Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2014 Symposium
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: This publication has been reviewed according to procedures approved by a National Academy of Engineering report review process. Publication of signed work signifies that it is judged a competent and useful contribution worthy of public consideration, but it does not imply endorsement of conclusions or recommendations by the NAE. The interpretations and conclusions in such publications are those of the authors and do not purport to represent the views of the council, officers, or staff of the National Academy of Engineering.
Funding for the activity that led to this publication was provided by The Grainger Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense ASD(R&E) Research Directorate—STEM Development Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Microsoft Research, and Cummins Inc. This material is also based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.1406763. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. In addition, the content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government and no official endorsement should be inferred.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
KRISTI ANSETH (Chair), Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder
BILLY BARDIN, Global Operations Technology Director, The Dow Chemical Company
KAREN CHRISTMAN, Associate Professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego
BRIAN GERKEY, Chief Executive Officer, Open Source Robotics Foundation
CHRISTOPHER JONES, Associate Vice President for Research and New-Vision Professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
CARMEL MAJIDI, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
ASHLEY PETERSON, Principal R&D Engineer, Aortic and Peripheral Vascular Group, Medtronic
JEFF SAKAMOTO, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan
DANIEL STEINGART, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University
JANET R. HUNZIKER, Senior Program Officer
VANESSA LESTER, Program Associate
This volume presents papers on the topics covered at the National Academy of Engineering’s 2014 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Every year the symposium brings together 100 outstanding young leaders in engineering to share their cutting-edge research and innovations in selected areas. The 2014 symposium was held September 11–13 at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, California. The intent of this book is to convey the excitement of this unique meeting and to highlight innovative developments in engineering research and technical work.
GOALS OF THE FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING PROGRAM
The practice of engineering is continually changing. Engineers must be able not only to thrive in an environment of rapid technological change and globalization but also to work on interdisciplinary teams. Today’s research is being done at the intersections of engineering disciplines, and successful researchers and practitioners must be aware of developments and challenges in areas that may not be familiar to them.
At the annual 2½-day US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, 100 of this country’s best and brightest engineers—ages 30 to 45, from academia, industry, and government and a variety of engineering disciplines—learn from their peers about pioneering work in different areas of engineering. The number of participants is limited to 100 to maximize opportunities for interactions and exchanges among the attendees, who are chosen through a competitive nomination and selection process. The symposium is designed to foster contacts and learning among promising individuals who would not meet in the usual round of professional
meetings. This networking may lead to collaborative work, facilitate the transfer of new techniques and approaches, and produce insights and applications that bolster US innovative capacity.
The four topics and the speakers for each year’s meeting are selected by an organizing committee of engineers in the same 30- to 45-year-old cohort as the participants. Speakers describe the challenges they face and communicate the excitement of their work to a technically sophisticated but nonspecialist audience. They provide a brief overview of their field of inquiry; define the frontiers of that field; describe experiments, prototypes, and design studies (completed or in progress) as well as new tools and methods, limitations, and controversies; and assess the long-term significance of their work.
THE 2014 SYMPOSIUM
The topics covered at the 2014 symposium were (1) co-robotics, (2) battery materials, (3) technologies for the heart, and (4) shale gas and oil.
The first session focused on co-robotics, or the development of robots to assist and cooperate with humans in workplaces, hospitals, and homes. Such tasks range from inventory handling and household cleaning to tele-operated minimally invasive surgery, self-driving cars, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The first talk was about Google’s program for self-driving cars, which have been made possible by new algorithms, increased processing power, and innovative sensors. The next presenter provided an overview of the hardware and software required to build a robot that can safely interact with humans and perform repetitive manufacturing tasks. This was followed by a talk on the next generation of minimally invasive surgical robotics that go beyond the costly, large, less dexterous systems we see today to robots that can be designed, manufactured, and controlled on the fly for a specific patient and procedure. The last talk covered biologically inspired mobile robots. These technologies use locomotion mechanisms seen in nature to create robots with higher mobility that could even go beyond what we see in nature.
