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UMD, Italy & MoonEx Join to Put New Laser-Reflecting Arrays on Moon

June 10, 2015
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Mission Will Advance UMD-Led Science Started With Apollo 11 in 1969

Artist’s rendering of Moon Express MX-1 spacecraft orbiting the Moon in preparation for landing. MX-1 will deliver the "MoonLIGHT" payloads to the lunar surface to help solve the mysteries of Einstein's General Relativity, investigate lunar geophysics, and develop precision navigation "lighthouses" for future missions. Graphic provided by Moon Express.

COLLEGE PARK Md. – The University of Maryland, The National Laboratories of Frascati, Italy, and Moon Express (MoonEx), a leading contender in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, recently announced they will deliver a new set of lunar laser ranging arrays to the Moon over a series of missions that are anticipated to begin in 2017. 

The partners said the new arrays will allow more accurate measurements, which will be used to test principles of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, add to international scientific knowledge of the Moon
and increase lunar mapping accuracy. 

“Our ‘Lunar Laser Ranging Retroreflector for the 21st Century (LLRRA-21/MoonLIGHT)’ next generation lunar laser ranging arrays offer a promising way to test general relativity and other theories of gravity. Such studies may help us understand the nature of dark energy, a mysterious force that appears to constitute almost 70 percent of the Universe,” said University of Maryland astrophysicist Doug Currie

Currie and his colleague, UMD physicist Carroll Alley, were principal scientists for the Apollo arrays that were deployed during the Apollo missions that first validated the idea of using lunar-based mirrors for cosmology purposes.

Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment is in the foreground.  In the background are the stereo camera (right) and Apollo 11 lunar lander (left).  (NASA image number AS11-40-5952).

Laser ranging is used to precisely measure the distance between the Earth and Moon as each body rotates and moves through its orbit. Laser pulses are sent from a telescope on Earth to the retroreflector array on the moon. The corner-cube reflectors (mirrors) of the array send the pulse straight back to the originating telescope where the distance measurement is recorded. "It's like hitting a ball into the corner of a squash court," said Alley explaining the technique in a 2004 NASA science news article on the only experiment from the Apollo moon missions that is still running today.

“Our agreement with Moon Express allows us to get our new lunar laser ranging arrays to the Moon cost effectively and to potentially revolutionize our understanding of gravity,” said Currie.

The LLRRA-21/MoonLIGHT Lunar Laser Ranging Retroreflector Array was developed as collaboration primarily between the University of Maryland and the Frascati branch (LNF) of The Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) of Italy, together with additional Italian partners, the Matera Laser Ranging Observatory of ASI and the University of Padova and with collaborators at the University of Hannover, Hannover, Germany and the Czech Technical University, Prague, the Czech Republic.

"These tests reach to the core foundational principles of general relativity," said Simone Dell'Agnello of The National Laboratories of Frascati. "Any detected violation would require a major revision of current theoretical understanding of the way the universe works."  

Laser pulses are sent from telescopes on Earth to retroreflector arrays on the moon.Plans call for Moon Express to land the LLRRA-21/MoonLIGHT instruments on its first four missions to the lunar surface, with an initial technology demonstration mission planned for 2017. The agreement between the parties was announced May 15 in Frascati, Italy, in connection with a Global Exploration Roadmap workshop of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG). 

"The LLRRA-21/MoonLIGHT arrays are beautiful payloads for us," said Bob Richards, co-founder and CEO of Moon Express, Inc., a privately funded commercial space company. "It's amazing to think that Moon Express could help solve fundamental science questions of cosmology while furthering knowledge of the Moon that helps our future missions with this series of elegant and relatively low cost payloads."

Moon Express began flight-testing of its MTV-1 lander test vehicle at Kennedy Space Center in December 2014. The company recently announced an agreement with Space Florida to take over the historic Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral to become the home of its lunar lander development and flight test operations beginning early this year.

UMD's National Center for Smart Growth Maps a Future of Opportunity for Baltimore

June 10, 2015
Contacts: 

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

"Opportunity Maps" Illustrate Strengths and Weaknesses of the Baltimore Region,
Prove Integral to First-Ever Regional Sustainability Plan

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A series of maps that illustrate gaps in opportunity, developed by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG), was the basis for Baltimore’s first-ever comprehensive regional plan to create strong, sustainable communities and break the continuous cycle of poverty for many inner-city families. Presented this week to city and state policymakers by The Opportunity Collaborative (The Collaborative), The Baltimore Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD) is a comprehensive roadmap to help the region coordinate investments in housing, transportation and workforce development, reduce disparities and increase quality of life for the entire Baltimore metropolitan area.

