Category Archives: Catalyst for Innovation

UC Riverside Has Identified A Safe Repellent That Protects Fruit

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in The Press Enterprise on June 22, 2015.)

Spotted wing Drosophila on ripe blueberries. Photo Credit: Ray Lab, UC Riverside
Spotted wing Drosophila on ripe blueberries. Photo Credit: Ray Lab, UC Riverside

Insects destroy a very large fraction of the global agricultural output – nearly 40 percent.  The spotted wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), for example, feeds on ripening fruits.  A nuisance especially in Northern California and Europe, it lays its eggs inside ripe berries, and, when its larvae emerge there, the fruit is destroyed.  As a result, each year D. suzukii causes hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of agricultural damage worldwide.

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have now identified a safe repellent that protects fruits from D. suzukii:  Butyl anthranilate (BA), a pleasant-smelling chemical compound produced naturally in fruits in small amounts.  In their lab experiments, the scientists found BA warded off D. suzukii from blueberries coated with it.  The finding, when extrapolated to other agricultural pests, could provide a strategy for controlling them and increasing the productivity of crops and fruit.

Study results appear June 22 in Scientific Reports, an online and open-access Nature publication.

Christine Krause Pham (left) and Anandasankar Ray use ripe blueberries to test in the lab the effect of butyl anthranilate on the spotted wing Drosophila. Photo Credit: I. Pittalwala, UC Riverside
Christine Krause Pham (left) and Anandasankar Ray use ripe blueberries to test in the lab the effect of butyl anthranilate on the spotted wing Drosophila. Photo Credit: I. Pittalwala, UC Riverside

“Toxic insecticides are often risky to use directly on fruits – especially when they are close to being harvested,” said Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology and the director of the Center for Disease Vector Research at UC Riverside, whose lab performed the research project.  “A safe and affordable repellent such as BA could provide protection and reduce use of toxic chemicals.”

“The natural repellents discovered by Dr. Ray are particularly promising for supporting multiple possible applications,” said Michael Pazzani, the vice chancellor for research and economic development.  “The safe and inexpensive compounds are not only effective for the protection of fruit and agricultural produce from pests, but also from biting insects that transmit disease to us and livestock.”

This discovery is an outstanding representation of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UCR cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

To read the full article, click here.

Mantis Shrimp Inspires New Body Armor Design At UCR And Purdue

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on June 17, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carlos Puma, UCR Today
Photo Credit: Carlos Puma, UCR Today

The mantis shrimp is able to repeatedly pummel the shells of prey using a hammer-like appendage that can withstand rapid-fire blows by neutralizing certain frequencies of “shear waves,” according to a new research paper by University of California, Riverside and Purdue University engineers.

The club is made of a composite material containing fibers of chitin, the same substance found in many marine crustacean shells and insect exoskeletons but arranged in a helicoidal structure that resembles a spiral staircase.

This spiral architecture, the new research shows, is naturally designed to survive the repeated high-velocity blows by filtering out certain frequencies of waves, called shear waves, which are particularly damaging.

The findings could allow researchers to use similar filtering principles for the development of new types of composite materials for applications including aerospace and automotive frames, body armor and athletic gear, including football helmets.

“This is a novel concept,” said David Kisailus, the Winston Chung Endowed Professor in Energy Innovation at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering. “It implies that we can make composite materials able to filter certain stress waves that would otherwise damage the material.”

The “dactyl club” can reach an acceleration of 10,000 Gs, unleashing a barrage of impacts with the speed of a .22 caliber bullet.

“The smasher mantis shrimp will hit many times per day. It is amazing,” said Pablo Zavattieri, an associate professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and a University Faculty Scholar at Purdue University.

The researchers modeled the structure with the same mathematical equations used to study materials in solid-state physics and photonics, showing the structure possesses “bandgaps” that filter out the damaging effects of shear waves traveling at the speed of sound.

Findings were detailed in a research paper published online in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. The paper will appear in a future print issue of the journal.

The paper’s lead author was Purdue doctoral student Nicolás Guarín-Zapata and it was co-authored by Juan Gomez, a researcher from the Civil Engineering Department, Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia; doctoral student Nick Yaraghi from UC Riverside; Kisailus; and Zavattieri.

