News

ECE grad student Harald Schafer part of award-winning team at the TMP’s New Venture Competition

May 23rd, 2016

nvc 2016 logo
Six student teams from UCSB take home more than $40,000 in cash prizes at the 17th New Venture Competition Finals, hosted by the Technology Management Program

ECE’s Schafer partnered with Kelsey Judd and Janek Metzner on team Vibe that won $15,000 for their wearable ultrasonic sensor device that translates information about the environment to a visually impaired user through unique vibration pattern that helps them navigate their surroundings.

Since the beginning of fall, NVC students worked with local entrepreneurs, business executives, and mentors to develop and refine their business ideas. The Finals were the biggest highlight of the New Venture Competition where each team pitches their business ideas to a panel of independent and highly respected judges for a chance to win cash prizes.

Winners of the 2016 New Venture Competition:

  • Grand Prize Award ($12,500): OSMO
  • 2nd Place Award($7,500): Vibe
  • 3rd Place Award ($2,500): EV Match
  • Honorable Mention Award (Sonos prize): Ingrain
  • Citrix Impact Award ($5,000): Vibe
  • Cliff Hannel Innovation Award ($5,000): Opal
  • Elings CNSI Award ($5,000): Ingrain
  • People’s Choice Award ($2,500): Dermachill
  • People’s Choice Award ($2,500): Vibe

Researchers Yon Visell and Katja Seltmann co-anchor “Unknown Territories” on the UCSB radio station

May 4th, 2016

photo of seltmann and visell
CCBER’s Seltmann and ECE’s Visell tap current scientific literature for their weekly cultural arts program on KCSB radio

UC Santa Barbara entomologist Katja Seltmann has an alter ego. She goes by the name Irene Moon, and she came into being decades ago when Seltmann first started creating science-inspired performance art and DJing on the radio as an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia.

Seltmann — or, rather, her Moon persona — is still riding the airwaves, joined by her partner, Yon Visell. Together they co-anchor “Unknown Territories,” an hour long program with the topic of all things science.

With diverse science backgrounds (Seltmann is the Katherine Esau Director of UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) and Visell is an assistant professor in the campus’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Media Arts and Technology Graduate Program), the pair brings an unusual bent to their weekly radio show, which airs Tuesdays at 9 a.m.

“We both love radio as a medium for expressing ideas and for education, and it’s really fun to do,” Seltmann said. “This show has been great for us because one of the things about being a researcher is that you have to keep up with the literature. Each week, we read a variety of journals, including Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to choose our topics. We also check social media to see what’s hot and what people are talking about.”

The couple’s broad range of expertise — biology, physics, engineering and cognitive sciences — informs the program’s content, which focuses on topical discussions aimed at communicating ideas about science through entertaining yet critical discourse.

According to Seltmann, “Unknown Territories” fills a critical niche. “We strive to promote science communications as well as to develop a larger dialogue with the community about scientific issues,” she noted. “And because KCSB is a public radio station that streams on the Internet, that community is not just Santa Barbara. There is a connection to the larger world. We feel strongly that everyone in society should be empowered to learn, evaluate and participate in science.”

The UCSB Current – "Exploring 'Unknown Territories'" (full article)

Yon Visell – RE Touch Lab

Katja Seltmann - Katherine Esau Director, CCBER

The UCSB student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer’s Photonics Society named 2016 Chapter of the Year

April 13th, 2016

group photo of the 2016 ucsb ieee photonics society
Established four years ago, the student organization of young engineers at UCSB is recognized for its effort in promoting professional growth and career development in the field of photonics. “This international award exemplifies the strength of our local photonics community and the hard work of our members to promote relationships between students and industry professionals,” said Eric Stanton, chapter president.

Guided by faculty advisor John Bowers, director of UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency, Stanton and 15 other student engineers devoted much time and energy over the past year to initiatives aimed at informing the community of the technology behind and use of photonics.

The UCSB Current – "Best Chapter" (full article)

UCSB IEEE Photonics Society – Student Chaper (website)

Assistant Professor Yon Visell’s research on touch and vibrations featured in The UCSB Current article “A Sensitive Subject”

March 28th, 2016

UCSB researchers catalog for the first time patterns of vibration on the skin of the hand that are part of how we sense the world through touch

photo of yon visell in the lab

“Most people don’t have a very clear picture of how touch sensation actually arises,” says Yon Visell, an assistant professor in the ECE Departent and in the campus’s Media Arts and Technology graduate program. While people are familiar with touch as consisting of the interaction between two surfaces — the skin and whatever it is in contact with — they are less aware of the subtle ways that touch sensing helps us to identify and navigate our surroundings, he said.