“We need meaningful changes, not just in the city, but regionally,” said Councilman Bill Cole, Baltimore’s 11th District, at this week’s event, which drew hundreds of stakeholders from around the region. 

The NCSG developed the maps, known as opportunity maps, through an extensive, coordinated effort with The Collaborative and an Opportunity Mapping Advisory Panel (OMAP), consisting of regional experts and community stakeholders. Over a three-year period, NCSG researchers analyzed a vast and varied collection of data from public and private sources, resulting in maps that illustrate where economic, social and environmental strengths and weaknesses lie in the Baltimore metropolitan region, including Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties. The maps examine regional opportunity in six categories: education; training and workforce development; housing and neighborhood quality; crime and social capital; public health and environment; employment; and transportation and mobility. 

To produce these maps, the NCSG and OMAP reviewed over 100 key indicators—including high school dropout rates and infant mortality, median income, poverty rates, access to transit, civic institutions and social capital. The project is the largest and most comprehensive snapshot of equity and opportunity in Baltimore’s history. 

“I am so glad to be attending the launch of Baltimore’s RPSD,” Tweeted HUD Regional Administrator Jane Vincent. “This plan holds so much promise for the Baltimore region.”

Findings: Prosperity Begins at the City Limits 

The maps illustrate a wide disparity between parts of the region – particularly in housing, safety, health, and education – with the City of Baltimore lagging grossly behind its suburban counterparts. The highest opportunity areas for education exist outside Baltimore City, with Howard County making the top of the list. The city also fared poorly in housing and neighborhood quality; based on home values, gross rents, and vacant abandoned units, the OMAP housing composite index, like the education index, results in the five counties all having an average percentile rank above 50 percent. Baltimore City fell in the 17th percentile, whereas Howard County was in the 87th percentile.

In constructing the public health and safety index, OMAP placed the largest emphasis on crime, low birth weight and access to greenspace. Consequently, the less-urban Carroll County received the highest score for this index, ranking in the 84th percentile. Baltimore City was the only jurisdiction to have an average score below the 50th percentile.

While Baltimore City has a higher level of mobility and job accessibility compared to other parts of the state, its workers have longer commute times and inadequate public transit to the state’s prospering job centers, many of which lie in the suburban areas. A single composite map, in which all of the six categories are combined and weighed equally, shows Howard County receiving the highest average opportunity score (83rd percentile), followed by Anne Arundel (67th), Baltimore (58th), Harford (41st) and Carroll (34th) Counties. Baltimore City has the lowest average opportunity score (24th percentile).

“The Baltimore Regional Plan for Sustainable Development is the region’s first comprehensive effort to develop and implement a regional strategy for economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, and social equity,” said Gerrit Knaap, Director of UMD's National Center for Smart Growth, who served on the Opportunity Collaborative’s Steering and Nexus Committees. “As a member of the Opportunity Collaborative, The National Center for Smart Growth was pleased to have been engaged in the effort from start to finish.”

The Collaborative hopes outcomes of the RPSD will help direct policy decisions as the region moves forward to create more equity and opportunity for the region’s poorest citizens. By formalizing regional housing and workforce development strategies and connecting them with the regions Long Range Transportation Plan, the Opportunity Collaborative will seek to form new partnerships to continue the implementation effort.

The Opportunity Collaborative is a consortium that includes local governments, state agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations. The co-chairs of The Collaborative are William H. Cole IV, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, and Scot T. Spencer, of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

UMD Among Top Universities for Most Researchers Awarded DOD MURI Grants

June 9, 2015
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

UMD Researchers Represented on 6 of 22 Teams Awarded University Research Initiative Grants by the Department of Defense

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland researchers are involved with more than a quarter of the research teams awarded 2015 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grants by the Department of Defense (DOD). UMD is represented on 6 of the 22 teams that received awards, putting UMD in a three-way tie with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University for the most grants involving any one university in 2015. UMD is also the lead institution on one of the awards.

