MEAM Seminar Series Fall 2014

Seminars are held on Tuesday mornings, with coffee at 10:30 am in the Levine Hall Mezzanine and the seminar beginning at 10:45 am in Wu and Chen Auditorium (unless otherwise noted).

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Special Seminar: Thursday, September 11, 5:00 p.m., Wu and Chen Auditorium

Bradley Nelson, Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, ETH-Zürich
"MicroRobotics and NanoMedicine"

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While the futuristic vision of micro and nanorobotics is of intelligent machines that navigate throughout our bodies searching for and destroying disease, we have a long way to go to get there. Progress is being made, though, and the past decade has seen impressive advances in the fabrication, powering, and control of tiny motile devices. Much of our work focuses on creating systems for controlling micro and nanorobots as well as pursuing applications of these devices. As systems such as these enter clinical trials, and as commercial applications of this new technology are realized, radically new therapies and uses will result that have yet to be envisioned.


Brad Nelson received mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Illinois (B.S. 1984) and the University of Minnesota (M.S. 1987), and a Ph.D. in Robotics (School of Computer Science) from Carnegie Mellon University (1995). Prof. Nelson has been on the faculty of the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois at Chicago, has worked at Motorola and Honeywell, and has served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, Africa. He is the Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich and heads the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS).

September 16

Eric Dufresne, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials, Yale University
"Surface Tension and the Mechanics of Soft Solids"

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The standard models of solid mechanics were developed to describe the behavior of stiff materials. However, the rise of polymers, mechanobiology, soft robotics, and flexible electronics have driven broad interest in the mechanics of ‘soft’ solids. Our recent experiments demonstrate that the deformation of soft solid surfaces cannot be described by classic elastic models, even when the loadings are static and the response of the material is linear. We will consider Eshelby’s theory of composites, Johnson-Kendall-Roberts’ theory of adhesion and the Young-Dupre theory of wetting. In all cases, these models fail when Young’s moduli drop below a size-dependent scale. However, we are able to quantitatively capture the essential features of our experiments by accounting for solid surface tension. While surface tension drives subtle changes to phenomena in stiffer solids, it fundamentally alters our interpretation of experiments on soft solid surfaces.

September 23

Cullen R. Buie, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
"Microfluidic Bacterial Electrophenotyping for Biotechnology"

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In microbiology the ability to obtain genetic information far outpaces our ability to obtain phenotypic (or physical) information. This is a critical limitation because in many cases it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer the function of genes in an organism from genetic information alone. For the advancement of biotechnology and healthcare it is necessary to assess the links between genotype and phenotype. We have developed microfluidic techniques that exploit electrokinetic phenomena to determine connections between cell electrophenotypes (i.e. electrical properties) and genetics. First, I will present a detailed theoretical model to investigate the effect of appendages such as pili on the dielectric polarization of bacteria. The results demonstrate an interesting interplay between soft layer conductivity and double layer conductivity on polarizability, subtleties often neglected in previous models. Next, we exploit sub-species level differences in cell surface polarizability in novel three dimensional insulator based dielectrophoresis (3DiDEP) systems. Compared to previous embodiments of insulator based dielectrophoresis, 3DiDEP devices have an order of magnitude higher sensitivity. Our recent work has shown that 3DiDEP can be useful to distinguish bacteria with sub-species resolution. We will discuss our 3DiDEP design and describe exciting results on the characterization of both pathogenic and electrochemically active bacteria. Lastly we have developed a rapid microfluidic assay to quantitatively measure electric field conditions required for electroporation. Electroporation is widely used to deliver foreign DNA into host microbes for applications in synthetic biology and genetic engineering. However, electroporation has been successful on a relatively small number of microbes due in part to challenges in determining appropriate electroporation conditions (field strength, pulse width, etc.). Our rapid microfluidic electroporation assay can evaluate a range of electroporation conditions in a fraction of a second, a process that previously took hours. Results of this work will broaden the scope of bacteria available for applications in genetic engineering and synthetic biology.

Cullen R. Buie is the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Chair and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. He attended The Ohio State University where he received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (2003). After OSU, Cullen attended Stanford University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and obtained his M.S. (2005) and Ph.D. (2009) in Mechanical Engineering. Cullen's Ph.D. research, with Professor Juan Santiago, involved the study of microfluidic pumps to manage liquid water in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. After Stanford Cullen spent a year at UC Berkeley working with Professor Liwei Lin and Professor John Coates as a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow. At MIT his laboratory explores flow physics at the microscale for applications in materials science and microbiology. His research is applicable to a diverse array of problems, from anti-biofouling surfaces and biofuels to energy storage and bacterial infections. Cullen is the recipient of numerous awards for his research and service including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2012), the DuPont Young Professor Award (2013), and the DARPA Young Faculty Award (2013).

