06/03/10 — Waste heat: It's when heat produced in a combustive process goes unused, dissipating into the air or water. Automobiles, industrial facilities and power plants all produce waste heat, and a lot of it. A holy grail awaits anyone who can improve the current fossil fuel system. One estimate places the worldwide waste heat recovery market at one trillion dollars, with the potential to offset as much as 500 million metric tons of carbon per year. What's the magic solution? Some Berkeley engineers believe the answer lies not in a sophisticated device, but in materials: specifically, finding a new material with spectacular thermoelectric properties that can efficiently and economically convert heat into electricity.
06/03/10 — Who wouldn't want a robot that could make your bed or do the laundry? A team of Berkeley researchers has brought us one important step closer by, for the first time, enabling an autonomous robot to reliably fold piles of previously unseen towels. Robots that can do things like assembling cars have been around for decades. The towel-folding robot, however, is doing something very new, according to the researchers, doctoral student Jeremy Maitin-Shepard and assistant professor Pieter Abbeel, both of UC Berkeley's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.
06/03/10 — BEAM, Berkeley Engineers and Mentors, got its start last year when a group of engineering students saw a need to organize science and engineering outreach to local schools. For years, engineering societies have sent members to K–12 schools to teach concepts and mentor younger students to meet their community service goals. But coordination overlapped or fell short, and lesson plans and best practices often disappeared or got lost in forgotten files. With Berkeley's characteristic can-do spirit, a group of society officers took the initiative to start a club that would remedy the problem.
06/02/10 Nature — A Japanese competition launched last week is aiming to help the burgeoning science of synthetic biology to deliver commercial applications. Adam Arkin, a bioengineering expert based at the University of California, Berkeley, says that GenoCon "beautifully refocuses students and their mentors on the design aspects of synthetic biology."
05/27/10 2010 National Public Radio — On Wednesday, Apple overtook Microsoft as the world's most valuable technology company, at least by one Wall Street measure -- market capitalization. Michele Norris talks with Kyle Conroy, a computer science student at the University of California, Berkeley about a table he's compiled that looks at how much money you might have today had you invested in Apple stock instead of buying Apple products, such as iMacs and iPods.
05/27/10 Reuters — Synthetic biology can be used to make nonpolluting fuel, instant vaccines against new diseases and inexpensive medicines, but it will take time, collaboration and a nurturing regulatory environment, scientists said on Thursday. Jay Keasling of the University of California Berkeley Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center said his team's work had already been used as the foundation for two biofuel companies, and that vaccine maker Sanofi Aventis has licensed technology to make engineered brewer's yeast that produces the anti-malarial drug artemisinin. He expects production to provide the drug at cost to the developing world within two years.
05/27/10 San Francisco Chronicle — A mock-up bridge and a mock-up rail car shook, rattled, but never rolled as earthquake engineers from UC Berkeley demonstrated a system designed to keep bridge traffic moving even in the strongest of seismic shaking. The 30-foot, scale-model bridge, designed and built by researchers at the university's Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, was erected on a huge "shake table" that created the same violent ground motions that have marked major quakes in California, Japan and Chile.
05/21/10 MSNBC — Dr. Robert Bea of UC Berkeley came to the nation's capital this week with a message about what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon rig. His preliminary findings, based on accounts from rig employees and others, suggest that the accident was the result of a series of mistakes and flawed decisions which had compromised safety.
05/20/10 Los Angeles Times — UC Berkeley mechanical engineering professor Liwei Lin and a team of researchers are perfecting microscopic fibers that can produce electricity from simple body motions such as bending, stretching and twisting. The filaments, which resemble tiny fishing lines, may soon be woven into clothing and sold as the ultimate portable generators.
05/18/10 The New York Times — Andrew S. Grove, the former chief executive of Intel, is taking the next step in his quest to infuse the engineering discipline of Silicon Valley into the development of new medical treatments. Mr. Grove has pledged $1.5 million so that the University of California campuses in San Francisco and Berkeley can start a joint master's degree program aimed at so-called translational medicine -- the process of turning biological discoveries into drugs and medical devices that can help patients.