A highly competitive program, the MURI program supports research teams, primarily at academic institutions, whose work spans multiple traditional science and engineering disciplines in order to accelerate research progress. The Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 19 topics important to the DOD. After a total of 289 white papers were submitted, followed by a total of 76 proposals, 22 teams were selected to receive awards worth a total of $149 million over the next 5 years. MURI awards provide students and researchers with long term support that is important for discovery and applied research programs.

"The University of Maryland's outstanding performance in securing these MURI awards, tied for the highest number of any university, demonstrates our world class, interdisciplinary research expertise in science and engineering," said UMD Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick O'Shea.

MURI award recipients include the following UMD researchers:

Professor Wolfgang Losert of the Department of Physics, the Institute of Physical Sciences and Technology (IPST), and the Institute of Research in Electronics and Applied Physics (IREAP), is the lead on a successful MURI proposal entitled "Understanding and Controlling the Coupled Electrical, Chemical & Mechanical Excitable Networks of Living System." Professor Patrick Kanold (Biology) and Professor John Fourkas (Chemistry and Biochemistry) will also participate in the research. The initiative is led by the University of Maryland.

Professor Mohammad Hafezi of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), and IREAP will join a MURI effort to study "Engineering Exotic States of Light with Superconducting Circuits." This MURI effort is led by Princeton University.  

Professor Kiyong Kim (Physics/IREAP) and Professor Howard Milchberg (ECE/Physics/IREAP) will join a MURI project entitled "Harnessing Strong-Field MidInfrared (IR) Lasers: Designer Beams of Relativistic Particles and THz-to-X-ray Light." The initiative is led by the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Professor YuHuang Wang (Chemistry and Biochemistry) will be joining a MURI project entitled "A 4D Nanoprinter for Making and Manipulating Macroscopic Materials.” The initiative is led by Northwestern University.

Professor Bryan Eichhorn (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and Professor Michael Zachariah (Chemistry and Biochemistry) will be joining a MURI team working on a project entitled "Metalloid Cluster Building Blocks and Their Inclusion with Composite.” This research project is led by Johns Hopkins University. 

Professor Sarah Bergbreiter (Mechanical Engineering and the Institute for Systems Research) will be joining a MURI team working on a project entitled “Evolutionary Mechanics of Impulsive Biological Systems: Guiding Scalable Synthetic Design.” The initiative is led by Duke University. 

Over the past 29 years, the DOD's MURI program has resulted in significant capabilities for U.S. military forces and opened up entirely new lines of research. Visit the DOD website to learn more about the MURI program and the 22 research initiatives that were awarded. 

In a March 3 Science magazine “ScienceInsider” news article, editor David Malakoff noted: “Since it was founded in the mid-1980s, MURI has become a mainstay of DOD’s basic research programs, accounting for about one-quarter of the $1 billion in basic research funding that the Pentagon spends annually at U.S. universities. In some fields, including computer science, engineering research, and math, the military is now the dominant U.S. funder of fundamental science. Whereas many of DOD’s funding efforts focus on single-investigator grants, MURI aims to unite researchers from different disciplines and universities on a single project.”

New Study Finds "Sesame Street" Improves School Readiness

June 8, 2015
Contacts: 

Laura Ours, University of Maryland, 301-405-5722
Sofiya Cabalquinto, Wellesley College, 781-283-3321

Professors Levine and Kearney with the Jim Henson statue at the University of Maryland, Kearney's institution and Henson's alma materCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – New research, coauthored by University of Maryland economist Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College economist Phillip B. Levine, finds that greater access to Sesame Street in the show’s early days led to improved early educational outcomes for children – and adds evidence to the argument that television can have a positive impact on society. While previous targeted studies conducted by the Educational Testing Services (ETS) in the early 1970s found that exposing children to Sesame Street increased preschoolers’ test scores, the new study provides evidence that the generation of children who were of preschool age when the show aired did better in school once they got there.

Additional Key Findings

  • Boys and black, non-Hispanic children experienced the largest benefits
  • Effects are largest for children living in economically disadvantaged areas

Kearney and Levine investigated whether groups of preschool children exposed to Sesame Street when it first aired in 1969 continued to experience improved outcomes. The results of their analysis indicate that the introduction of Sesame Street led to a positive impact on performance throughout elementary school. In particular, children with greater exposure to the show were more likely to be academically on track. 

