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WSU Research Smart Systems

Designing cities for the future

Power workers up on a light pole

Measuring urban air quality is one step towards healthier, more sustainable cities

By 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas. Growing cities strain food, water and energy systems, which in turn has a negative impact on economic, social and environmental sustainability and wellbeing.

To address these challenges, regional governments, companies and universities are coming together to develop the technology and proposed system changes needed for “smarter” cities. An initiative in Spokane called Urbanova is one of the innovators in this movement, and Washington State University is a founding partner.

Urbanova is a living laboratory in Spokane’s University District … » More …

First-of-its-kind research capability

Revealing secrets of material behavior at extreme conditions

While exposing a sample of silicon to extreme dynamic compression–due to the impact of a nearly 12,000 mph plastic projectile–WSU scientists documented the transformation from its common cubic diamond structure to a simple hexagonal structure. At one point, they could see both structures as the shock wave traveled through the sample in less than half a millionth of a second.

WSU led the development of this experimental capability, which allows scientists to watch atomic-level changes unfold in the composition and behavior of materials under extreme conditions. Experiments take place in a facility called the Dynamic Compression Sector … » More …

Harnessing technology to improve quality of life

New promise for solar energy

A breakthrough by WSU researcher Kelvin Lynn could help solar energy compete with fossil fuels for generating electricity.

Commercial success of solar technology has been constrained by the cells’ performance and cost. Key to addressing both concerns are the materials from which solar cells are made.

Seeking an alternative to silicon

Silicon solar cells represent 90 percent of the solar cell market. Because silicon is a costly material to use in manufacturing, it keeps the price of solar cells high. A low-cost alternative is cadmium telluride (CdTe), which outperforms silicon in real-world conditions, such as low light and hot, humid … » More …

Shape-shifting material advances the Internet of Things

Mike Kessler and student in lab

Scientist develop the first material with multiple responsive behaviors

Imagine airplanes and roads that self-heal after exterior damage. Imagine wearing clothes that monitor your health needs. Innovations like these require smart materials, which not only capture and analyze data, but change in response to findings.

Smart materials are the building blocks of the Internet of Things—a network of objects embedded with electronics, software, and connectivity. This network produces enormous volumes of actionable data.

While there are barriers to overcome before smart materials hit the mainstream, a recent discovery made at WSU will accelerate their advancement.

New kind of smart material

A team led by Mike … » More …

Transforming the U.S. power grid

Automating electricity transfer across the state based on need

To harness renewable resources and mitigate power outages, America needs to evolve the “Smart Grid,” the computer-automated network that distributes electricity nationwide. WSU’s Energy System Innovation Center is answering the challenge.

The Center is part of the first regional effort to collect renewable energy and share it among buildings across the state. Development of energy-sharing capability will make power distribution more flexible and cost effective.

Smart distribution of electricity

The regional initiative demonstrates “transactive technology,” which uses a network of sensors, battery systems, and software to automatically adjust energy loads. Decisions to adjust are based on … » More …

The haptic touch

Two new patented inventions by Hakan Gurocak can help advance the digital experience.

One difference between hands-on experiences and digital experiences is the sense of touch. When you shop at a retail store, for example, you can handle an item before you buy it. But when you shop online, you only see a picture of it.

Technology that conveys a sense of touch—called haptics—currently is used in the automotive industry, in medical training, in videogames and even on your smartphone’s keypad. But it has not spread to everyday use.

Hakan Gurocak, director of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University Vancouver, … » More …

Helping the elderly stay independent longer

Homes outfitted with artificial intelligence keep a watchful eye on residents

By the year 2020, more than 70 million Americans will be at least 60 years old. Almost all of them will prefer to live in their homes, living independently as long as possible. This creates a host of challenges as older people can struggle with daily tasks, have safety concerns, and have difficulty taking care of daily needs without assistance.

Diane Cook, director of the Smart Homes Project in the Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems, is working to meet these challenges by designing homes that, in effect, think.

As Cook pointed out … » More …

Fending off quantum computer cyberattacks

Mathematician creates a hack-proof online security system

In April, 2015, an IBM researcher leading the company’s effort to build a quantum computer wrote, “We’re entering what will come to be seen as the golden age of quantum computing research.” If and when a practical quantum computer becomes reality, it will both revolutionize digital technology and create a tool of phenomenal hacking power.

Internet security is no match for a quantum computer, which can quickly factor the large numbers used in computer encryption to protect email and online transactions. But using high-level number theory and cryptography, Washington State University mathematician Nathan Hamlin has reworked a famous … » More …

Creating jobs through sustainable building technologies

Cross-laminated timber could invigorate the regional economy

Buildings stand among the nation’s leading producers of greenhouse gases. To blame is the energy used to operate them and the carbon-heavy materials required to construct them. With populations increasingly shifting toward urban centers, construction will only continue. Reducing emissions created by urban growth will require rethinking our built environment.

Much of that rethinking is happening at WSU, where architecture and engineering scholars are designing future skylines made of wood. Not often used in today’s urban infrastructures, wood is a renewable resource. It can be sustainably forested and manufactured into panels that have high-performance properties comparable to those of … » More …

Aerial technology takes to the fields

Many roles emerge for unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture

As the global population rises, farmers will be expected to produce more food with less water, fewer fertilizers and pesticides, and a dwindling workforce. WSU researchers see part of the solution in the sky: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Widely known for their defense applications, UAVs could be a boon to agriculture. Lav Khot, assistant professor in precision agriculture at the Center for Precision and Automated Agriculture Systems in Prosser, works with colleagues to lay the groundwork for widespread use of UAVs in the fields.

Dr. Khot has partnered with Digital Harvest, a developer of crop-management technology, … » More …

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