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WSU Research Smart & Sustainable 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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Answering the toughest transportation questions

Research helps public agencies plan and prioritize road maintenance projects

The nation’s social and economic lifeblood rumbles along on 2.6 million miles of paved roads.1 Yet the economic importance of any given highway is difficult to quantify. If a snowstorm socks the region, does it cost more to keep a highway clear or shut it down for a day? Is a damaged road really worth repairing?

Kenneth Casavant, professor of economics at WSU Pullman, knows how to find the answers.

His current research aims to put these answers right at the fingertips of the decision-makers who need them.

Dr. Casavant is the director of the … » More …

Testing next-generation energy technologies

Smart grid lab seeks ways to thwart blackouts, save energy, and deliver on customer preferences

Washington State University researchers are building the most comprehensive “smart city” laboratory in the U.S. to test smart grid technologies and address the critical national need for a reliable and secure electric power grid. Working with a $500,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, they are building a model city of the future with simulated windmills, solar panels, fuel cells, power substations and smart meters.

Leading the effort is Chen-Ching Liu, director of WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center. Working closely with Battelle/Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Avista, and other partners, … » More …

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