09/15/10 Discovery News — The wireless world we live in runs on batteries. That fancy smart phone is nothing more than a few ounces of dead weight in your pocket without a charged battery. But are we paying a high environmental price for all of this battery-operated convenience? "We take into account environmental impact because there is, to a significant degree, a battery recycling industry out there, [and] there are now conferences that deal with nothing but environmental impact and recycling of used batteries," said Elton Cairns, a rechargeable battery and fuel cell expert at UC Berkeley.
09/14/10 San Jose Mercury News — PG&E's highest-risk gas pipelines in the Bay Area are in the East Bay, according to a regulatory filing last year. The risk was ranked by combining the likelihood they would fail and the consequences to life and property if they did fail. Typically, engineers consider the population density of communities, the age of the pipelines and other factors, such as nearby earthquake faults, when assessing pipeline risk, said Bob Bea, a professor of engineering at UC Berkeley who has worked extensively on natural gas and oil pipelines.
09/12/10 PCWorld — Engineers at UC Berkeley have developed a new technology that may help robots feel, give the sense of touch back to those with prosthetic limbs, and ultimately help robots do the dishes without breaking them. The material is built using semiconductor nanowires that can operate using low voltages, is more flexible than previous inorganic synthetic skins, and is also stronger than its competing organic materials.
09/11/10 San Francisco Chronicle — Eleven of the incidents on PG&E pipelines in the last 10 years were caused by other people digging into buried lines they didn't know were there. "Someone's doing construction on a site, they may or may not have called PG&E, they're working with a backhoe, they snag the pipeline, and then all it takes is a little ignition source," said Kofi Inkabi, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management.
09/09/10 Reuters — The World Bank has appointed Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Kammen will lead its efforts to foster growth of alternative energy programs in developing countries. The position was created amid unprecedented demand from developing countries for support to address development and climate change as interlinked challenges, the bank said
09/08/10 — As the fall semester 2010 kicks off, the campus is buzzing not only with students but also with capital improvements at the heart of the Berkeley Engineering quadrant. These projects represent the continuation of our strategic plan to transform the educational experience for our 2,800-plus undergraduates.
09/08/10 — Robert Bea's got a problem. In fact, he's got several: The Deepwater Horizon. Hurricane Katrina. California's fragile 100-year-old levees. These are just three of more than 600 disasters or disasters-in-waiting Bea has investigated in his 57-year career as a flood protection engineer, oil and ocean engineer, risk management specialist, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the nation's foremost authorities on disaster mitigation. Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig, the 73-year-old Texan has been traveling from coast to coast, investigating the site, serving on advisory panels, writing reports, and giving abundant media interviews, hoping to make sure nothing like this accident ever happens again.
09/08/10 — What's the best device for dispensing a dollop of hand sanitizer? At Berkeley, it's one that also prompts the famous Bellagio fountain to erupt, Evel Knievel to crash his motorcycle and a house of cards to spring up before your eyes. The magic and mayhem were part of a winning, Las Vegas-themed contraption built by a team of engineering students for Berkeley's first-ever Rube Goldberg Machine Contest in April. The competition challenged Cal student teams to build a six-foot by six-foot machine in the spirit of popular cartoonist Rube Goldberg, a 1904 Berkeley Engineering graduate who died in 1970 and is best known for his comic drawings of outrageously complicated machines performing simple tasks.
09/08/10 — Over the last decade, the line between real and virtual in motion pictures has grown even blurrier with the rise of computer-generated imagery (CGI). If CGI is done well, you could be looking at a pixilated Brad Pitt, not the hunky star himself, and you'd be none the wiser. Any visual effects supervisor will tell you that one of CGI's biggest challenges is replicating faces. Humans look at faces every day and expertly distinguish fact from fiction. But technology is catching up, thanks, in part, to a Berkeley engineer. Paul Debevec (Ph.D.'96 EECS) is a friendly, congenial academic with a love of movies who has engineered an ingenious system to make digital animation, in particular human faces, more realistic.
08/31/10 The New York Times — Hewlett-Packard said Tuesday that it would commercialize a new computer memory technology called memristors with Hynix, the South Korean chip maker. The agreement to build the memory chips validates the work of Leon O. Chua, a UC Berkeley electrical engineering professor. In 1971, he proposed a fourth basic circuit element (the other three are the resistor, capacitor and inductor) and called it a memristor, or memory resistor, as a simpler alternative to transistors that would allow more computer memory to be packed in even smaller devices.