Kearney and Levine draw this conclusion after examining differences in access to Sesame Street that resulted from TV technology in the 1960s, when some stations broadcast on UHF channels and others on VHF channels. UHF broadcasts were weaker, which meant that children growing up in areas where Sesame Street was broadcast on UHF had limited access to the television show. 

“Children who were preschool age in 1969 and who lived in areas with greater Sesame Street coverage were significantly more likely to be at the grade level appropriate for their age through school. The effect on grade-for-age status is particularly pronounced among boys and black, non-Hispanic children,” said the authors. “Living in a location with strong reception instead of weak reception reduced the likelihood of being left behind by 16 percent for boys and 13.7 percent for black, non-Hispanic children.”

According to Levine, “It is remarkable that a single intervention consisting of watching a television show for an hour a day in preschool can have such a substantial effect helping kids advance through school.” He also notes that millions of children watched a typical episode back then, making this a very cost effective approach. “Our analysis suggests that Sesame Street may be the biggest and most affordable early childhood intervention out there, at a cost of a just few dollars per child per year, with benefits that can last several years.” 

Kearney adds, “With so much emphasis on early childhood interventions these days, it is quite encouraging to find that something so readily accessible and inexpensive as Sesame Street has the potential to have such a positive impact on children’s school performance, in particular for children from economically disadvantaged communities. These findings raise the exciting possibility that TV and electronic media more generally can be leveraged to address income and racial gaps in children’s school readiness.” 

Sesame Street was born in the late 1960s during a time when the importance of early childhood experiences began gaining more traction. Since our founding, Sesame Street has revolutionized early learning by using media to make educational opportunities accessible, helping children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.  Drs. Kearney and Levine’s research reaffirms the intention Joan Ganz Cooney and the team that created Sesame Street set out to accomplish. We are thrilled to see the positive effects of Sesame Street as a population-based intervention – especially for those less privileged,” said Dr. Jennifer Kotler Clarke, Vice President, Research and Evaluation, Sesame Workshop. 

The study, “Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street,” will be published by the National Bureau of Economic Research on June 8, 2015 and will be available online

UMD Students Receive Critical Language Scholarships to Pursue Studies Around the World

June 5, 2015
Contacts: 

Leslie Ann Brice 301-314-1289

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Ten University of Maryland students have received awards from the Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) Program to pursue intensive language studies around the world during the summer of 2015. This surpasses the university’s previous record of nine CLS awards won by students and alumni in 2014, and ranks second among Big Ten institutions.

These students are among the approximately 550 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State’s CLS Program this year. The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. It provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. 

“Our students’ success in the Critical Language Scholarship competition reflects their passion for learning languages and engaging with cultures and societies around the globe,” said Dr. Francis DuVinage, director of UMD’s National Scholarships Office. “Our awardees’ experiences this summer will help launch them on careers addressing a diverse range of international issues.”

Prabhleen Aneja, (Award to study Punjabi in India)
Prabhleen is a rising junior majoring in Community Health.

Avan Antia (Award to study Hindi in India)
Avan is a rising senior majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Spanish. She is a member of the Integrated Life Sciences Program of the University Honors College.

Sahaana Arumugam, (Award to study Arabic)
Sahaana is a rising junior majoring in Arabic Studies and Community Health, is a member of the University Honors Program, and participated in the Federal Semester program.

Marco Carralero, (Award to study Urdu in India)
Marco is a rising senior with majors in History and Government and Politics, as well as a minor in French. He is a member of the Civicus program and the Language House.

Emily Cheung (Award to study Chinese in the People’s Republic of China)
Emily is a 5th-year senior majoring in Chinese and Psychology. Emily is a member of the Gemstone program of the University Honors College, and is also a recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Taiwan for the 2015-2016 academic year. 

Holly Clark, (Award to study Arabic in Morocco)
Holly Clark graduated from UMD in December 2014. She was an Arabic Studies major and participant in the Arabic Flagship program. 

Hannah Doxzen, (Award to study Chinese in the People’s Republic of China)
Hannah is a rising junior majoring in Chinese and Government and Politics, and is a member of the Language House. 

Laura Garvie, (Award to study Indonesian in Indonesia)
Laura is a rising junior majoring in Geographical Sciences with minors in French and Global Poverty. She is a member of the Language House and of the Federal Semester program.

Zachary Goldblatt, (Award to study Arabic in Jordan)
Zachary is a rising sophomore majoring in Arabic Studies and minoring in Terrorism Studies. He is also a member of the Arabic Flagship Program and of Global Communities.