For instance, if your fingers are numb, you may still be able to move them, but be hesitant to pick up an object or send a text message, because of the lack of sensation — think of what happens when your foot or arm falls asleep. According to a study co-authored by Visell that appears in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences, our hands in particular have access to rich tactile information that travels far beyond the tips of our fingers. This may help to explain some remarkable capabilities of the sense of touch — why, for example, people whose fingers have been anesthetized are still able to feel fine surface detail, as has been demonstrated in prior research.

“The way they seem to be able to do this is by using mechanical signals, or vibrations, that travel beyond the fingers, farther up the arm,” said Visell. “The hand has specialized sensory end organs distributed widely in it that can capture such mechanical vibrations at a distance.”

Their study used a specialized array of tiny accelerometers, or vibration sensors, worn on the sides and backs of the fingers and hands. With this device, the researchers were able, for the first time, to capture, catalog and analyze patterns of vibration in the skin of the whole hand that were produced during active touch. Actions such as tapping and sliding one or several fingers over different types of material, as well grasping, gripping and indirect tapping (using an object to tap on a surface) all gave rise to distinctive vibration signatures. “We can liken this to the different ways that a bell will sound if it is struck by a metal hammer or a rubber mallet,” said Visell.

“How do those signals reflect what it is that we’re doing and what it is we’re touching? Do parts of the hand nearer to the wrist receive significant information about the shape of the object that we’re touching, what it’s composed of, or how we’re touching it? How are different parts of the hand involved in touch sensing?” Visell said of the fundamental questions that motivated his group to pursue this research. “It is possible that the hand, like the ear, is able to use vibrations produced through contact in order to infer what is being touched, and how the hand is touching it.”

The UCSB Current – "A Sensitive Subject" (full article)

RE Touch Lab

Visell's Lab Bio

Professors Steven Denbaars and Shuji Nakamura among 2016 Central Coast Innovation Award recipients

March 23rd, 2016

image of the CCI awards logo
Materials & ECE Professors Steven DenBaars and Shuji Nakamura among UCSB’s notable entrepreneurs and tech pioneers to be recognized at the 2016 Central Coast Innovation Awards.

The March 24th event, produced in partnership with UCSB’s Office of Technology & Industry Alliances (TIA), UCSB’s CNSI Incubator and the Pacific Coast Business Times, includes Startup Village (3:30-5:30) – a mix and mingle with the most promising emerging & mid-growth startup companies from the Central Coast and the Innovation Awards Reception (5:30-7:30).

UCSB 2016 Central Coast Innovation Award winners include:

  • Spirit of Innovation: Professor Galen Stucky (Materials and Chemistry)
  • Energy & Environmental Science: Soraa – the LED-based lighting company started by Professors Steven DenBaars (Materials & ECE), James Speck (Materials) and Shuji Nakamura (Materials & ECE), recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the bright blue LED
  • Most Disruptive Technology: Ecorithm – Professor Igor Mezić (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Agribusiness: Apeel Sciences (Technology Management Program – 2012 New Venture Competition winner)

The UCSB Current "Innovation Awards Will Recognize Tech Entrepreneurs" (full article)

Central Coast Innovation Awards – Registration

Professors B.S. Manjunath and Yon Visell among presenters at UCSB and Cottage Health 2016 Collaborative Research Symposium

March 10th, 2016

photos of manjunath and visell
Manjunath (imaging and big data) and Visell (wearable technologies w/ potential use in medical exams) present summaries of their work in the hope of forming collaborative research partnerships

Though UCSB doesn’t have a medical school, its abundant biomedical research has helped cultivate a strong partnership with Cottage. To open new avenues for collaboration, UCSB researchers and physicians working with Cottage gathered last week for the 2016 Collaborative Research Symposium, at which participants from both organizations shared their current lines of investigation.

More than 20 scientists each gave a timed five-minute presentation, hoping to connect with a like-minded researcher. At stake were two $15,000 seed grants designed to support collaborative initiatives between attendees from each institution.

The symposium was made possible by philanthropists Jan Dunbar and Alex Pananides, who also provided funding for the grants. Pananides is a UC Santa Barbara Foundation trustee and an honorary alumnus.

The UCSB Current – "A Meeting of the Minds" (full article)

Manjunath – Vision Research Lab

Yon Visell – RE Touch Lab

Professor Jerry Gibson is Scientific Advisor for Nova’s “What the Physics?!” video about texting

March 7th, 2016

screenshot from the videoLearn about what’s the science behind texting. When you hit send, how does your message leave your phone and make the journey to your friend’s phone?