05/16/10 60 Minutes — Scott Pelley reports on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11, causing the ongoing oil leak in the waters off of Louisiana. In his interview with UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor and offshore drilling expert Robert Bea, Bea describes how his investigation has revealed disturbing technical, procedural and organizational failures leading up to the disaster.
05/13/10 Bloomberg — U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu signaled his lack of confidence in the industry experts trying to control BP's leaking oil well by hand-picking a team of scientists with reputations for creative problem solving. BP has described conditions around its leaking offshore well as resembling those in outer space. Chu selected one scientist with experience operating on Mars, George Cooper, a civil engineering professor at UC Berkeley. Cooper once worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to modify mining techniques on earth for use on Mars.
05/12/10 Los Angeles Times — Robert Bea, a UC Berkeley engineering professor who is conducting an informal assessment of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead blast, said Tuesday that BP documents leaked to him indicate that contaminants in cement encasing the well were the initial cause of the explosion that led to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
05/10/10 The New York Times — As hopes dim for containing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico anytime soon, more people are asking why the industry was not better prepared to react. "They [oil industry engineers] have horribly underestimated the likelihood of a spill and therefore horribly underestimated the consequences of something going wrong," said Robert G. Bea, a professor at UC Berkeley who studies offshore drilling. "So what we have now is some equivalent of a fire drill with paper towels and buckets for cleanup."
05/07/10 Science Friday — The oil continues to gush from the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf -- and the official solution for stopping the flow, which involves finding the borehole and drilling into it at an angle -- could take weeks. But are there other options? Some people, such as UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering Robert Bea, are looking outside the box for engineering solutions
05/05/10 True/Slant — The effectiveness of the cleanup of the massive oil slick from the explosion of BP's oil rig Deep Horizon in the Gulf Mexico will be both a matter of speed and technology. And on both fronts, we may lose. Nearly impossible to clean up will be whatever is below the surface. UC Berkeley engineering professor Robert Bea, who serves on a National Academy of Engineering panel on oil pipeline safety, says, "There's an equal amount that could be subsurface too." And that oil below the surface "is damn near impossible to track."
05/05/10 — Whenever you see a headline about a new threat to our health, safety or well-being, rest assured that a Berkeley engineer is thinking of ways to mitigate that threat in the future. Civil engineer Robert Bea, for example, has spent 55 years thinking about offshore oil drilling platforms and how to make them more reliable. So, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and began gushing 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico, Bea was one of the first experts contacted and interviewed by the press.
05/05/10 — UC Berkeley assistant professor of bioengineering Mohammad Mofrad has been busy uncovering the mysteries of how human cells behave when physical force is applied to them, working at the exact intersection of engineering and biology. Mofrad and a handful of fellow researchers are in the vanguard of a subspecialty called cellular mechanobiology, or cellular biomechanics, where they're stirring up the entire field of biology by adding physics to the mix. The ramifications of their work may one day bring about better treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as HIV/AIDS and the common flu.
05/05/10 — About every 10 days, falling rock shatters the tranquility of Yosemite National Park. "It's a dynamic place," says park geologist Greg Stock. "Rockfall is the most powerful geologic force acting on the park today. The goal is to eventually predict rockfalls and better constrain the hazard." Enter Valerie Zimmer, a Berkeley geoengineering Ph.D. student who launched her doctoral work studying rockfall in mines using tiny acoustic sensors to document the rock mechanics and geophysical forces underground.
05/05/10 — Picture this: The security of computers worldwide hangs in the balance. Cult-like followers of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras are suspected of a nefarious plot to crack the cryptographic code protecting virtually everyone's digital data. Who ya gonna call? In his debut thriller, Tetraktys, Ari Juels (Ph.D'96 EECS) crafted a stereotype-shattering sleuth to take on the bad guys. His fictional hero: an intrepid young doctoral candidate schooled in the classics and studying computer science at-you guessed it-UC Berkeley's College of Engineering.