Lindsay Jodoin (award to study Arabic in Jordan)
Lindsay is a rising senior majoring in Government and Politics and minoring in Arabic. Lindsay is also a recipient of a 2015 Boren Scholarship, and will continue her studies of Arabic in Jordan throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. 

John Mathena, (Award to study Arabic in Tunisia)
John is a sophomore majoring in Linguistics and Psychology, and is a member of the Global Communities Program. 

For additional information on the Critical Languages Scholarship Program, visit www.clscholarship.org.

UMD Small Business Development Center Awarded Federal Grant to Assist Baltimore Businesses

June 4, 2015
Contacts: 

Glenna Cush 301-403-8300 ext. 34

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced that the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Maryland will receive a grant of more than $250,000 as part of a state funding package aimed to help rebuild areas of the Baltimore community impacted by the recent civil unrest.  

“The SBA is committed to empowering Baltimore’s entrepreneurs to rebuild and realize their potential,” said Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Based on preliminary assessments by the SBDC, in which members of the center toured neighborhood businesses, spoke to existing clients and attended community meetings, Baltimore area businesses will require immediate and long-term, in depth assistance.  

The overall package consists of several components, including funding for microloans and grants, assistance to small businesses seeking to obtain government contracts, an increase for entrepreneurial development funding, and a targeted push to bring high-tech innovation to Baltimore.  

Funds will be used to augment the assistance currently provided. The SBDC will secure and deploy one additional full-time senior business advisor and one part-time bilingual business advisor to address the needs of the affected businesses; provide comprehensive assessment of overall impact from business disruption; assist owners in calculating/documenting estimates of damage/loss; identify and assist businesses in securing financial resources including grants and low interest loans;  work individually with businesses to develop a strategic plan to ensure future success; and deliver disaster preparedness training.

“These funds will allow us to broaden our reach and provide much needed support to businesses outside our current client base,” said Renée Sprow, director of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Maryland.   

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Maryland federal officials Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. John Sarbanes, and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, and SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Natalia Olson-Urtecho, as well as Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) President and CEO William H. Cole, IV attended the special event where the grant announcement was made.

The Small Business Development Center specializes in providing assistance to businesses in various stages of development. It is headquartered at the University of Maryland and manages 5 regional offices through the state.

For more information, visit www.marylandsbdc.org.

Pluto's Moons Seen in Highest Detail Yet

June 3, 2015
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

New UMD study provides an exciting preview in advance of New Horizons flyby

This illustration depicts Pluto and its five moons from a perspective looking away from the sun. It is adapted from a classic Voyager I montage of Jupiter's Galilean moons, and is intended to highlight similarities between the Pluto and Jupiter systems when adjusted for size. Approaching the system, the outermost moon is Hydra, seen in the bottom left corner. The other moons are roughly scaled to the sizes they would appear from this perspective, although they are all enlarged relative to the planet. NASA/JPL/M. Showalter, SETI InstituteCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Much ink has been spilled over Pluto’s reclassification as a dwarf planet. And yet, such discussions have not diminished scientific interest in Earth’s most distant cousin. A new study by the University of Maryland is the first to reveal fascinating details about the orbital and rotational patterns of Pluto and its five known moons. 

The study, to be published in the June 4, 2015 issue of the journal Nature, describes a system dominated by Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, which together form a “binary planet.” Four smaller moons orbit this pair. The paper reports the techniques used to discover the two smallest moons, Kerberos and Styx, and also provides a detailed description of the strange and unpredictable rotational states of the two slightly larger moons, Nix and Hydra. 

Later this summer, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will pass by Pluto and its five known moons, providing the most detailed look at this planetary system to date. Kerberos and Styx were discovered in 2011 and 2012, respectively, while Nix and Hydra were first discovered in 2005.

“Like good children, our moon and most others keep one face focused attentively on their parent planet,” said Douglas Hamilton, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the Nature study. “What we’ve learned is that Pluto’s moons are more like ornery teenagers who refuse to follow the rules.”

The imbalanced and dynamically shifting gravitational field created by Pluto and Charon sends the smaller moons tumbling in unpredictable ways. The effect is amplified by the fact that the moons are roughly football shaped, rather than rounded spheres. The findings are the result of a comprehensive analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data regarding the orbits and properties of the four smaller moons.