September 30

David Lentink, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
"Unraveling the Biofluidynamics of Flight as an Inspiration for Design"

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Many organisms fly in order to survive and reproduce. I am fascinated by the mechanics of flying birds, insects, and autorotating seeds. Their development as an individual and their evolution as a species are shaped by the physical interaction between organism and surrounding air. It is critical that the organism’s architecture is tuned for propelling itself and controlling its motion. Flying macroscopic animals and plants maximize performance by generating and manipulating vortices. These vortices are created close to the body as it is driven by the action of muscles or gravity, then are ‘shed’ to form a wake (a trackway left behind in the fluid). I study how the organism’s architecture is tuned to utilize the fluid dynamics of vortices. Here I link the aerodynamics of insect wings to that of bat, maple seed and bird wings. The methods used to study all these flows range from robot fly models to maple seeds flying in a vertical wind tunnel to freeze dried swift wings tested in a low turbulence wind tunnel. The study reveals that animals and plants have converged upon the same solution for generating high lift: a leading edge vortex that runs parallel to the leading edge of the wing, which it sucks upward. Why this vortex remains stably attached to flapping animal and spinning plant wings is elucidated and linked to kinematics and wing morphology. While wing morphology is quite rigid in insects and maple seeds, it is extremely fluid in birds. Here I show how such ‘wing morphing’ significantly expands the performance envelope of birds during both gliding and flapping flight. Finally I will show how these findings have inspired the design of new flapping and morphing micro air vehicles.

Professor Lentink's multidisciplinary lab studies biological flight, in particular bird flight, as an inspiration for engineering design. He has a BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering (Aerodynamics, Delft University of Technology) and a PhD in Experimental Zoology cum laude (Wageningen University). During his PhD he visited the California institute of Technology for 9 months to study insect flight. His postdoctoral training at Harvard was focused on studying birds. Publications range from technical journals to cover publications in Nature and Science. He is a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, recipient of the Dutch Academic Year Prize, and he has been recognized in 2013 as one of 40 scientists under 40 by the World Economic Forum.

October 7

Charles Matson, Chief Scientist, Air Force Office of Scientific Research
"Space, the Cluttered Frontier"

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The nations of the world are tremendously dependent upon the capabilities provided by man-made satellites orbiting the Earth. These capabilities include communications, weather prediction, GPS, and Earth surveillance. As time goes on, more satellites are put into orbit to provide additional capabilities and to replace satellites that have died. When satellites die, they usually stay in orbit. In addition, space around the Earth is cluttered with space junk such as rocket bodies that were used to put satellites into orbit and debris from satellite collisions and explosions. As space becomes more cluttered, it becomes more challenging to keep track of man-made objects orbiting the earth and to operate safely in space.
Using pictures, animations, and videos, I will give an introduction to various types of satellites, where they are in space, and how we keep track of them. In addition, I will discuss the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, as well as the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test and the 2009 Iridium-Cosmos collision that created large amounts of space debris.

Dr. Chuck Matson is the Chief Scientist for the Air Force's Office of Scientific Research. His organization is responsible for managing the Air Force's $500M basic research program. Dr. Matson's areas of interest include space surveillance technologies, image and signal processing theory, and high-performance computing. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and has published over 100 articles including journal articles, conference proceedings, and book chapters.

October 14

John Leonard, Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering, MIT
"A Long-term View of Simultaneous Localization and Mapping for Mobile Robots"

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This talk will provide a long-term view on the Simultaneous
Localization and Mapping (SLAM) problem in Robotics. The first part
of the talk will review the history of SLAM research and define some
of the major challenges in SLAM, including choosing a map
representation, developing algorithms for efficient state estimation,
and solving for data association and loop closure. Next, we will give
a snapshot of recent MIT research in SLAM based on joint work with the
National University of Ireland, Maynooth. A major new trend in SLAM
is the development of real-time dense mapping system using RGB-D
cameras. We will describe Kintinuous, a new SLAM system capable of
producing high quality globally consistent surface reconstructions
over hundreds of meters in real-time with only a cheap commodity RGB-D
sensor. The approach is based on three key innovations in volumetric
fusion-based SLAM: (1) using a GPU-based 3D cyclical buffer trick to
extend dense volumetric fusion of depth maps to an unbounded spatial
region; (2) combining both dense geometric and photometric camera pose
constraints, and (3) efficiently applying loop closure constraints by
the use of an as-rigid-as-possible space deformation. Experimental
results will be presented for a wide variety of data sets to
demonstrate the system's performance. We will conclude the talk with
a discussion of current and future research topics, including
object-based and semantic mapping, lifelong learning, and advanced
physical interaction with the world. We will also discuss potential
implications of SLAM research on the development of self-driving cars.