The research, which is ongoing and also will include efforts to create synthetic materials with filtering properties, has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

This research is an outstanding representation of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UCR cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

UC Riverside Receives $4.5 Million Nasa Grant

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Leila Meyer and published in CampusTechnology.com on May 4, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

The University of California, Riverside (UCR) has received a grant of nearly $4.5 million as part of NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). The grant will provide funding for a five-year research project called “Fellowships and Internships in Extremely Large Data Sets” (FIELDS), which aims to develop research and education opportunities in big data and visualization, according to information from the university.

FIELDS is a collaborative project between UCR, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the California State University system and the state’s two-year community colleges. The program will train underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

NASA currently has nearly 100 active missions and collects about 2 gigabytes of data per minute. It expects that volume of data to increase by a factor of 1,000 in the near future, and is looking for better ways to visualize the data for analysis. The FIELDS project will support this goal through several research and education programs.

The FIELDS research and education initiatives include:

  • Undergraduate training and research for students in physical, biological, computer science and engineering disciplines at UCR and partner institutions;
  • A new master’s course in big data and visualization, with students attending courses at UCR and doing research at JPL;
  • Support for doctoral and postdoctoral research; and
  • Support for high school STEM teacher training at UCR to help encourage more high school students to develop an interest in STEM fields.

UCR faculty and JPL staff will supervise the education and research activities. Each fall, students and mentors participating in the program will attend a FIELDS workshop at either UCR or JPL.

Undergraduates will complete two 10-week summer internships at JPL and receive a stipend of $2,000 each year. During the school year, they will conduct research with UCR faculty and receive a stipend of $3,000 each year. Graduate students will work with UCR faculty and JPL staff and earn an annual stipend of $70,000 for two years.

“A major goal of the project is advancement by students to research universities, gaining research experience, acquiring advanced STEM degrees, and taking up careers in STEM, including NASA employment,” said Bahram Mobasher, professor of physics and astronomy at UCR and the grant’s principal investigator, in a prepared statement. “We expect that collaborative research by JPL and UCR scientists and their students will generate preliminary results for further grant proposals to outside agencies.”

Grants like this increase the great work done at UCR and equips their STEM students with the knowledge needed to succeed. UCR is known for catalyzing innovation in many fields of study and thus promotes the aspirations of Seizing Our Destiny.

To read the complete article, click here.

Norte Vista Academy Builds Careers

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sandra Stokley and published in The Press Enterprise on May 8, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise

When Wells Middle School student Yuly Quintero heard about Norte Vista High School’s newly minted Green Construction Academy, she knew it was where she wanted to be.

“It just seemed so cool to do things other girls don’t do,” she said.

Quintero, now 15 and a sophomore at the Riverside high school, said the academy has exceeded her expectations. She has designed and built miniature replicas of buildings and bridges, and learned how to use hand and power tools.

And on a recent Tuesday, Quintero and about 39 of her academy classmates were put through the paces by trained professionals during a daylong boot camp at the Electrical Apprenticeship Training Center in San Bernardino. They learned to use a defibrillator in a CPR class, fashioned metal conduits, ran wires and learned some of the “hair-raising” aspects of electrical safety.

Now wrapping up its third year at Norte Vista, the academy is a school within a school that blends academic and career technical education to engage students who lack motivation or are at risk of dropping out to help them prepare for careers in the building trades or college – or both. Programs like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation and intelligent growth pillars. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support programs that help improve our already outstanding quality of life.

“We’re reaching a student population that maybe we overlook,” said Gary Packler, the academy’s coordinator. “The academy is a way to connect them to school.”

MAKING CONNECTIONS

The program is funded by a California Department of Education grant with support from the Alvord Unified School District and business partners. It focuses on jobs in clean technology and renewable energy in industries such as solar energy and wind energy.

Other Inland schools with grants for Green Construction academies are: Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino and Desert Hot Springs High School in the Palm Springs Unified School District.

Norte Vista’s Green Academy started in 2012 with a freshman class of 30 students recruited from the district’s four middle schools.

Students in that initial class – who will be seniors in fall – and from subsequent years take four classes per day together and advance through the academy as a group.

