../Morning Post
Posted March 17 , 2010
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Technology

Waterloo students exhibit inventive projects in nanotechnology, electrical/computer engineering

WATERLOO - Senior students in two University of Waterloo engineering programs, including the first graduating class in nanotechnology, will display inventive design projects next week.

On Friday, March 26, students graduating in the inaugural class of the nanotechnology program will exhibit such wide-ranging projects as eye-wear tinting controlled with the push of a button, miniaturized pesticide testing devices and an electronic nose to detect dangerous vapours.

Earlier, on Wednesday, March 24, students in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) will exhibit such varied projects as a new water treatment system for home use, an energy converter for more efficient hybrid cars and a system that offers high-quality sound in a light bulb.

Both events, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m., will be held at the William G. Davis Computer Research Centre on the Waterloo campus. Visitors are encouraged to browse the interactive displays and meet with students anytime during the symposium.

On Friday, the inaugural nanotechnology design symposium highlights the work done by the first students to enter the program. They will graduate this spring. The innovative multi-disciplinary program, launched in 2005, teaches how to exploit the special properties that arise when materials are fabricated on the nano-size scale.

"We are excited to see the first product of Waterloo's new nanotechnology engineering program in this class of graduating students, and the designs they have fostered," said Hany Aziz, the fourth-year design project co-ordinator. "Certainly the new and cutting edge nature of the program as well as the multidisciplinary nature of the work is well reflected in the projects to be displayed."

More than 65 students will present 16 interactive projects in seminar format to guests from industry and the academic community. Students will also display working design project prototypes at a poster presentation session running throughout the entire day.

On Wednesday, at the 10th annual ECE symposium, students will present design solutions to problems related to transportation systems, software design, health and fitness, home automation, power systems, communication systems, entertainment systems, user input devices, aerospace technology and robotics.

"This is a unique opportunity for members of the local community and the media to meet some of Waterloo's exceptional engineering students and interact with their innovative design projects first-hand," said Bill Bishop, fourth-year design project co-ordinator. "The symposium showcases the talent and innovation of our students graduating this year from the electrical and computer engineering program."

More than 220 students will present 49 interactive projects in seminar format to guests from industry and the academic community. Students will also display working design project prototypes at a poster presentation session running throughout the entire day. For details, visit eceprojects.uwaterloo.ca/symposium.html.

The Infusion Cup will be awarded for the best overall design project at the ECE symposium. The prize is sponsored by Infusion Angels, a company located at the Waterloo research and technology park.

The nanotechnology projects include:

* Fast-tinting Electrochromic Eyewear
The project demonstrates an electrochromic technology that allows controlling the level of tint in prescription eyewear. Glasses can switch between transparent and darkened states almost instantaneously, a dramatic improvement over the unsightly five- to 10-minute delay of competing Transitions lenses when moving from outdoors to indoors. Power is only used when switching, so a simple watch battery is all that is required to operate the device.

* Electronic Nose

The project showcases a special sensor device, inspired by the human nose, that can be incorporated into electronic devices to give them the sense of smell. The device senses a limitless number of gases and determines all of the gases in various gas mixtures and their concentrations. It has the ability to calculate any error in its measurements. The device surpasses the capabilities of the human nose.

* Photodetection of Dichlorvos Pesticide using Lab-on-a-Chip Technology

The project demonstrates a portable lab-on-a-chip device capable of detecting dichlorvos residues, a pesticide currently used by many North American farmers despite concerns about its toxicity and carcinogenicity. The device is inexpensive, easy to operate and eliminates the need for laboratory testing.

* Night vision stealth coating

Infrared detection devices are heavily used in the military field as a method to detect enemy troops in the surrounding environment. As such, the ability to counteract this detection can provide a strategic military advantage. This project introduces a novel coating, using carbon nanotubes, that can be synthesized and applied to fabrics to enable night vision invisibility for stealth operations.

The ECE design projects include:

* PEF Water Treatment

The project demonstrates a compact design of a point-of-use system that enables non-chemical treatment of microbial content through water electroporation. This system avoids the use of chemical water treatments that alter the taste and odour of water. Ultimately, it may lead to a reduction in the consumption of bottled water. Electroporation allows permanent inactivation of microbial content in a liquid through the application of intense electric fields. These strong electric fields stress the cell membrane of the microbes leading to their rupture.

* Bi-Directional Buck-Boost DC/DC Converter for a Plug-In Hybrid Fuel-Cell Vehicle

The project demonstrates the design of a bi-directional buck-boost DC/DC converter to regulate power between a battery and a load, so that a fuel-cell used in a plug-in hybrid vehicle can operate at maximum efficiency. This design allows control of the division of power between the battery and the fuel-cell, thereby optimizing the use of power from each component. It also allows for recharging the battery through regenerative braking.

* Project IRIS

The project demonstrates the design of a high-altitude imaging system that utilizes a low-cost meteorological balloon to lift a reusable imaging and communications system to an altitude of 100,000 feet and then descend safely to Earth. During the course of its flight, the system maintains real-time communication with a ground control station, permitting an operator to issue new commands for image acquisition and file transfer. The imaging system can track fixed points on the ground so the operator can send geographic coordinates for detailed imaging.

* Audio Bulb

The project demonstrates a system that delivers high-quality sound and lighting in a common light bulb form factor. It provides efficient lighting as well as immersive audio without the need for the intrusive wires of traditional speakers. The light and sound can be conveniently controlled wirelessly through a computer interface. The audio bulb can be configured to produce different lighting and sound profiles, while still supporting traditional on/off control via light switches.

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 30,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For further details, visit www.uwaterloo.ca.

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