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Raising Healthy, Successful Children

January 28, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

Analysis of Recent Census Data Shows Family Income Impacts Parenting Practices More Than Family Structure

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Parenting practices matter in the long-term emotional and cognitive health of children. A new briefing paper by Dr. Sandra Hofferth, professor of family science in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, analyzes recent data on parenting practices compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. Published by the Council on Contemporary Families, the report by Hofferth notes that although the Census Report found some differences by family type, most American parents -- married, divorced, single, or unmarried and co-habitating -- read to their children, monitor their children’s media exposure, engage their children in extra-curricular activities and make an effort to regularly eat meals together with their kids.

Most of the differences in parenting practices between family types were small and not a cause for concern. For example, married parents reported reading to children aged 3-5 an average of 6.8 times a week, compared to 6 times a week for single parents of children the same age. Likewise, most families with children ages 6-17 reported eating breakfast together at least 5 days a week.

There are however notable differences in children’s experiences based on income level of the family. “For example, the children of parents who are below poverty level don’t get to engage in as many extracurricular activities,” Hofferth explains. “This is significant because children’s participation in extracurricular activities is related to their scores in school, their achievement, their ability to get into college and to succeed later on.”

Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2008 PanelThe Census report documents differences in children’s involvement in extracurricular activities by the income of the household and reveals that within each activity and across all family types, children whose family poverty status was 200 percent of poverty or higher had greater activity partici­pation levels than children living below poverty or those whose pov­erty status was 100 to 199 percent of poverty. For example, the extracurricular participation in sports of children in families at 200 percent or more of the poverty level is 42.5 percent, while the participation of those in poverty is 22.5 percent, a difference of 20 percentage points. The difference between children of two married parents and children with a single parent was only 10 percentage points (44 percent vs. 34 percent).

“The big issue is resources,” Hofferth suggests. “Our rate of child poverty in the U.S. is extremely high – 22 percent overall and 26 percent for kids 6 and under. We should be concerned about this because it does make a difference in terms of what parents do with children and that can have long term consequences for kids’ outcomes and ultimately societal outcomes.”

Hofferth noted that on many of the positive parenting indicators the Census Bureau reported, children in families headed by two unmarried parents were similar to children in families with only one parent (who were also likely to be poor), suggesting that it is not the number of parents, but having low resources that dramatically limits involvement in clubs, lessons and sports.  This limits important opportunities for skill-building and social development.    

Other nations have addressed this issue by providing more resources to make sure that families who participate in the work force will have sufficient resources so that they will rear healthy and socially and academically successful children with many opportunities to succeed, through tax credits for employment, for children, and for child care expenses, plus paid parental leave.  Thus child poverty rates in Scandinavia average 3 to 4 percent and those of Western Europe average only 9 percent, compared with 22 percent in the U.S.

UMD Researcher Shows China’s Economic Growth Diminishing its Water Supply

January 27, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

International Experts Say Findings are a Warning to all Nations

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland Professor of Geographical Sciences, Klaus Hubacek, and a team of international researchers have published new findings outlining the alarming future of China’s water supply, as the country’s booming economy and human activities continue to deplete its natural resources. 

The experts’ new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compiles for the first time a full inventory of physical water transfers and “virtual” water redistribution via trade between Chinese provinces.

The study demonstrates that this water threat is only partially mitigated by China's current two-pronged protection approach: physical water transfers to water-depleted regions, including the major South-North water transfer projects, and the unintentional “virtual” water flows associated with the production of traded products between regions and countries.

Moreover, these efforts—which are meant to alleviate the problem—are actually exacerbating water stress for China's poorer water-exporting regions, with virtual water transfers accounting for more than one-third of the country's national water supply. Up to 65% of the water supply in some provinces is earmarked for virtual water redistribution, to be used for infrastructure and for producing exports.

Until China significantly improves its water use efficiency and addresses the impact its expanding economy is having on its natural resources, the situation will continue to deteriorate, the researchers conclude.

"China must take concrete steps to improve outlooks and outcomes for its natural resource supplies, and must recognize that economic growth comes at the price of environmental damage," Hubacek said. "Our research offers a clear warning not only for China, but for every nation on the planet: the price for economic development cannot be severe environmental destruction."