In contrast to these seemingly random rotational motions, the moons follow a surprisingly predictable pattern as they orbit the binary planet formed by Pluto and Charon. Three of them—Nix, Styx and Hydra—are locked together in resonance, meaning that their orbits follow a clockwork pattern of regularity. The same effect can be seen in three of Jupiter’s large moons.

“The resonant relationship between Nix, Styx and Hydra makes their orbits more regular and predictable, which prevents them from crashing into one another,” Hamilton said. “This is one reason why tiny Pluto is able to have so many moons.”

The study also revealed that Kerberos is as dark as charcoal, while the other moons are as bright as white sand. “This is a very provocative result,” said lead author Mark Showalter, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute. Astronomers had predicted that dust created by meteorite impacts should coat all the moons evenly, giving their surfaces a uniform look. 

This composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, at the center. Pluto's four smaller moons orbit this binary planet and can be seen to the right and left. The smaller moons must be imaged with 1000x longer exposure times because they are far dimmer than Pluto and Charon. Credit: NASA/STScI/M. Showalter, SETI Institute“Prior to the Hubble observations, nobody appreciated the intricate dynamics of the Pluto system,” Showalter said. The New Horizons flyby in July may help solve the mystery of Kerberos’ dark surface, and will refine scientists’ understanding of the odd rotational and orbital patterns uncovered by Hubble. The New Horizons team is using Showalter and Hamilton’s discoveries to help guide science planning efforts. 

Among other expected insights, a more detailed study of the chaotic Pluto-Charon system could reveal how planets orbiting a distant binary star might behave. Although many exoplanets have been found to orbit binary stars, these star systems are too far away to figure out their rotational patterns using existing technology.

“We are learning that chaos may be a common trait of binary systems,” Hamilton said. “It might even have consequences for life on planets orbiting binary stars.”

The research paper, “Resonant interactions and chaotic rotation of Pluto’s small moons,” Mark Showalter and Douglas Hamilton, will be published on June 4, 2015, in the journal Nature

UMD Teams Awarded More Than Five Million Dollars to Improve Power Plant Cooling

June 2, 2015
Contacts: 

Jennifer Rooks 301-405-1458
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The U.S. Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded two University of Maryland research teams more than five million dollars in funding to improve power plant cooling technologies.

Image of a classic coal fired power plantThe majority of electricity used in the U.S. is produced by steam-driven turbine generators that rely on water cooling systems that collectively use billions of gallons of water each day. Dry-cooling systems - which use air to cool and transfer waste heat – are a potentially transformational alternative, with multiple environmental and energy advantages. However, to date, significant technical and market challenges have hindered the widespread use of dry-cooling technologies.

The UMD projects are 2 of 14 funded as part of a $30 million investment by ARPA-E's Advanced Research in a Dry Cooling (ARID) program to spur transformative new power plant cooling technologies such as innovative, ultra-high-performance air-cooled heat exchangers and supplemental cooling systems and/or cool-storage systems that can cost-effectively and efficiently reject waste heat.

The first project, "Novel Microemulsion Absorption Systems for Supplemental Power Plant Cooling," aims at developing an absorption cooling systems for power plants which utilizes a novel microemulsion liquid absorbent.

Led by Department of Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Bao Yang, the project's principal investigators include Professor Michael Ohadi and Minta Martin Professor Reinhard Radermacher, who is also the director of UMD’s Center for Environmental Energy Engineering. The team will also work with partners at Stony Brook University, the Electric Power Research Institute, WorleyParsons Group and Rocky Research.

"It is a team effort," Yang said. "Each partner has unique technical expertise to bring to this project."

Yang's team and its partners will use a novel microemulsion liquid absorbent, recently invented by the UMD researchers for use in absorption cooling systems for power plants. These materials absorbents can absorb water vapor (refrigerant), and release the water as liquid during desorption, thus achieving a high coefficient of performance. Waste heat from the power plant flue gas will drive the microemulsion cooling system to provide supplemental cooling below the ambient temperature.

The second project, led by Professor Michael Ohadi, "Novel Polymer Composite Heat Exchanger for Dry Cooling of Power Plants," also targets improving power plant cooling technologies through the development and application of new composite heat exchangers that use a low-cost, high conductivity medium encapsulated in a polymeric material that is highly durable, low cost and has a high resistance to corrosion.

