platinum—allows us to replace rigid power sources.” The reaction is controlled by a microfluidic logic cir- cuit, which is a soft analog of an electronic oscillator, and acts just like a rigid circuit board. The logic circuit was based on the work of co-author George Whitesides. Robert Wood, one of the two professors who led the

project, said, “This research demonstrates that we can easily manufacture the key components of a simple, entirely soft ro- bot, which lays the foundation for more complex designs.”


Photogrammetry explored in small-scale manufacturing

ne Penn State professor thinks digital photogra- phy is the future of small-scale manufacturing. Michael Immel, instructor in the Harold and Inge

Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engi- neering, received a grant to explore how photogrammetry can improve manufacturing processes. Photogrammetry is a technique that uses digital im- ages of an object, taken at various angles, to create a point cloud. The point cloud can be used to create a 3D repre- sentation of the object and a CAD file to match. That CAD file can then be used to quickly manufacture parts that have limited variation and don’t require tight tolerances. Immel and a team of three engineering students put the theory to the test this summer. First, the group created a studio setup for taking photographs of the part, taking several factors into consideration—even lighting and no shadows, and a contrasting background. They took pho- tographs of the part at different angles and distances to ensure there was enough data to create the point cloud. The team tested objects that they already had a CAD file for, so they could compare the photogrammetry-created file with the original for accuracy. The group concluded that “photogrammetry has proven

to be an accurate approach for applications where tight tolerances are not necessary,” Immel said. The technology could make certain processes quicker and less costly. “The ideal application of photogrammetry in the indus- try setting would be to have a vision system in a manufac- turing plant that included cameras fixed on the machines making the parts, taking continuous photos,” Immel said, adding that, “Live data could be sent back to an engineer or a quality control employee and they could compare the point cloud that has been derived from the digital images to the point cloud of the original file and determine if the part is within tolerance or not.”

Saurabh Basu, an assistant professor of industrial en- gineering, joined Immel’s group to conduct additional re- search before testing the process in an industrial setting.

Synthetic diamond material gives graphene a boost


hances are you’ve heard of graphene, the wonder- material of the future. Graphene’s properties, including its high strength, excellent electrical

and thermal conductivities and notable electron mobility, make it ideal for touchscreens, semiconductors, batteries and solar cells. These properties can only be fully realized if graphene

is grown without impurities, a task that has proved chal- lenging. But a team of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory may have found a solution: diamonds. The Argonne researchers, led by materials scientist Anirudha Sumant and collaborators from the University of California-Riverside, found that using a synthetic diamond material called ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) as a substrate on which the graphene grows eliminates most of graphene’s impurities. Diana Berman, the first author of the study, said, “When

I first looked at the [scanning electron micrograph] and saw this nice uniform, very complete layer, it was amazing. I’d been dealing with all these different techniques of growing gra- phene, and you never see such a uniform, smooth surface.” This new way of growing graphene uses lower tempera-

tures and takes less time than the conventional methods using silicon carbide as a substrate that are widely used today. It’s also more cost-effective. The three to four silicon carbide wafers used in those methods can run up to $1200, while the UNCD material layered on silicon wafers costs under $500 to make. Members of the Argonne research team said they se-

cured three patents, and started working with the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the European Space Agency to develop graphene-coated probes for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) program. The Argonne team also developed diamond and graphene needles for researchers at North Carolina University, for biosensing purposes. Scientists at Argonne are continuing to fine-tune the

process and use this new knowledge to learn more about the properties of graphene. Their research was published in the journal Nature Communications.


Fall 2016

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