President’s Proposed Tax Credit Designed by UMD Faculty

January 23, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

Second Earner Tax Credit Would Fix Unintentional Penalty, Offer Relief to Millions

University of Maryland economists, Professors Melissa S. Kearney and Lesley J. Turner, developed the second earner tax credit proposed by President Obama at Tuesday's State of the Union address. Based on a December 2013 Hamilton Project paper and policy proposal by Kearney and Turner, Kearney outlined the paper and the policy proposal in person with President Obama over the summer, and said implementation of the credit would make a positive difference for U.S. families and for the economy. Download the full paper.

"I am absolutely thrilled to see the President propose a second earner credit. This is a simple fix to the tax code that would help address the unintentional, unfortunate second earner penalty inherent to the current U.S. system. The credit that the President is proposing is pro-work, pro-family, and targeted on low- and middle-income families. As such, it should earn widespread political appeal. It represents a step in the right direction and would offer economic relief to millions of working couples."

In their paper, Kearney and Turner illustrate how the family-based nature of the U.S. federal income tax system leads to a secondary earner penalty. Specifically, the tax and transfer system has an inherent second earner penalty that discourages work efforts and reduces the return to work for a second earner within a married couple. For families headed by a married couple, spousal income is pooled, and the first dollar of earnings by a spouse—or second earner —is taxed at the marginal tax rate of the last dollar earned by the primary worker. When children are present, a spouse’s work efforts often bring associated child-care costs, making the return to work even lower.

Kearney and Turner’s estimates suggest that under the current federal tax and transfer system, and assuming standard child-care costs, a family headed by a primary earner making $25,000 a year will take home less than 30% of a spouse’s earnings. To address this situation, the economists propose a secondary earner deduction for low- to moderate-income families. They show that this incremental modification to the tax code would increase disposable income for low to middle class families with two earners.

Kearney and Turner are among several members of UMD’s Department of Economics who directly inform U.S. economic policy discussions and decisions. Professor Katharine Abraham was recently a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. The department’s chair, Dr. Maureen Cropper, has served as chair of the EPA Science Advisory Board Environmental Economics Advisory Committee and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. To learn more, visit www.econ.umd.edu.

Team Finds New Order in Exotic Superconductors

January 22, 2015

Abby Robinson 301-405-5845

UMD discovery may advance synthesis of materials that can superconduct at room temperature

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – All known superconductors – materials that conduct electricity with no energy loss – require cooling to very low temperatures. Even the best “high temperature” superconductors, those made of copper-oxide ceramics called cuprates, operate at sub-freezing temperatures colder than the coldest places on Earth. These cuprates require cooling with liquid nitrogen, which is not practical for many potential superconducting applications, such as smart power grids, advanced wireless communications and power-storage technologies and new imaging systems.

However physicists from the University of British Columbia and the University of Maryland have made a new investigation into a phenomenon called "charge ordering." Charge ordering appears to compete with superconductivity in cuprates and may be a key to understanding this class of superconductors. 

Charge ordering behavior, previously observed only in a class of cuprates known as hole-doped cuprates, has now been detected by the UMD/UBC team in electron-doped cuprate superconductors for the first time. Doping involves adding impurities to the cuprate materials to produce either electrons or holes, which spur cuprate materials to exhibit unusual behaviors, such as superconductivity.

Their findings published Jan. 15, 2015 online in the journal Science -- suggest that charge order may be a universal feature of high-temperature superconductors. Because charge order appears to compete with superconductivity in cuprates – and thus lower the temperature at which superconductivity takes place – figuring out how to control or neutralize this competing phenomena might allow cuprates materials to superconduct at higher temperatures. In addition, gaining a better understanding of charge ordering may help scientists determine the specific mechanism for superconductivity in cuprates and eventually lead to the synthesis of materials that can superconduct at room temperature. 

"This study’s surprising results indicate that charge order must play a very important, as yet unknown, role in high-temperature superconductivity," said Richard Greene, UMD professor of physics. "The cause of high-temperature superconductivity continues to be a major unsolved question in condensed matter physics 28 years after its discovery."

In superconductors, electrons overcome their repulsion and form pairs that move in unison and conduct electricity without resistance. In a charge-ordered state, interaction between electrons keeps them locked into a rigid pattern, which limits their ability to make the freely moving pairs required for superconductivity.

"The universality of charge ordering across very different materials shifts our perspective, and could propel future breakthroughs. We need to understand how charge ordering is formed in materials and ideally tune it, allowing superconductivity to occur at temperatures closer to room temperature," said Eduardo H. da Silva Neto, a postdoctoral fellow with UBC’s Quantum Matter Institute and the Max-Planck-UBC Centre for Quantum Materials, who led the study’s experimental work with former UBC Ph.D. student Riccardo Comin.

