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Materials engineering

Winter 2017

Fighting infection a new, old way

Before antibiotics were invented, people often used silver, a known antimicrobial that can also be toxic, to tackle infections.

Researchers in the early 1900s also noticed a mysterious and inconsistent effect from using a mild electric current to kill nasty microbes.

Both methods were problematic, though, and were quickly abandoned with the advent of antibiotics, which killed bacteria so effectively throughout the twentieth century.

Now, as the efficacy of conventional antibiotics wanes, Washington State University researchers are reinventing old ideas to fight bacterial infection.

At their lab in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose have developed a nontoxic … » More …

Spring 2017

Emergence

Last August, shifting sands on a well-trafficked beach along Oahu’s west coast revealed 400-year-old carvings left behind by Hawaiian indigenous people. The 17 petroglyphs etched into the sandstone on Waianae Coast, and the stories they tell, had never been recorded. Without the right conditions, they may have remained hidden for years or centuries.

Archaeological sites like the one in Hawai‘i, or ancient buried pyramids and tombs in Egypt, open up their secrets when the conditions are right, but sometimes even plainly visible ruins hold mysteries. Mesa Verde’s astounding Cliff Palace and other Pueblo sites provide insight into the continent’s past civilizations to … » More …

Spring 2017

Paths that grew crystal clear

Crystals reflect the best of nature’s handiwork. With their atoms aligned in repeating 3D patterns, crystals can be as momentary as a snowflake or as common as the sodium chloride in table salt. They can sparkle on a finger, scatter rainbows across the room, or be grown on your kitchen table with a few ingredients from the hobby shop.

Some also possess unusual properties, such as quartz crystal’s ability to generate a tiny electrical current when pressure is applied. Known as the piezoelectric effect, this useful phenomenon helped inspire the rise of a global, multibillion dollar crystal growth industry.

Today, manmade crystals power an astonishing … » More …

Stretchable metal thumb
Summer 2016

Video: Stretchable electronics

 

Rahul Panat, an engineering professor at Washington State University’s Voiland College, and his colleagues Professor Indranath Dutta and graduate student Yeasir Arafat, recently demonstrated a significant advance in flexible electronics by showing that the metal indium, deposited as a thin film on a polymer substrate, can be stretched to twice its length without breaking—“a quantum improvement,” Panat says, over current methods.

 

Read about wearable electronics and flexible conductors in “Smart Couture.”

 

Summer 2003

Leveling the playing field

In softball, success or failure happens when the ball meets the bat. The faster a batted ball travels, the greater the likelihood of a batter’s success. Softball bat manufacturers are using technology to create bats that hit the ball harder than ever-but not everyone is pleased with the results.

Recent advances in softball bat performance raised concerns with the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) that softball bats generating high batted ball speeds were giving individuals an unfair advantage in competition and creating safety problems, says Lloyd Smith, an associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.

Since 2000, the ASA, … » More …

Summer 2004

A Winner: Small-World Photomicrography

This photograph of a thin copper film surface by former Washington State University materials science student Megan Cordill won 16th place in Nikon’s 29th annual Small World Competition. The photograph is part of a touring exhibit.

The previous year, Cordill placed both first and third in the Cornell University Microscopy Image Competition.  Cordill received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU in 2002 and 2003, and is now working toward her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Summer 2004

Wave of the Future

Hands-on training doesn’t get better than this. After six months of construction, Washington State University assistant professor of architecture Robert Barnstone and 10 architectural design students recently completed what is essentially the world’s first wood-plastic building.

The project is a demonstration for the U.S Navy to show that wood-plastic products can be used wherever wood comes into contact with the ground, Barnstone says. The result is a structure at WSU’s Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory (WMEL) that represents the ultimate in “reuse and recycle,” built entirely by undergraduate students from the architecture and engineering programs. The overall project engaged students, professionals, and professors, who guided … » More …