“It creates a smaller learning environment,” Packler said. “It promotes a connection between teacher and students.”

Students take academic courses including English, mathematics and science. Mixed in are a freshman class of wood shop, and sophomore and junior construction technology courses.

Students also observe and work at a solar panel installation work site, Packler said.

APPRENTICE OPPORTUNITIES

On May 5, 40 academy students gathered at the San Bernardino apprenticeship center, where they got a taste of what to expect if they opted to try for a spot in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ apprenticeship program instead of going to college.

“It’s a very demanding program,” said Jim Rush, the Brotherhood’s business representative, who helped organize the boot camp.

Rush said applicants need a high school diploma or GED, must pass an exam that tests their math, reading and writing comprehension skills and be interviewed by the apprenticeship committee.

In the five-year training program, apprentices work five days a week with a contractor and attend school two nights a week.

The payoff can be substantial, Rush said. He earns about $100,000 per year.

Sophomore Johnny Conriquez, 16 said he heard about the Green Academy at Loma Vista Middle School and thought it would suit him for a couple of reasons.

“I like working with my hands,” he said. “And I like that we’re helping the environment.”

The academy has been so successful that participants have asked to help recruit at middle schools, Packler said.

“Some of these students would never have volunteered to go to middle school,” Packler said. “But they have developed so much confidence and social skills.”

To read the full article, click here.

Program Brings Science to University Heights Students

(This article contains excerpts from the article posted in the RUSD news feed.)

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

A group of about 50 University Heights Middle School students spent their day on Thursday, April 23 hiking Sycamore Canyon and learning about the plants and animals there as part of the SISTERS program – Success in Science and Technology: Engagement with Role Models. The girls got a chance to interact with a UC Riverside professor as well as the UC Riverside Science Ambassadors. This was just one of many fun and informative interactions the girls have had as they have spent the year exploring science in hands-on activities. They also have spent time in a college laboratory and visited the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. It’s all designed to give young women hands-on experience in STEM fields to encourage them that they can succeed in and pursue careers in these areas. It is hoped that this pilot program soon can be expanded to serve other schools as well.

Programs like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Encouraging students to pursue an education in STEM is no easy task, but the UCR students can relate to the young girls and encourage them to purse a career in the STEM field. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

To read a in-depth article about the program, click here.

LEED Certified Buildings And Sustainability Taking Forefront At UC Riverside Campus

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mojgan Sherkat and published in UCR Today on April 23, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

These are not your father’s residence halls. Just in time for Earth Day, the latest housing addition at UC Riverside has recycled materials, all the latest water management, energy efficiency, and environmentally friendly features like
American-made cabinetry.

Glen Mor II celebrated its LEED Gold Certification Wednesday. What does LEED mean? Well, it stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a certification program focused on sustainable buildings. Facilities receive points based on meeting environmentally friendly criteria. The first phase of Glen Mor, which opened in 2007, achieved the LEED Gold in December 2014. When well-maintained, the buildings will produce fewer waste products and are more energy efficient than they would otherwise be.

Glen Mor offers single-occupancy rooms in two- and four-bedroom apartment style floor plans. It is home to more than 1,300 residents (sophomores and up).

“It’s very impressive,” said Jean Weiss, a Riverside community member. “I love the multi-aspects of it all – the landscaping, parking structure, the market, it’s very scenic and at the same time conductive for the studious mindset,” she explained.

The certification was unveiled by Andy Plumley, assistant vice chancellor of UCR’s Housing, Dining, & Residential Services.

“Obtaining LEED Gold certification along with being the largest LEED Gold Group Property is quite a milestone for UCR,” said Plumley. “Housing, Dining & Residential Services is proud of the Glen Mor project and thankful for our dedicated campus partners (Architects & Engineers, Capital Program, Environmental Health & Safety, Transportation & Parking Services, Computing & Communications) who contributed greatly to help us reach this achievement.”

The public was given the opportunity to tour the new facility. Eric Shuler, Assistant Director of Facilities Management gave one of three tours around the new UCR Campus Apartment, highlighting the sustainable features, which include:

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today
  • Rock landscaping: to minimize water use.
  • Solar panels: used for heating the water and building.
  • Furniture: all made in the U.S. and out of sustainably harvested and manufactured wood.
  • Appliances: all Energy Star rated.
  • Irrigation: controlled system, when it rains the system will automatically shut-off.
  • Lighting: interior is automatically dimmed and brightened according to existing ambient light. Exterior is energy-saving LED.

Housing, Dining & Residential Services will continue to develop a robust energy and sustainability program for UCR.  The efforts will include:

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today
  1. Building level energy and sustainability improvements to meet or exceed LEED Gold standards, UCOP standards and State requirements.
  2. Pursue additional LEED EBOM Certifications.
  3. Pursue minimum of LEED Gold on all new building projects.
  4. Develop programs for residents to educate on how they may contribute to the sustainability of their living environment.

Housing, Dining & Residential Services ultimate sustainability goal is to provide an optimized, balanced, living and learning experience with the least amount of impact on the environment.

UC Riverside’s green initiative is an outstanding example of the Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. By constantly improving their infrastructure, UCR has established it’s self as a leader in sustainability. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do in Riverside, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

For the complete article, click here.

Five UC Riverside Students Awarded $1,500 Sustainability Fellowships

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kris Lovekin and published in UCR Today on March 24, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR
Photo Credit: UCR

What does replacing fluorescent light bulbs with LEDs have to do with solar-heated washing machines, energy audits, resin-hardened clothing or a color-coded map that illustrates air pollution? They’re all proposals from UC Riverside students to help the campus achieve the University of California’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2025.

The university received 38 proposals in less than three weeks for UC President Janet Neapolitan’s new Sustainability Student Fellowship/Internship Program, the most received by any UC campus, said UCR’s Director of Sustainability John Cook.

Napolitano’s office provided $7,500 to each of the UC’s 10 campuses in February to encourage students to get involved in the UC’s carbon neutrality and sustainability goals, which include getting each campus back to the same level of emissions it had in 1990. That’s a huge task for UC Riverside, Cook said, because the campus has grown from about 6,000 students in 1990 to more than 22,000 today, with expanded research programs and new schools of engineering and medicine that didn’t exist before.

“We have the biggest challenge of all the UCs, but we can figure it out,” Cook said. “We have the willpower and brainpower on campus to do it, and that’s what this fellowship does; it puts the brainpower and student engagement together, so we can all be a part of the solution and it’s not just something that happens at the physical plant somewhere. It’s the whole campus working together.”

The five winning proposals will each receive $1,500 to complete their projects by the end of 2015, said Matt Barth, UCR professor of electrical and chemical engineering and a member of the UC Global Climate Leadership Counsel. Barth and Cook helped choose the winning proposals along with UCR Professor of Geology Mary Droser, who sits on the education subcommittee of the UC Global Climate Leadership Counsel.

“I would definitely say all the applications were great,” said Barth. “We were extremely surprised to get so many applications with such a short turnaround period. This fellowship is giving students a chance to show off their ideas while helping us meet our sustainability goals, and they’ve given us some pretty good stuff.”

UCR’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2025 demonstrates what makes UCR and Riverside a catalyst for innovation. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

For the complete article, click here.

CBU Student Initiates Robotics Program

(This article contains excerpts from the article by Chanthou San and published in CBU Banner on March 6, 2015.)

Photo Credit: CBU Banner
Photo Credit: CBU Banner

After a car accident five years ago caused a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones, Rebecca Trupp, senior mechanical engineering major at California Baptist University, was forced to relearn basic life skills.

Trupp dreamed of designing and working for NASCAR and felt she had to re-evaluate her career when she was no longer able to process mathematical and engineering concepts.

In 2012, Trupp developed an outreach program using NAO robots with guidance from Dr. Anthony Donaldson, dean and professor of the College of Engineering, and Dr. Liya Grace Ni, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The NAO robots were first introduced when the College of Engineering received a W.M. Keck grant of $250,000. The money funds Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) hardware, as well as advanced computing and full-body robots and robotics equipment.

Trupp reached out to local schools to educate students on engineering along with other opportunities available with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree.