Superconductors have found use most prominently in medical imaging (MRI machines) and Japanese Maglev 'Bullet' trains, but power utilities, electronics companies, the military and theoretical physics have all benefited strongly from the discovery of these materials.  Accomplishing the decades-old goal of finding a room temperature superconductor could transform energy use and spur revolutionary new technologies and developments in many fields.  

For the current study, UBC researchers led by Andrea Damascelli conducted resonant X-ray scattering studies on electron-doped cuprate superconductor samples prepared by UMD physics postdoctoral fellow Yeping Jiang to confirm the presence of charge ordering. 

Following the confirmation, the researchers investigated a possible prerequisite for charge ordering, and consequently the suppression of superconducting properties—the “pseudogap”. This gap in the energy level of a material’s electronic spectrum has been closely associated with superconductivity and has been documented to exist at temperatures just above those that give rise to superconductivity.

In the current study, the researchers found that charge ordering gradually developed in the electron-doped cuprate samples at a temperature much higher than the pseudogap, contrasting previous observations in hole-doped cuprates. The findings indicate the pseudogap is not a prerequisite for charge ordering or superconductivity in electron-doped materials. This knowledge could be an important clue to solving the 28-year-old mystery of the cause of high-temperature superconductivity, according to Greene.

"Our next experiments will be to study the doping dependence and temperature dependence of the charge order in electron-doped cuprates in the hopes of better understanding its role in high-temperature superconductivity," said Greene.

Robots Learn by Watching Videos

January 13, 2015

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267 

Tom Ventsias 301-405-5933

Autonomous robots can learn and perform complex actions via observation

Imagine having a personal robot prepare your breakfast every morning. Now, imagine that this robot didn’t need any help figuring out how to make the perfect omelet, because it learned all the necessary steps by watching videos on YouTube. It might sound like science fiction, but a team at the University of Maryland has just made a significant breakthrough that will bring this scenario one step closer to reality.

UMD computer scientist Yiannis Aloimonos (center) is developing robotic systems able to visually recognize objects and generate new behavior based on those observations. Photo: John T. ConsoliResearchers at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) partnered with a scientist at the National Information Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence in Australia (NICTA) to develop robotic systems that are able to teach themselves. Specifically, these robots are able to learn the intricate grasping and manipulation movements required for cooking by watching online cooking videos. The key breakthrough is that the robots can “think” for themselves, determining the best combination of observed motions that will allow them to efficiently accomplish a given task.

The work will be presented on Jan. 29, 2015, at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference in Austin, Texas. The researchers achieved this milestone by combining approaches from three distinct research areas: artificial intelligence, or the design of computers that can make their own decisions; computer vision, or the engineering of systems that can accurately identify shapes and movements; and natural language processing, or the development of robust systems that can understand spoken commands. Although the underlying work is complex, the team wanted the results to reflect something practical and relatable to people’s daily lives.

"We chose cooking videos because everyone has done it and understands it," said Yiannis Aloimonos, UMD professor of computer science and director of the Computer Vision Lab, one of 16 labs and centers in UMIACS. "But cooking is complex in terms of manipulation, the steps involved and the tools you use. If you want to cut a cucumber, for example, you need to grab the knife, move it into place, make the cut and observe the results to make sure you did them properly."

One key challenge was devising a way for the robots to parse individual steps appropriately, while gathering information from videos that varied in quality and consistency. The robots needed to be able to recognize each distinct step, assign it to a “rule” that dictates a certain behavior, and then string together these behaviors in the proper order.

UMD researcher Cornelia Fermüller (left) works with graduate student Yezhou Yang (right) on computer vision systems able to accurately identify and replicate intricate hand movements. Photo: John T. Consoli"We are trying to create a technology so that robots eventually can interact with humans," said Cornelia Fermüller, an associate research scientist at UMIACS. "So they need to understand what humans are doing. For that, we need tools so that the robots can pick up a human’s actions and track them in real time. We are interested in understanding all of these components. How is an action performed by humans? How is it perceived by humans? What are the cognitive processes behind it?"

Aloimonos and Fermüller compare these individual actions to words in a sentence. Once a robot has learned a “vocabulary” of actions, they can then string them together in a way that achieves a given goal. In fact, this is precisely what distinguishes their work from previous efforts.