Joint work with Tom Whelan, Michael Kaess, John McDonald, Hordur
Johannsson, Maurice Fallon, David Rosen, Mark VanMiddlesworth, Ross
Finman Paul Huang, Liam Paull, and Dehann Fourie.

John J. Leonard is Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering in
the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering. He is also a member of
the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
(CSAIL). His research addresses the problems of navigation, mapping,
and persistent autonomy for autonomous mobile robots. He holds the
degrees of B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Science from the
University of Pennsylvania (1987) and D.Phil. in Engineering Science
from the University of Oxford (1994). He is the recipient of a
Thouron Award (1987), an NSF Career Award (1998), a Science Foundation
Ireland E.T.S. Walton Visitor Award (2004), the Best Paper Award at
ACM SenSys in 2004 (shared with D. Moore, D. Rus, and S. Teller), the
Best Student Paper Award at IEEE ICRA 2005 (with R. Eustice and
H. Singh) and the King-Sun Fu Memorial Best Transactions on Robotic Paper Award in 2006 (shared with R. Eustice and H. Singh). He was a
finalist for the Best Automation Paper Award at ICRA 2011, the Best
Paper Award at ICRA 2012, and the Best Student Paper Award at ICRA
2013. He was elected an IEEE Fellow in 2014.

October 21

Taher Saif, Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
"From synchrony to swimming through long range cell-cell interactions"

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It is well known that cells communicate with each other through biochemical and electrical means employing various autocrine and endocrine signalling pathways. Here we show, using rat cardiomyocytes, that distant cells can communicate with each other through long-range strain fields alone. A beating cardiomyocyte, adhered to an elastic subsrate, generates force and deforms the substrate. A distant neighbor, isolated chemically and electrically, is subjected to the strain field of the beating cell which interferes with its dynamics. The two neighbors thus get coupled, and behave as coupled oscillators. Over time, they synchronize their dynamics. We model the two cells as coupled oscillators where the coupling is enforced through strain dependent calcium influx. The model predictions are verified by culturing cardiomyocutes on two sides of an elastic impermiable film. The circular film is held around its periphery by a glass ring. The cells on each side of the film synchronize their beating through biochemical and electrical sgnaling. Thus, each side behaves as a single isolated actuator. They are couped with each other through the elasticity of the film. Over time, these two actuators beat in synchrony with a phase lag between them, as predicted by the model. We employ the model to explore a possible biological machine, a biohybrid flagellar swimmer with a  series of isolated cardiomyocytes on an elastic beam. A slendar body hydrodynamic model predicts that such swimmers can achieve swimming speeds comparable to the natural flagellar swimmers.  



Dr. Taher Saif received his BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Washington State University respectively in 1984 and 1986. He obtained his Ph.D degree in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University in 1993. He worked as a Post Doctoral Associate in Electrical Engineering and the National Nanofabrication Facility at Cornell University during 1993-97. He joined the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during 1997.

He is currently the Gutgsell Professor in the department. His current research includes tumor micro environment, mechanics of neurons and cardiac cells, development of biological machines, and electro-thermo-mechanical behavior of nano scale metals and semiconductors. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Health.


October 28

Kenneth Liechti, Zarrow Centennial Professorship in Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, University of Texas, Austin
" Selective Mechanical Transfer of Graphene "

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Dry transfer of graphene has been an integral part of its history from the earliest days when scotch tape was first used to exfoliate graphene from graphite. Chemical vapor deposition of graphene has made the application of graphene to its myriad of promising applications possible, but the transfer of graphene is the current bottleneck in the nano-manufacture of graphene.  We report on the potential of using polymers and rate dependent adhesion to provide a controllable mechanism for the selective transfer of graphene in future nanofabrication systems such as roll-to-roll transfer.