What is “What The Physics?!”: Each episode explores something surprising or really interesting related to physics. Like the science behind the movie “Interstellar”… Or exploring what real parallel universes might be like… basically, things that make you go, “What The Physics?!”

"What the Physics Behind Texting? (YouTube video/channel)

Gibson profile

Gibson's VivoNets Lab

Assoc. Prof. Yasamin Mostofi’s Wi-Fi research highlighted by the University of California

February 23rd, 2016

wifi video screenshot University of California Research’s Fig. 1 Tuesday videos explore new ideas and research out of the UC System — ranging from science, technology, art and humanities. Get inside the mind of a researcher and watch Tuesday, February 23rd’s episode “Can We Use Wi-Fi To See Through Walls” highlighting the work of ECE’s Yasamin Mostofi.

We use Wi-Fi to stay connected, but Yasamin Mostofi shows that Wi-Fi can also be used to sense the world around us – even behind walls.

The world wants to be connected to the internet at all times, and as a result we’re bombarded by Wi-Fi almost everywhere we go. Yasamin Mostofi, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at UC Santa Barbara, wanted to know can we use them not just for connectivity, but for sensing?

Using nothing more than a Wi-Fi card and a receiver, Mostofi has shown that it’s possible to see through walls – useful for search and rescue – as well as sense the number and location of people in a building, which could transform smart lighting and HVAC technology.

The research highlighted in the video has been supported in part by a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

UC Fig. 1 (full article)

"Can We Use Wi-Fi To See Through Walls?" (YouTube video)

Fig. 1 by the University of California (YouTube Channel)

Mostofi's Research Group

NAE broadcasts Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s new transistor on radio series

February 16th, 2016

nae logo On Feb 14, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced and highlighted the advent of a new transistor recently invented in Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab, through its Engineering Innovation Radio Series, on air since 2003

The new transistor that employs atomically-thin semiconducting channel material and quantum mechanical tunneling lowers power dissipation by over 90% compared to the state-of-the-art silicon transistors. The breakthrough invention was reported in the October 1, 2015 issue of the journal Nature, and has triggered worldwide media coverage.

The NAE works with WTOP Radio, the Washington, D.C. region’s most listened-to radio station, and the WFED 1500 AM, the nation’s only radio station specifically dedicated to covering news related to the federal government, to provide weekly features highlighting engineering innovations and stories that add technical context to issues in the news. The podcasts of such news are also made available by the NAE in their Radio News Archive.

Professor Banerjee’s transistor has provided a new platform for next-generation energy-efficient computing and sensing, and could potentially accelerate emerging application paradigms such as the Internet of Things that promises unprecedented connectivity of people and information.

NAE Radio News Archive“Reinventing the Transistor”

Nature (full article) - "A Subthermionic Tunnel Field-effect Transistor with an Atomically Thin Channel"

UCSB CoE (news release)

Nanoelectronics Research Lab

Nature Materials publishes Prof. K. Banerjee’s study on electron/spin injection into atomically-flat materials

February 1st, 2016

Nature Materials logo
Realizing good electrical contacts is critical to harnessing the full potential of emerging two-dimensional materials including graphene and various transition metal dichalcogenides for electronics, optoelectronics, and spintronics applications. The study examines the nature of such contacts and illuminates pathways to optimizing the injection of both charge and spin into atomically-thin semiconductors.

Members from ECE’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab, in collaboration with researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne (EPFL), have recently published a comprehensive study on the nature of charge and spin injection into atomically-thin two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors in the prestigious journal Nature Materials.

2D materials belonging to the graphene family, various transition metal dichalcogenides including molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) and tungsten diselenide (WSe2), as well as other 2D semiconductors such as monolayer Black Phosphorus have displayed unique potential in overcoming the limitations of conventional bulk materials (such as silicon and III-V semiconductors) for a number of exciting applications in electronics and optoelectronics, as well as spintronics and valleytronics. However, ensuring low-resistance or optimal contacts to such materials is the primary hindrance to using this technology.

Professor Banerjee’s group have made seminal contributions toward advancing the understanding of contacts to 2D materials and have also spearheaded the use of these materials for overcoming power dissipation and other fundamental challenges in nanoscale transistors, interconnects and sensors.

With an impact factor of 36.5, Nature Materials is the #1 ranked research journal in materials science covering all areas of materials including their nanoscale, biological and energy aspects.

Nature Materials (full article) - "Electrical Contacts to Two-dimensional Semiconductors"

Nature Materials – About the Journal

Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL)