/erc.htm .

NEW NSF ENGINEERING RESEARCH CENTERS

Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems Director: Kensall Wise, University of Michigan College of Engineering Partners: University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University, with support from the state of Michigan and more than 20 companies

The center will develop low-cost, integrated microsystems capable of measuring or controlling a variety of physical parameters, interpreting the data and communicating with a host system over a bi-directional wireless link. Projects will integrate micropower electronics, wireless communications and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Potential applications for the resulting devices include environmental monitoring (weather, global warming, air and water quality) and improved health care (wearable and implantable biomedical systems).

Projects include development of a cochlear, or inner-ear, transplant for the deaf, with subsequent devices for treating epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, and ultra-compact environmental monitoring systems for detecting pollution and measuring temperature, humidity and other variables.

Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems Director: Michael Silevitch, Northeastern University College of Engineering Partners: Northeastern University, Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, with support from the state of Massachusetts and more than 30 companies

The center will focus on detecting, locating and identifying objects obscured beneath covering media, such as underground plumes, tumors under the skin or developmental defects in an embryo. Using probes based on electro- magnetic and acoustical radiation, the center will attack biomedical and environmental problems and develop techniques for sensing subsurface conditions. Projects will integrate new methods of subsurface sensing and modeling, physics-based signal processing and image-understanding algorithms, and image and data information management methods.

Proposed projects range from detection of subsurface degradation of bridge roadways to the location of land mines and the identification of viable ova for in-vitro fertilization.

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