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From international, national and local sources, highlights continuously updated news, events, and announcements affecting Virginia’s engineering community. Virginia’s Professional/Technical societies, colleges and universities, private firms, and industry are strongly encouraged to submit news pertaining to their engineering activities. We want to hear from and about you. Contact us at for details.

Most Recent News Item:
Researchers Focus on Creating Better Capacitors
June 19, 2019

How best to power machines of the future, everything from cell phones to electric cars, is the never-ending quest of today’s scientists and researchers. In their search for solutions, capacitors, given their high energy output and recharging speed, are garnering more and more interest. However, these energy storage devices have a major drawback in that they store much less energy than a battery of similar size.

Rampi Ramprasad, a professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, holds an aluminum-based capacitor. Credit: Allison Carter.

Now, according to information provided by the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), researchers there are tackling that problem in a novel way, using machine learning to ultimately find ways to build more capable capacitors.

Their new method, described in the journal npj Computational Materials and sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, involves teaching a computer to analyze at an atomic level two materials that make up some capacitors: aluminum and polyethylene.

The researchers focused on finding a way to more quickly analyze the electronic structure of those materials, looking for features that could affect performance.

“The electronics industry wants to know the electronic properties and structure of all of the materials they use to produce devices, including capacitors,” said Rampi Ramprasad, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering who holds the Michael E. Tennenbaum Family Chair and is the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Energy Sustainability.

As Dr. Ramprasad explained, when you take a good look at a material like polyethylene, you find that it is a very good insulator with a large band gap—an energy range forbidden to electrical charge carriers. But if it has a defect, unwanted charge carriers are allowed into the band gap, reducing efficiency.

“In order to understand where the defects are and what role they play, we need to compute the entire atomic structure, something that so far has been extremely difficult,” noted Dr. Ramprasad, “The current method of analyzing those materials using quantum mechanics is so slow that it limits how much analysis can be performed at any given time.”

Dr. Ramprasad and his colleagues, who specialize in using machine learning to help develop new materials, used a sample of data created from a quantum mechanics analysis of aluminum and polyethylene as an input to teach a powerful computer how to simulate that analysis.

Analyzing the electronic structure of a material with quantum mechanics involves solving the Kohn-Sham equation of density functional theory, which generates data on wave functions and energy levels. That data is then used to compute the total potential energy of the system and atomic forces.

Using the new machine learning method produces similar results eight orders of magnitude faster than using the conventional technique based on quantum mechanics.

“This unprecedented speedup in computational capability will allow us to design electronic materials that are superior to what is currently out there,” Dr. Ramprasad emphasized. “Basically we can say, ‘Here are defects with this material that will really diminish the efficiency of its electronic structure.’ And once we can address such aspects efficiently, we can better design electronic devices.”

According to Dr. Ramprasad, while the new study focused on aluminum and polyethylene, machine learning could be used to analyze the electronic structure of a wide range materials. Additionally, other aspects of material structure now analyzed by quantum mechanics could also be hastened by the machine learning approach, he noted.

“In part we selected aluminum and polyethylene because they are components of a capacitor, but it also allowed us to demonstrate that you can use this method for vastly different materials, such as metals that are conductors and polymers that are insulators,” Dr. Ramprasad said.

The faster processing allowed by the machine learning method would also enable researchers to more quickly simulate how modifications to a material will impact its electronic structure, potentially revealing new ways to improve its efficiency.

News Items
Below are listed the 12 most recent News Items.
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Researchers Focus on Creating Better Capacitors
June 19, 2019

New method uses machine learning to ultimately find ways to build more capable capacitors.

Broadest Study of Battery Electrode Failure Published
June 19, 2019

Study provides the first macro view to complement the existing micro studies in the battery literature.

Wagman Honored as Winner of Contractor Safety Award at VTCA
June 18, 2019

Wagman Heavy Civil, Inc. received a Contractor Safety Award during the 2019 Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) Spring Transportation Construction Conference in Norfolk, Va.

Smart Phone and Silicon Chips May Provide Simple Home Diagnostics
June 18, 2019

The simplest home medical tests might look like a deck of various silicon chips coated in special film…

SETTY Opens New Office In Charlottesville, Virginia
June 17, 2019

SETTY, one of the country’s largest complex building design firms, announced the opening of its Charlottesville office.

Regional Winners In America's Transportation Awards Competition Announced
June 17, 2019

Winners are the first to be announced in a total of four regional competitions.

Dewberry Opens New office In Roanoke, Virginia
June 14, 2019

Dewberry, a privately held professional services firm, has announced the opening of a new office in Roanoke, Virginia, to serve clients in the region.

Bats Ears Come With "Built-in Ambulance"
June 14, 2019

Anybody who has been passed by an ambulance at high speed has experienced a physical effect called the Doppler shift…

Study Focuses On Hydrodynamic Behavior Of Electrons In Graphene
June 13, 2019

Electrons in two-dimensional graphene can literally act like a liquid.

ASCC Publishes 44th Position Statement
June 13, 2019

The American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC), St. Louis, MO, has published its forty-fourth Position Statement, “Measuring Air Content in Non-Air-Entrained Concrete.”

ACI Adds Two Online, On-demand Courses To Its ACI University
June 12, 2019

The American Concrete Institute (ACI) has added two online, on-demand courses to its ACI University: Ward R. Malisch Concrete Construction Symposium Parts 1 and 2.

Biobattery Developed That May Power Disposable Sensors
June 12, 2019

In the future, small paper and plastic devices will be able to connect to the internet for a short duration…

News Items Archive
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