Battery Anxiety was the aptly named title of the second session because it covered the compromises among safety, energy density, power density, cost, and lifetime in batteries with a focus on fundamental and applied materials research. The talks addressed such questions as whether new chemistries that go beyond lithium ion are needed to keep pace with energy demands and whether multidisciplinary engineering can address the constraints inherent in lithium ion and other promising battery chemistries. Presentations in this session covered battery life and safety research from an automotive perspective; challenges in batteries for electric vehicles; the challenges of manufacturing the wide variety of lithium ion batteries that have been made possible through design of battery cells for specific applications; and synthesis/characterization and first principles computational modeling techniques used to develop and optimize new higher energy/power density electrode materials for lithium ion and sodium ion batteries.
The topic of the third session was leading-edge technologies for diagnosis and treatment of heart and cardiovascular system conditions. These technologies tend to mimic natural biologic conditions and behavior in a harmonious way in order to heal, assist, or replace the heart’s critical components. The first presentation provided a history of heart valves from an industrial perspective—from early design and implantation in 1955 to next-generation valves, placement techniques, and development of devices that repair rather than replace native valve function. This was followed by talks on research under way on tissue-engineered valves and state-of-the-art biomaterials for treating myocardial infarctions. The session concluded with an overview of the regulatory environment and requirements to get these new technologies to patients.
The final session of the meeting focused on the logistical, chemical, and environmental issues associated with utilization of shale gas and oil resources facilitated by the development of hydraulic fracturing technologies. These technologies are the primary reason that in October 2013, for the first time in almost 20 years, the United States produced more oil domestically than it imported. The session opened with an overview of the location and nature of domestic shale gas and oil resources and described hydraulic fracturing, including its logistical and infrastructure challenges. The next presentation covered environmental challenges associated with hydraulic fracturing, specifically the microbial ecology and biogeochemical processes that impact production of oil and gas, management of wastewater, and product quality from hydraulically fractured wells. The third speaker discussed the utilization of shale gas for chemical production vs. its use as fuels and the challenges associated with methane conversion.
In addition to the plenary sessions, the attendees had many opportunities for informal interaction. On the first afternoon, they gathered in small groups for “get-acquainted” sessions during which they presented short descriptions of their work and answered questions from their colleagues. This helped them to get to know more about each other relatively early in the program. On the second afternoon attendees met in affinity groups based on engineering discipline or interest in a particular topic such as the future of engineering education, 3D printing, or energy storage.
Each year a distinguished engineer addresses the participants at dinner on the first evening of the symposium. The 2014 speaker, Dr. Arunava Majumdar, Jay Precourt Professor and senior fellow, Precourt Institute for Energy and Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, gave the first evening’s dinner speech titled, “What is Impact?” He described how the traditional ways of measuring the impact of an innovation or discovery are difficult to measure. Some innovations that have a far-reaching impact, such as the Haber-Bosch process that has affected the world’s ability to grow food, may not be recognized as such. He challenged the attendees to discern what our Haber Bosch–like challenge may be, for example, providing access to electricity in developing countries or scrubbing the atmosphere of CO2 at cost and scale.
The NAE is deeply grateful to the following for their support of the 2014 US Frontiers of Engineering symposium:
- The Grainger Foundation
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
- Air Force Office of Scientific Research
- Department of Defense ASD(R&E)–STEM Development Office
- National Science Foundation (this material is based on work supported by the NSF under grant number 1406763)
- Microsoft Research
- Cummins Inc.
- Individual contributors
We also thank the members of the Symposium Organizing Committee, chaired by Dr. Kristi Anseth, for planning and organizing the event.
Brian Gerkey and Carmel Majidi
Allison M. Okamura and Tania K. Morimoto
Jeff Sakamoto and Daniel Steingart
Sarah Stewart, Jake Christensen, Nalin Chaturvedi, and Aleksandar Kojic
Karen Christman and Ashley Peterson
Erin M. Spinner
W. David Merryman
Jason A. Burdick and Shauna M. Dorsey
Tina M. Morrison
Billy B. Bardin and Christopher W. Jones
Kelvin B. Gregory
Eric E. Stangland