Ohadi's UMD team includes Professor Hugh Bruck, Associate Research Scientist Serguei Dessiatoun and Assistant Research Scientist Amir Shooshtari, who will serve as co-PIs, along with Professor Joshua Pearce at Michigan Technological University and Dr. Arun Muley at Boeing Research and Technology, Huntington Beach. Dr. Justin Zachary at ExperTech Engineering Corp. will serve as consultant on the power plant feasibility studies and serve as the link between the project and the power plant community.

The team's novel polymer composite heat exchangers for indirect air cooling of power plants are superior to current state-of-the-art metallic heat exchangers in terms of cost, performance, lifespan and corrosion resistance. In addition, the team can keep production and assembly costs low by using onsite additive manufacturing (3-D printing) technologies.

“These new projects emphasize ARPA-E’s commitment to developing a wide range of technology   options to ensure a more affordable and sustainable energy future,” said ARPA-E Director Dr. Ellen D. Williams. “Investing in innovative dry cooling technologies for power plants as well as intermediate density fusion illustrates ARPA-E’s role in accelerating energy research and development.”

Both Yang and Radermacher are also part of two additional ARPA-E funded projects awarded in December 2014 as part of a new federally-funded research initiative to design and create personal technologies for keeping individuals comfortably cool or warm, while shrinking the energy needs of the buildings they occupy.

Yang, Ohadi and Dessiatoun are faculty in the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering. In addition, Yang, Ohadi and Radermacher are also members of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center.

PALS Delivers One Million Dollars in Project Value to Maryland Communities

June 2, 2015
Contacts: 

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

UMD students present year-end sustainability projects to College Park and City of Frederick for UMD’s Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Sixteen disciplines. Three hundred and fifty students. Nearly one million dollars in project value. This year, a new campus-wide program proved its strength in numbers, delivering sustainable solutions to environmental, social and economic challenges to two Maryland cities. Twenty-nine projects—which ranged from calculating greenhouse gas emissions to re-envisioning a downtown block—were the culmination of coursework from the inaugural year of the University of Maryland’s Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability, or PALS. 

Developed by the University’s National Center for Smart Growth, PALS pairs faculty expertise and student ingenuity with sustainability challenges facing Maryland communities. The PALS mission is to provide high quality, low-cost assistance to local governments while creating an active and valuable real-world learning experience for UMD students.  PALS initiated its first partnership with The City of Frederick, Maryland in September of 2014, adding a second, smaller collaboration with College Park in January. 

An interdisciplinary course that combines architecture, sculpture and urban planning, entitled “Making Place: Public Art & Design on the Border, challenged students to explore City-University connections through guerilla art and urban whimsy.  PALS students, faculty and administrators presented their second semester project findings to city officials, campus administrators and community stakeholders at public events in each city this past month. The year-end presentations offered both cities a snapshot of work and effort by the students, whose goal was to provide information and analysis that will help influence decision-making down the line, as well as offer recommendations for possible action. 

The College Park presentation, which took place May 21, provided an overview of four projects addressing specific goals identified by the city: a calculation of College Park’s annual greenhouse gas emissions; designs for a new City Hall-University building; an examination of waste management practices; and how thought-provoking public art can bridge the town-gown relationship.

Students from Professor Robert Nelson’s public policy course, who addressed greenhouse gas emissions with the assistance of Environmental Finance Center Program Manager Sean Williamson, proposed a new initiative, the Small Town Energy Program (STEP) as a way to continue the City’s trend of lowering its emissions. Modeled after successful programs in peer communities like University Park, the STEP Program would use a minimalist budget to provide residents audits and energy coaches, banking on the notion that most residents want to lower energy costs and shrink carbon footprints.

“I’m excited that we’re doing this and excited to see this presentation,” said College Park Councilman P.J. Brennan. “Reducing our greenhouse gas initiatives is a key goal for the City and this is an important step.” 

“This partnership goes beyond our land grant mission as a university because the City of College Park is our home,” said Uri Avin, Director of the PALS Program. “Our students feel a duty and desire to make College Park a more vibrant, connected community. PALS is one way we can collaborate with the City to achieve that goal.” 

Students from the College Park Scholars program brainstorm ideas to simplify composting efforts for Frederick restaurantsFrederick’s event on May 25 highlighted seven of the nine spring projects developed by the Program, with several projects zeroing in on the more industrialized East Frederick area, exploring ways to connect the city, spur job growth and create a strong sense of place. A number of the teams consulted peer projects in developing their recommendations, a testament to the program’s interdisciplinary reach. 

