2016 Research Magazine

Research in Brief

By Allison Mills

Research in Brief: Explore short stories about the amazing work our researchers do at Michigan Tech every day. 

Sound Science

Christopher Plummer, associate professor of visual and performing arts
Christopher Plummer, associate professor of visual and performing arts

Michigan Tech researchers from the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES), the Department of Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics, and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts have joined together to bring natural sounds to the U.J. Noblet Forestry Building atrium. Using sound to create different feelings and awareness of the space, they’ve created a soundscape, a combination of sounds that form an immersive environment, an acoustic ecology. www.mtu.edu/forest


Cloaking Tech

Elena Semouchkina, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering
Elena Semouchkina, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering

Becoming invisible is no magic trick. Elena Semouchkina, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and her graduate students have developed several novel approaches to making an “invisibility cloak.” Making objects invisible comes down to manipulating light, in other words, bending beams of light around an area to hide the object. Semouchkina and her team started beam bending with metamaterials—periodic structures comprised of metallic resonators, which can speed up electromagnetic waves. These structures, however, have drawbacks: the cloaking frequency band is narrow and they lose energy at the frequency shift from microwave to infrared range. Therefore, the group switched to all-dielectric structures made from either ceramic or chalcogenide glass elements. That helped to develop both microwave and infrared cloaks. Later, they proposed a new approach to cloaking objects by using multilayer coatings formed from ordinary dielectrics. The group is making new advances. They are working on incorporating photonic crystals in the media of cloaks to replace metamaterials and provide new opportunities for manipulating the light. www.mtu.edu/ece


Smarter Power

Wayne Weaver, an associate profession in electrical engineering
Wayne Weaver, an associate professor of electrical engineering

Wayne Weaver, an associate professor of electrical engineering, is working on smart power systems that use adaptive, predictive, and decision-making algorithms that can learn system behavior. These technologies allow reliable use of energy storage and renewables in small grids, and allow the power grid to grow through the ability to chain multiple microgrids together. This enables distributed control over a larger power network for vastly improved reliability of the power supply and significant fuel consumption reduction. www.mtu.edu/ece/research/current


Better Measurements, Better Research

In photography, artists say a bad photograph can’t be made better with digital manipulation. Filters don’t x blurry. In research, this also holds true for data. And quality data needs quality machines.

Several new acquisitions on campus are raising the bar. These instruments are improving our science, making research more accessible to students, and will especially enhance interdisciplinary research. Plus, no one has to fly out in a snowstorm or drive hundreds of miles to run analyses at other universities. People can come to us instead.

High-Resolution Mass Spectrometer

Lynn Mazzoleni, Chemistry and Atmospheric Sciences

Get Detailed—analyze sensitive environmental samples, everything from infant tears to wastewater to peat pores.


GLOS Buoy

Guy Meadows, Great Lakes Research Center

Weather the Waves—through storms and sun, monitor the Straits of Mackinac, one of the most important stretches in the Great Lakes.


Transmission Electron Microscope

Stephen Hackney, Material Sciences and Engineering

Imaging Atoms—bombard materials with electrons and get atom-by-atom details of structures in batteries, nanomaterials, and atmospheric samples.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.