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Four Engineering Faculty Members Receive Prestigious NSF CAREER Awards

In 2016, five Illinois Tech faculty members received NSF CAREER Awards—the most of any university in Illinois. Four of these recipients are from Illinois Tech’s Armour College of Engineering—and three of them are female. Since 1890, Illinois Tech has educated some of the country’s brightest students to excel in fields that are technology-focused, innovation-centered, and idea-driven. Our CAREER Award recipients continue this legacy of quality teaching and scholarship in areas of high relevance and global impact.

Self-Powered Wireless Communication Network

Lin Cai, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer EngineeringLin Cai, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Fundamental Studies of Sustainable Wireless Communication System Powered by Renewable Energy

Wireless communications powered by renewable energy sources have been emerging as a promising solution to mitigate the carbon footprints to achieve a green radio network. However, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, are by nature unstable in their availability and capacity, which poses new challenges in the design and deployment of a sustainable communication network. This project will study how to optimize the usage of the harvested energy to meet the quality of service requirements of end users while ensuring sustainable operation of a communication system. To this end, the energy sustainability performance of a communication system will be systematically analyzed, characterizing the dynamic energy charging and discharging processes. The analysis will be leveraged to investigate a series of relevant research issues in sustainable communication and networking, including energy management, network deployment, admission control, adaptive resource allocation, and medium access control.

Coordinated Drive

Lili Du, Assistant Professor of Transportation EngineeringLili Du, Assistant Professor of Transportation Engineering

Integrated Online Coordinated Routing and Decentralized Control for Connected Vehicle Systems

Traffic congestion jeopardizes the function of urban transportation systems and has a growing negative effect on the health of urban economies. It also increases air pollution with numerous negative health impacts on our citizenry. A promising solution to alleviating traffic congestion is to establish coordinated driving mechanisms. This is enabled by recent connected or even autonomous vehicle technologies and advanced onboard computing facilities. However, engineers who design such mechanisms are still lacking scientific knowledge and effective tools that can be proven as efficient and reliable for use by the general public. The goal of this award is to develop innovative approaches to the coordination of connected vehicle drivers’ online route choices. This will be done by exploiting emerging information and computing technologies equipped in connected transportation infrastructure. The proposed approaches will improve transportation system mobility, safety, and environmental sustainability without sacrificing the interests of the individual vehicles. This research will deepen our understanding of the competition among vehicles on limited traffic resources. It should also reveal the impacts of the decisions of individual vehicles on traffic congestion, and offer a new paradigm of real-time traffic control.

The Future of Fuel Flexibility

Carrie Hall, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Materials and Aerospace EngineeringCarrie Hall, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Materials and Aerospace Engineering

Control of Advanced Fuel-Flexible Multi-Cylinder Engines

This project will investigate the dynamics and control of an advanced combustion strategy that has the potential to increase the efficiency of fuel-flexible diesel engines by up to 20 percent. The use of alternative fuels in modern vehicles typically results in higher production of some pollutants as well as a drop in efficiency. However, using alternative fuels along with more advanced combustion techniques has the potential to solve this problem and provide efficient, clean power for transportation. While the benefits of this strategy have been demonstrated in highly monitored laboratory environments, significant improvements in the control of multi-cylinder engines are needed before these highly efficient options can be used in production vehicles. This project will study estimation and control methods that can be applied to such complex engine systems and will provide a number of opportunities for underrepresented students to learn about innovative work in this critical area of transportation energy research.

Vibration and Energy Control in Solids

Ankit Srivastava, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Materials & Aerospace EngineeringAnkit Srivastava, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Materials & Aerospace Engineering

Transformation Elastodynamics and Its Application to Wave Control in Solids

Information and energy in the world travel from one point to another in the form of waves. Examples include light waves, sound waves in air and water, and waves in solids. The ability to control the flow of these waves, therefore, indirectly leads to the ability to control the information and energy that these waves represent. The focus of this project is to control the flow of waves in solids through material design. The flow of waves in solids represents both the vibration of solid objects and also the flow of heat energy. Through this project, Srivastava aims to create material design-based mechanisms of control for both vibration and energy flow. This research will lead to improvements in the design of vibration sensors, transducers, and imaging devices with applications to various industries such as aerospace, automobile, and civil infrastructure. It will lead to novel earthquake mitigation techniques for civil structures and vibration mitigation techniques for sensitive industry equipment.