Professor Kenneth Liechti is the Zarrow Centennial Professor of Engineering in the Aerospace Engineering & Engineering Mechanics Department at the University of Texas. His research interests are in viscoelasticity, fracture and the mechanics of adhesion and separation over a wide range of scales and contact pairs. He is Joint Editor of the Mechanics of Time Dependent Materials and a Fellow of ASME, SEM and the Adhesion Society and an Associate Fellow of AIAA.

November 4: MEAM Tedori-Callinan Lecture

Nadine Aubry, Dean, College of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor
Northeastern University
"Moving Particles in Microfludics"
Learn more about this lecture

November 11

Mehdi Bakhshi Zanjani

November 18

Meyya Meyyappan, Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology, NASA
" Nanotechnology: Development of  Practical Systems and Nano-Micro-Macro Integration"

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There are strong nanotechnology research programs across the world in the fields of chemical sensors, biosensors, instrumentation, electromechanical devices, actuators,  nanodevices, composites, and
numerous other applications.  Basic discoveries have progressed at an amazing pace, as evidenced by the accumulation of publications in the literature.  At present, the development of practical systems and
commercial products is the next big challenge. Nanoscale is not a human scale. In many cases, development of practical systems demands seamless integration of nano-micro-macro to produce scaled components and processes.  While the ultimate vision in nanotechnology may be an entirely bottom-up approach to building systems, it is unrealistic to expect this to happen anytime in the foreseeable future.  Only realistic possibility to achieve tangible results in a reasonable time frame, before the stakeholders run out of patience, is to use nanomaterials in a hybrid approach that involves a systematic  nano-micro-macro integration.  Such an approach will also allow us to utilize the existing infrastructure  in the micro area (MEMS, microelectronics) from the last couple of decades, which would make economic sense .  This talk will expand on this theme on product and system development using nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Examples will include a carbon nanotube (CNT)  based chemical sensor that has been tested for monitoring air quality in the crew cabin in the International Space Station in 2009 and further developed for security applications; a CNT based biosensor for water quality monitoring and health monitoring; CNT-based  X-ray  tubes for security and other applications; supercapacitors, and several other developments we have been working on for the last 5-8 years.  The author thanks all past and present NASA Ames colleagues for their contributions to the application development efforts, especially Jing Li, Yijiang Lu, Jessica Koehne, Cattien Nguyen and Michael Oye.

Meyya Meyyappan is Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA. Until June 2006, he served as the Director of the Center for Nanotechnology. He is a founding member of the Interagency Working Group on Nanotechnology (IWGN) established by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The IWGN is responsible for putting together the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
Dr. Meyyappan has authored or co-authored over 290 articles in peer-reviewed journals and made over 250 Invited/Keynote/Plenary Talks in nanotechnology subjects across the world and over 200 seminars at universities. His research interests include carbon nanotubes, graphene, and various inorganic nanowires, their growth and characterization, and application development in chemical and biosensors, instrumentation, electronics and optoelectronics.
Dr. Meyyappan is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Electrochemical Society (ECS), American Vacuum Society (AVS), Materials Research Society (MRS), Institute of Physics (IOP), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the California Council of Science and Technology. In addition, he is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He is currently the IEEE Nanotechnology Council (NTC) Distinguished Lecturer on Nanotechnology, IEEE Electron Devices Society (EDS) Distinguished Lecturer, and was ASME's Distinguished Lecturer on Nanotechnology (2004-2006). He served as the President of the IEEE's Nanotechnology Council in 2006-2007 and the Vice President of IEEE-EDS for Educational Activities in 2010-2013.
For his contributions and leadership in nanotechnology, he has received numerous awards including: a Presidential Meritorious Award; NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal; Arthur Flemming Award given by the Arthur Flemming Foundation and the George Washington University; IEEE Judith Resnick Award; IEEE-USA Harry Diamond Award; AIChE Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum Award; Distinguished Engineering Achievement Award by the Engineers' Council; Pioneer Award in Nanotechnology by the IEEE-NTC; Sir Monty Finniston Award by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (UK); Outstanding Engineering Achievement Merit Award (2014) by the Engineers' Council; IEEE-USA Professional Achievement Award. For his sustained contributions to nanotechnology, he was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Council Hall of Fame in February 2009. 
For his educational contributions, he has received: Outstanding Recognition Award from the NASA Office of Education; the Engineer of the Year Award(2004) by the San Francisco Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); IEEE-EDS Education Award; IEEE-EAB (Educational Activities Board) Meritorious Achievement Award in Continuing Education.

December 9

James W. Baish, Professor of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, Bucknell University
"Vascular Architecture: Relating Form to Function"

December 16

Michael Wald