"Others have tried to copy the movements. Instead, we try to copy the goals. This is the breakthrough," Aloimonos explained. This approach allows the robots to decide for themselves how best to combine various actions, rather than reproducing a predetermined series of actions.

The work also relies on a specialized software architecture known as deep-learning neural networks. While this approach is not new, it requires lots of processing power to work well, and it took a while for computing technology to catch up. Similar versions of neural networks are responsible for the voice recognition capabilities in smartphones and the facial recognition software used by Facebook and other websites.

While robots have been used to carry out complicated tasks for decades—think automobile assembly lines—these must be carefully programmed and calibrated by human technicians. Self-learning robots could gather the necessary information by watching others, which is the same way humans learn. Aloimonos and Fermüller envision a future in which robots tend to the mundane chores of daily life while humans are freed to pursue more stimulating tasks.

"By having flexible robots, we’re contributing to the next phase of automation. This will be the next industrial revolution," said Aloimonos. "We will have smart manufacturing environments and completely automated warehouses. It would be great to use autonomous robots for dangerous work—to defuse bombs and clean up nuclear disasters such as the Fukushima event. We have demonstrated that it is possible for humanoid robots to do our human jobs."

In addition to Aloimonos and Fermüller, study authors included Yezhou Yang, a UMD computer science doctoral student, and Yi Li, a former doctoral student of Aloimonos and Fermüller from NICTA.

Researcher Demonstrates Link Between Urbanization and Reduced Global Energy Use

January 13, 2015

Andrew Roberts 301-405-2171

Smart urbanization could save up to 25 percent of global energy use by 2050

A new collaborative study led in the U.S. by the University of Maryland suggests that urban planning and transport policies can limit the future increase in cities’ energy use by about one-quarter, from 730 exajoules (or EJ, a standard measurement unit for city-scale electricity consumption) to 540 EJ in 2050. The limitation of future consumption is particularly critical, as current urbanization trends suggest that world-wide urban energy use will more than triple by 2050.

The study, led by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates that cities in developing countries throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East have the highest potential for energy savings through urbanization – 86 percent of the world’s total potential savings. In order to achieve these savings however, current and future urban planning methodologies must focus short commutes between home and work places – driven by mutually supportive public transportation and land use development.

Energy use of world cities. Energy use increases with economic activity, especially for low levels of GDP per capita. High population density cities and higher fuel prices are associated with lower energy use.

The team of researchers behind this groundbreaking study, including Giovanni Baiocchi, an associate professor in University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences, together with researchers at the MCC, Yale University, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, also identified mitigation options in “mature” cities (those whose land use and transportation systems have been fully developed). For example, higher fuel prices in the United States would enable more compact development in eco-centric and progressive cities like Boulder, Colorado.    

"Using global data on cities we produced a typology of cities based on their energy use and associated emissions, useful at tailoring mitigation measures for different cities,” says Baiocchi, lead U.S. researcher on the study. One key message extracted through this approach is that the eight different types of cities found in the study each need different mitigation policies to maximize their impact on energy consumption. 

One particular area of focus for the multinational research team is China, whose urban areas are responsible for more than 80% of the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“Fast developing cities with low fuel prices and high heating demands have the largest potential for reducing emissions,” explains Baiocchi. “This is particularly evident for energy-intensive cities in China that are located in colder climates. The high-energy demands of these cities combined with China's dependence on coal, greatly contributes to the pollution problems we see today. It is important that China continues to target inefficiencies and invest in energy conservation.”

The study, titled “A Global Typology of Urban Energy Use and Potentials for an Urbanization Mitigation Wedge,” used data sets from the World Bank and the Global Energy Assessment and modeled the development of 274 cities, representing all city sizes and regions worldwide. “Through this study we provide critical new insights into how different types of cities can most effectively mitigate the effects of climate change,” says Felix Creutzig, lead author of the study and head of the working group Land Use, Infrastructures and Transport at the MCC. “The mitigation potential is greatest in rapidly growing cities and in cities where infrastructure is not set in place.”

Poll Probes American Public Attitudes Toward ISIS and Syria

January 8, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

In a new public opinion survey, Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, provides a detailed picture of American public attitudes toward ISIS and the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The poll probes the complex and often divided reasoning behind public attitudes.

Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings InstitutionKey questions addressed in the poll include:

  • What drives Americans’ support for the anti-ISIS struggle?
  • Are Americans confident that the current strategy will permanently defeat ISIS? 

"It’s been puzzling that the American public suddenly became open to American intervention in the Middle East, after Iraq war fatigue. The beheadings by ISIS don’t provide a compelling enough answer. Our poll was designed to probe more deeply into the reasons behind the public’s change of mind and to explore the degree to which Americans want to plunge more deeply into a war with ISIS," Professor Telhami said. 

"Among the key findings is that one main reason the public sees ISIS as a major threat is that they perceive it as an extension of Al-Qaeda, with which the U.S. remains at war. Nonetheless, the public remains opposed to sending ground forces even if current efforts fail--although Republicans are far more supportive of deploying ground forces than other Americans."

Professor Telhami provided detailed analysis on January 8, as the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings released results from this poll at a special event.

Read the full report about the poll.

Dr. Telhami was joined in the discussion of his poll by E.J. Dionne, Jr., Senior Fellow at Brookings and Washington Post columnist; and by Susan Glasser, editor, POLITICO. Tamara Cofman Wittes, senior fellow and director of the Center for Middle East Policy, provided introductory remarks and served as the moderator. The discussion is scheduled to be aired on C-Span.

Follow the discussion via #ISISpoll.

Study Transforms Understanding of Plant Evolution

January 8, 2015

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267

Common genes in algae and land plants remain intact after 450 million years of evolution 

Microscopic images of Spirogyra pratensis filaments showing the spiraling green chloroplasts for which Spirogyra is named. Photo: Bram Van de PoelLand-based plants—including the fruits and vegetables in your kitchen—produce and respond to hormones in order to survive. Scientists once believed that hormone signaling machinery only existed in these relatively complex plants. But new research from the University of Maryland shows that some types of freshwater algae can also detect ethylene gas—the same stress hormone found in land plants—and might use these signals to adapt to changing environmental conditions. 

The study, published online Jan. 8, 2015 in the inaugural issue of the journal Nature Plants, documents the ethylene signaling pathway in charophytes—a lineage of green algae that are the closest relatives of land plants. The results suggest that the genes and cellular machinery responsible for the ethylene pathway have remained relatively intact across species for more than 450 million years, dating back to when charophytes and land plants evolved from a common aquatic ancestor. At this point in Earth’s history, plants and other organisms had not yet colonized land. Except for a few scattered species of algae and bacteria, all life still inhabited the world’s lakes, streams and oceans.

The discovery has the potential to transform our understanding of plant evolution and the ways in which plants react to environmental stress. With drought, climate change, pollution, and other stressors affecting crops and natural ecosystems alike, such discoveries could help future efforts to adapt to our changing world.

"We found the complete ethylene pathway, well known in land plants, in a non-plant. That’s the astounding thing," said Caren Chang, a study co-author and professor in the UMD Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. "This changes our perspective on the world. Ethylene normally regulates fruit, flowers, leaves...all things that charophytes just don’t have."

Cell elongation in response to ethylene is seen in these microscopic images of Spirogyra pratensis filaments before (top) and after (bottom) exposure to ethylene.  Photo: Bram Van de PoelAlthough present in all land plants, the ethylene pathway can have various functions. The hormone, which exists as a gas in its natural state, can ripen fruit, induce flowering or cause leaves to separate from their branches. There are no absolute rules, however. For example, in some species ethylene can stimulate growth, while in others it has the opposite effect. But in all cases, the molecular machinery responsible for sensing the ethylene molecule is exactly the same. Importantly, as the current study shows, it is nearly identical in charophytes as well. 

To arrive at their conclusions, the team relied on an innovative combination of advanced bioinformatics techniques and laboratory experiments. They studied five different types of modern charophytes to gather genetic and molecular data, and found signatures of the ethylene pathway in all of them. They then zeroed in on one species, Spirogyra pratensis, to study the algae’s reaction to ethylene. They found that ethylene caused the cells of Spirogyra to become longer—as much as twice their normal length, if exposed to enough of the gas.

It will take more work to determine why Spirogyra benefits from this reaction, and what exactly it might be responding to. But Chang and her colleagues have some guesses. Spirogyra lives in shallow pools of freshwater, and sometimes these pools dry out, leaving mats of algae sitting atop shelves of mud. Elongation of these stressed cells could help Spirogyra filaments maintain contact with the water until the next rainstorm. 