08/29/10 ABC News — More 3D movies than ever are in theaters now and manufacturers are selling 3D TVs. Yet surprisingly little is known about the effects of stereo vision on our brains. Researchers at Berkeley are applying cutting-edge technology to find out what happens when 3D is not produced correctly. UC Berkeley Visual Science Professor Martin Banks' lab is breaking new ground in studying the way we perceive depth. Enabling test subjects to see two screens at once using mirrors, his team has established some of the things that lead to bad 3D
08/28/10 The Wall Street Journal — This month's 60-mile traffic jam in China has demonstrated a frustrating truth about traffic: It is far easier to measure than mitigate. Mathematicians, engineers and planners are making steady advances in assessing traffic congestion and explaining it, but traffic math's strides in reducing congestion are modest, simply because the number of cars often exceeds roadway capacity. If population and the economy keep growing, "there is absolutely no way congestion can stop increasing," says Alex Bayen, an associate professor of systems engineering at UC Berkeley.
08/27/10 National Public Radio — Many believe that one of the worst disasters in U.S. history - the flooding of New Orleans - wasn't caused by Hurricane Katrina but by the failure of the flood protection system. Five years later, billions of dollars have been spent to protect the city, but the new flood protection system still leaves New Orleans vulnerable to a major storm. Robert Bea, an engineering professor at UC Berkeley, has spent some 14,000 hours studying New Orleans flood protection since Katrina, and believes that even with the new upgrades, the levees and floodwalls are inadequate, more of a "patchwork quilt" than a true flood protection system.
08/26/10 PBS NewsHour — The state of the levee system in New Orleans continues to be a major concern, especially during hurricane season. PBS NewsHour speaks with Bob Bea, civil engineering professor at UC Berkeley, about the current coastal protection system in the city.
08/24/10 Popular Science — A team of UC Berkeley researchers interested in domestic applications for robotics has shown that Willow Garage's PR2 robot can be a handy household companion, namely laundry-folding. Now, they've shown that if you give PR2 a sock it can employ its keen ability for repetitive hand motions to that other regularly recurring chore: pairing socks.
08/16/10 Contra Costa Times — Plants, dirt, birds and fish have all been enlisted to clean Discovery Bay's wastewater as part of an experimental constructed wetland project. Facing $100,000 in fines for copper contamination, the town three years ago partnered with University of California Berkeley scientists to determine whether the latest advancements in artificial wetlands could help clean the town's sewage. The one-of-a-kind project was a success - it reduced copper in the test pond by as much as 90 percent. "In Discovery Bay, they're way ahead of everyone - they're really trendsetters," said Alex Horne, professor of ecological engineering at UC Berkeley and an expert in the field.
08/10/10 San Francisco Business Times — Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has named UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor Ashok Gadgil as boss of its Environmental Energy Technologies Division. The EETD, which has between 450 and 500 people working for it, does research primarily in energy efficiency for buildings.
08/09/10 — One engineer is good. A team of engineers is better. And a team of Berkeley engineers . . . well, you can't get better than that. This is my mantra as I welcome Dean Sastry back, wrap up my six months as acting dean and prepare for my next assignment. It was a privilege to apply at the college's highest level the skills I have acquired in my 27 years here. Everything I brought to the experience-especially my team-building and problem-solving skills-I learned as an engineer, an engineering educator and an engineering administrator.
08/09/10 — Liberty, equality, tolerance, freedom of expression. As the national debate on immigration reform heats up, who hasn't been thinking deeply about those lofty ideals we celebrate every Fourth of July? Perhaps there's no better time to revisit the Statue of Liberty, the elegant monument that graces New York Harbor as an enduring symbol of the principles our nation was founded on 234 years ago. Her long and complicated story is the subject of a new book, Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty, by Yasmin Sabina Khan (M.S'83 CE).
08/09/10 — Artificial skin that bestows the sense of touch on prosthetic limbs. Nanochips that control the latest smart phones and devices. Sheets of low cost solar cells as easy to install as unrolling a carpet. All future scenarios, yes, but ones that EECS associate professor Ali Javey is working to realize in the next decade or so. Javey, a chemist by training, develops new electronic materials and methods of processing existing materials destined for future applications.