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Past Projects

Flexible Solar Cells/Modules

Flexible solar modules offer many advantages including (a) lightweight materials and structures, (b) the ability to conform to irregular and complex surfaces, and (c) simpler integration with wearable and portable systems. Our research is focused upon addressing all aspects of the flexible solar modules including material and/or device fabrication, basic mechanisms, component or/and module design, structure-property relationships, theoretical and/or numerical modeling, physics of devices, new system architectures, scaling challenges, system integration, and practical demonstrations.

Energy Harvesting

Novel material properties open the possibility of developing new components and systems. These new components and systems require sustainable power to operate. This synergy between the materials – energy – smart systems has provided the new paradigm for innovation driving the emergence of efficient and high performance architectures. Our research addresses variety of multifunctional materials, energy and smart system platforms. Within energy technologies, we conduct research in the areas of solar, thermal, wind, water flow, magnetic field and vibration energy harvesting. One of the smart platforms being addressed by our research is on self-powered structural health monitoring and automation control nodes. The vast reduction in the size and power consumption of sensors and CMOS circuitry has opened the opportunity to develop on-board power sources that can replace or extend the life of the batteries. In some applications such as sensors for structural health monitoring in remote locations, geographically inaccessible temperature or humidity sensors, the battery charging or replacement operations can be tedious and expensive. Logically, the emphasis in such cases has been on developing the on-site generators that can transform any available form of energy at the location into electrical energy. Generator design is platform dependent and requires considerable integration efforts. We utilize comprehensive modeling, design and fabrication techniques to address these integration challenges.

Multiferroic Magnetoelectrics

Self-biased magnetoelectric (ME) composites, defined as materials that enable large ME coupling under external AC magnetic field in the absence of DC magnetic field, are an interesting, challenging and practical field of research. In comparison to the conventional ME composites, eliminating the need of DC magnetic bias provides great potential towards device miniaturization and development of components for electronics and medical applications. Our research is focused on developing different self-biased structures, understanding their working mechanisms, and based upon optimized structures developing new generation of electronic components. Using high resolution microscopy and in-situ characterization techniques, we are trying to provide basic understanding of the nature and requirement for the self-biased magnetoelectric response.

Large Robotic Jellyfish That One Day Could Patrol Ocean

Virginia Tech College of Engineering researchers have unveiled a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds, as part of a U.S. Navy-funded project.

The prototype robot, nicknamed Cyro, is a larger model of a robotic jellyfish the same team – headed by Shashank Priya of Blacksburg, Va., and professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech – unveiled in 2012. The earlier robot, dubbed RoboJelly, is roughly the size of a man’s hand, and typical of jellyfish found along beaches.


“A larger vehicle will allow for more payload, longer duration, and longer range of operation,” said Alex Villanueva of St-Jacques, New-Brunswick, Canada, and a doctoral student in mechanical engineering working under Priya. “Biological and engineering results show that larger vehicle have a lower cost of transport, which is a metric used to determine how much energy is spent for traveling.” More..

Nano Engineered Thermoelectric Systems

NETS (Nano Engineered Thermoelectric Systems) team members have been leading the scientific investigations on thermoelectrics (TEs) such as the development of the high ZTave materials with improved oxidation resistance and mechanical strength, reduction of the losses occurring at each stage of the generator assembly, control of the material and structural variables affecting efficiency, manufacturability of the devices, optimized heat sinks and thermal management schemes, durability, reducing the size and weight of the system, etc. Prior work by our team members have identified the key gaps in existing TE technology (beyond improved material and device ZT) that are major risks/obstacles to realizing the proposed generator concept. These include oxidation concerns, system integration issues resulting in thermal interface losses and thermal short-circuits of heat that bypasses the TE devices, and mechanical/structural strength and reliability of the TE devices. This program presents a three-pronged approach to maximizing overall generator system performance through (1) improved system integration and co-optimization of system and TE device, (2) improved device ZT ~ 2 through targeted internal loss reduction, close-packed devices, thermo-mechanical analysis and optimization, and cascaded devices for improved efficiency, and (3) a focus on three material systems for maximizing material ZT over a broad temperature range. This university – industry partnership brings together all the essential expertise required to address these challenges.