With a passion to serve her community, she accepted a challenge proposed by Donaldson to recruit K-12 students with programmed robots. It was then that the NAO Outreach program was implemented.

The NAO Outreach program serves as an example of the possibilities that come from engineering programs. Promoting engineering from CBU is only a portion of a nationwide campaign designed to educate and encourage more students to pursue an education in STEM. Programs like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Encouraging students to pursue an education in STEM is no easy task, but for Rebecca Trupp robotics is her her vehicle to do so. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

To read the full article, click here.

Glass Coating Improves Battery Performance

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon in UCR Today on March 2, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR
Photo Credit: UCR

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles.

However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries. One of the main problems is the tendency for lithium and sulfur reaction products, called lithium polysulfides, to dissolve in the battery’s electrolyte and travel to the opposite electrode permanently. This causes the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.

Researchers in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have investigated a strategy to prevent this “polysulfide shuttling” phenomenon by creating nano-sized sulfur particles, and coating them in silica (SiO2), otherwise known as glass.

The work is outlined in a paper, “SiO2 – Coated Sulfur Particles as a Cathode Material for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries,” just published online in the journal Nanoscale. In addition, the researchers have been invited to submit their work for publication in the Graphene-based Energy Devices special themed issue in RSC Nanoscale.

Ph.D. students in Cengiz Ozkan’s and Mihri Ozkan’s research groups have been working on designing a cathode material in which silica cages “trap” polysulfides having a very thin shell of silica, and the particles’ polysulfide products now face a trapping barrier – a glass cage. The team used an organic precursor to construct the trapping barrier.

“Our biggest challenge was to optimize the process to deposit SiO2 – not too thick, not too thin, about the thickness of a virus”, Mihri Ozkan said.

A schematic illustration of the process to synthesize silica-coated sulfur particles. Photo Credit: UCR Today
A schematic illustration of the process to synthesize silica-coated sulfur particles. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Graduate students Brennan Campbell, Jeffrey Bell, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zachary Favors, and Robert Ionescu found that silica-caged sulfur particles provided a substantially higher battery performance, but felt further improvement was necessary because of the challenge with the breakage of the SiO2 shell.

“We have decided to incorporate mildly reduced graphene oxide (mrGO), a close relative of graphene, as a conductive additive in cathode material design, to provide mechanical stability to the glass caged structures”, Cengiz Ozkan said.

The new generation cathode provided an even more dramatic improvement than the first design, since the team engineered both a polysulfide-trapping barrier and a flexible graphene oxide blanket that harnesses the sulfur and silica together during cycling.

“The design of the core-shell structure essentially builds in the functionality of polysulfide surface-adsorption from the silica shell, even if the shell breaks”, Brennan Campbell said. “Incorporation of mrGO serves the system well in holding the polysulfide traps in place. Sulfur is similar to oxygen in its reactivity and energy yet still comes with physical challenges, and our new cathode design allows sulfur to expand and contract, and be harnessed.”

This advancement in battery technology is an outstanding model of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar.  The students and staff at UC Riverside cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do in Riveside, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

The work was funded by the Winston Chung Global Energy Center at UC Riverside.

To read the full article, click here.

Novel Pretreatment Could Cut Biofuel Costs By 30 Percent Or More

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on February 23, 2015.)

Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. Photo Credit UCR Today
Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. Photo Credit UCR Today

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less.

The BioEnergy Science Center is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center focused on enhancing science and technology to reduce the cost of biomass conversion through support by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy Office of Science..

“As recent months have shown, petroleum prices are inherently unstable and will likely return to high prices soon as expensive sources are taken off line,” said Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. “We have created a transformative technology that has the potential to make biofuels an economic sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”

“These findings are very significant because they establish a new pretreatment process that can dramatically reduce enzyme loadings and costs, thereby improving the competitiveness for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels,” said Wyman, who has focused on understanding and advancing biofuels technologies for more than 30 years. “Understanding the mechanisms responsible for achieving these intriguing results can also suggest even more powerful paths to improving the economics of converting non-edible biomass into sustainable fuels.”

This advancement in biofuels is an outstanding model of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar.  The students and staff at UC Riverside cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do in Riveside, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

For the full article, click here.