Or, perhaps the opposite is true: in a heavy deluge, algal mats could become swamped and lose contact with the light-soaked, oxygen-rich surface waters they normally inhabit. In this case, elongated filaments could help the algal cells regain contact with the surface quickly. 

"This study has profound implications for understanding the mechanisms of the plant stress response and the colonization of land 450 million years ago," said Charles Delwiche, also a study co-author and professor in the UMD Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. "Now that we understand that the system is the same in land plants and algae, we can likely extrapolate the results to other plants."

Spirogyra filaments showing normal cells on the left and elongated cells on the right.  The cell outline is blue, and within each cell, the spiraling chloroplast is red. Photo: Bram Van de Poel Chang points out that the ethylene pathway is just the beginning. The bioinformatics data turned up evidence of several other hormone pathway genes in modern charophytes, all of which are ripe for future study. 

"We don’t know whether these pathways will be the same as land plant pathways," as is the case with ethylene, Chang said. "Some will most likely be different, which is a good thing. We’ll gain a lot more knowledge than if we had looked at a common land plant, such as corn."

"If you stand anywhere on Earth, except maybe Antarctica, and look around, you’re seeing a landscape dominated by plants," Delwiche said. "This work helps advance our fundamental understanding of life on this world."

In addition to Chang and Delwiche, study authors included UMD research associates Chuanli Ju, Endymion D. Cooper and Bram Van de Poel (currently at Ghent University, Belgium); graduate student Theodore R. Gibbons; and undergraduate researcher James Thierer (currently at the Carnegie Institution for Science).

Saving Energy with 'Personal HVAC Systems'

December 23, 2014

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

UMD awarded more than $5 million by ARPA-E to fund potentially transformational research

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Two research teams from the University of Maryland are launching new federally-funded research projects designed to create personal technologies for keeping individuals comfortably cool or warm, while shrinking the energy needs of the buildings they occupy. 

The UMD projects, which will receive combined funding of more than $5 million, are two of 11 projects supported through a new $30 million  Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program entitled DELTA, or Delivering Efficient Local Thermal Amenities. The program supports research to develop technologies that can regulate temperatures of building occupants, rather than of the overall building, dramatically reducing the building’s energy consumption and associated emissions.

"Maryland leads the nation in energy research and innovation," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, "These are smart investments in the most innovative early stage research that leads to new ideas, new products and new jobs. I’m so proud of the Maryland researchers leading the way in technologies that will make our nation safer and our economy stronger."

The Meta-Cooling Textile project, led by Department of Chemistry Associate Professor YuHuang Wang with co-principal investigators (Co-PI) Associate Professor Bao Yang (Mechanical Engineering), Associate Professor Min Ouyang (Physics) and Assistant Professor Liangbing Hu (Materials Science and Engineering), will develop a thermally-responsive fabric that extends the skin’s thermoregulation ability to maintain comfort in hotter or cooler office settings.

To provide cooling in hotter surroundings, the fabric's meta-fiber will increase its infrared emissivity and shrink to open pores in the fabric to increase ventilation. In cooler conditions, these effects reverse to increase the garment’s ability to insulate the wearer. The added bidirectional regulation capacity will expand the thermal comfort range, thereby lowering the heating and cooling requirements for buildings.

The Robotic Personal Conditioning Device team, led by Center for Environmental Energy Engineering Director and Minta Martin Professor of Engineering Reinhard Radermacher, with co-PIs Professor Jelena Srebric and Assistant Research Scientist Dr. Vikrant Aute, is aimed at developing a mobile platform to provide personalized cooling to individuals. 

The platform will contain a small, battery-powered, high-efficiency vapor compression heat pump to provide localized air conditioning as needed during the day while dumping stored heat and recharging batteries at night. The highly portable nature of the platform and accompanying sensor and control system will allow it to be optimally placed to improve personal comfort and reduce the energy required to cool buildings.

"This project is a paradigm shift in how people stay comfortable in homes and buildings," said Radermacher. "This is mobile air conditioning in totally new context, not in the traditional sense of automotive air conditioning, but supplementing or substituting for traditional air conditioning."  

Radermacher and his team envision a small, compact air conditioning unit that can follow the user and provide cool or warm air only where (and when) needed. This would increase energy efficiency by reducing the need to cool large spaces like offices.   

ARPA-E is directed by Ellen Williams, a UMD Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, who is on leave from the university. ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store and use energy.


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