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Cutting-edge research from Berkeley Engineering

Through an insect’s eye
Taking inspiration from nature, BioE professor Luke Lee is reconstructing biopolymer models of insect eyes to create advanced photonic systems. First, he and his team created artificial ommatidia, the conical structures that make up an insect’s compound eye. Then they constructed a 3-D compound eye with self-aligned waveguides and individual microlens units on a spherical surface. Lee’s research, published last fall in Science, has potential for applications in biomedical imaging, video technology, human vision aids, surveillance and remote navigation.

computer image of heart

The human heartbeat in action
New software developed at Berkeley enables computers to simulate blood flow through a human heart. The software, a JAVA programming language dialect known as Titanium, is the first step in creating 3-D digital models of an individual’s cardiovascular system and other internal organs. In developing the software, EECS professor Katherine Yelick and colleagues had to solve problems in not only fluid mechanics but also elasticity to simulate blood flow dynamics around the flexible muscle fibers and irregular-shaped chambers of the heart. The biological models could be used to diagnose disease or observe the effects of simulated treatments on human organ systems. See more on the Lawrence Berkeley Lab website.

Mini-seismograph in the works
Combining seismological technology with micro-electromechanical systems, CEE professor Steven Glaser has developed a device that could give engineers detailed information about the behavior of earthquakes on specific faults. Terra-Scope TM, a miniaturized vertical seismic array placed deep in the Earth near known fault lines, could be used to guide retrofits of existing buildings, trigger shutdowns of trains before a quake or compile predictive data from microquakes. The device will be field tested this June at the Masada World Heritage Site near Israel’s Dead Sea. See the CITRIS website for more.

Smart intersection

Cars just keep getting smarter
Berkeley transportation researchers showed off their latest work at the Innovative Mobility Showcase of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), held in conjunction with the 12th World Congress on ITS last November in San Francisco. Demonstrations included a transit bus outfitted with a collision warning system and a “smart” intersection equipped with radar, sensors and other tools that track approaching vehicles and activate warning signals when conditions are unsafe. For more details on the ITS Congress research projects and demonstrations, go to the Berkeley News Center website.

Solar cells of the future

A new class of solar cells made of inorganic nanocrystals has been developed by MSE graduate student Ilan Gur, who reported his research last October in Science. The cells combine the low cost of ultrathin organics with the absorption and durability of conventional inorganic photovoltaics, which could make solar cells cheaper and easier to produce in bulk. Go to Berkeley Engineering's Lab Notes website for more details.

optoelectronic tweezer
"Acoustical spying" potential threat
From a simple audio recording of keystrokes, Berkeley researchers were able to decipher up to 96 percent of the characters entered on a computer keypad. Since each key makes a relatively distinct sound, says EECS professor Doug Tygar, this is a form of “acoustical spying” that could pose a computer security and privacy threat. See more on the Berkeley News Center website.

Manipulating nanoscale organisms
An “optoelectronic tweezer” developed by EECS professor Ming Wu and colleagues can easily manipulate large numbers of single cells and particles on a microscopic slide. The device, reported last year in Nature, traps particles in optical images projected on a glass slide coated with photoconductive materials. Biologists could use the technique to isolate and study fetal cells in a mother's blood sample or sort out abnormally shaped organisms from healthy ones. For more details, including video of the device in action, go to the Berkeley News Center website.


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