“What sets PALS courses apart from a typical learning experience is that we are working in tandem with all these other courses across campus,” explains Assistant Professor of Architecture Jana Vandergoot. “We’ve had so many great interactions between faculty and students from other programs. It’s been a bit of a game-changer for my students.”

“The exercises we completed in this class were unlike any I’ve ever experienced in or outside academic work,” explained UMD sophomore Matthew Reilly, whose College Park Scholars course created a composting and organics recovery plan for Frederick restaurants. Reilly’s classmate, Austin Font, added, “It taught me to consider and think in different ways and I find myself applying that thinking to situations everywhere now. It was a great opportunity.”

Frederick will benefit from one final course this summer, an urban planning studio taught by Professor Jim Cohen that will utilize the work conducted this past year to offer recommendations for enhancing Frederick’s existing sustainability plan. PALS commences a new partnership with Howard County this fall and plans to unveil coursework later this summer. 

“PALS has been a great partnership and has provided invaluable information for our City; we’ll be able to use it for a long time coming,” said Frederick Mayor Randy McClement. “I think it shows what a true partnership in education can do.” 

To learn more about PALS, visit www.smartgrowth.umd.edu/pals.html

Annual HCIL Symposium Highlights Latest in Technology Research & Innovation

June 1, 2015
Contacts: 

Tom Ventsias 301-405-5933

More than 200 attend 32nd annual event featuring wearable technology, data visualization and more 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – From wearable technology that teaches kids about human anatomy, to digital tools that let medical professionals quickly visualize electronic health records, the annual Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) Symposium at the University of Maryland highlighted the latest in research, innovation and education related to how people interact with technology.

The 32nd annual event held last week was hosted by UMD's College of Information Studies (iSchool), the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), and featured presentations, tutorials, and workshops for more than 200 attendees. 

June Ahn, iSchool and College of Education, will assume the role of director of HCIL on July 1. One of the workshops highlighted EventFlow, a unique application that helps users explore and analyze patterns-of-point and interval-based events from patient history records and other information sources. Developed by Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science, Ben Shneiderman, and HCIL Associate Director of Research, Catherine Plaisant, EventFlow offers a novel solution for displaying events, simplifying their visual impact, and making meaningful queries.

“We’ve made great strides in the past year to improve EventFlow to meet the diverse needs that emerged from 18 case studies,” says Shneiderman, who was the founding director of HCIL from 1983 to 2000.

Studying event sequences has been very difficult until now, Shneiderman adds, but EventFlow has opened up vast possibilities for research in medical histories, cybersecurity, e-commerce customer histories, and social media logs.

In one of the symposium’s plenary talks, Jon Froehlich, an assistant professor of computer science, discussed a series of wearable visualizations that include a “smart” jersey called Social Fabric Fitness for visualizing live fitness data, and a shirt called BodyVis aimed at helping children learn about their bodies and healthy living.

Niklas Elmqvist, iSchool and UMIACS, presents his research on visualization on devices other than a traditional desktop computer.

With BodyVis, students can discover their own anatomy through sensors and interactive displays that are attached to the clothing they wear, Froehlich says. For example, a life-sized pair of lungs on a shirt would light up to show how air flows in and out of a child’s lungs in tandem with their breathing.

Froehlich, the principal investigator on the project, is working with Tamara Clegg, an assistant professor in the College of Education and the iSchool, Leyla Norooz, a first-year doctoral student in the iSchool, and Seokbin Kang, a first-year doctoral student in computer science. 

In another plenary talk, Niklas Elmqvist, an associate professor in the iSchool and program director of the HCI Masters program, discussed his research on how people can make better use of the increasingly diverse ecosystem of digital devices that they carry with them.

This includes devices such as smartphones, Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, and smart watches, as well as those devices that people are increasingly encountering in their                                                                          physical surroundings such as large displays, depth                                                                                cameras, and motion capture systems.

Elmqvist also highlighted several research projects he is collaborating on, including Proxemic Lenses, where movie industry motion capture equipment is used to fully track the location and posture of people in a 3-D space; QR-Vis, where QR-codes are used to let people download visualizations and data to their devices without the need for a network connection; and DataCube/SenseDesk, where an entire office cubicle becomes an intelligent sense-making environment.

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