June 2008 Newsletter

Dear Friends of CITRIS,

Can CITRIS reduce the costs of fuel to consumers? The two articles in this month's newsletter suggest we just might. Certainly the first story, about smart, HCCI-engine-driven cars, presents an exciting opportunity to improve radically the MPG readings for a standard automobile. And finding a way to exploit the vast potential of solar energy in this bright state could boost the supply of clean domestic energy enough to stabilize or even reduce the cost of power to consumers.

For decades, the mechanical engineering faculty at UC Berkeley has worked on understanding and improving combustion engine efficiency. The first article in this issue of the newsletter describes the science behind homogeneous charge compression ignited (HCCI) engines, in which the goal is to make the most of every drop of fuel injected into a cylinder. But this story is also about efforts of Professor Robert Dibble and his colleagues to use innovative sensor technologies to coordinate the firing of cylinders even as loads and temperatures in HCCI engines change. Frustratingly, this bottleneck has kept these super-efficient engines from widespread commercial use, where they could go a long way in reducing pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, and fuel prices. Professor Van Carey is working with Dibble on these designs, developing his vision of vehicles that could interact through wireless sensors with an "intelligent gas station," telling cars when they needed more air pressure in their tires, when their catalytic converter is misbehaving, or whether it is time for an oil change.

The second story below focuses on the work of Carlos Coimbra at UC Merced. Professor Coimbra and his collaborators are looking for an efficient way to make short-term predictions of the direct solar irradiance available to solar concentrator collectors on any given day. While concentrator collectors present a golden opportunity for clean and affordable energy production in California, they cannot be exploited until utilities can predict with confidence how much direct sunlight they are likely to get on any given day. Coimbra's innovative approach to solving that problem could pay off in energy dividends not only for California but for the entire nation and the world.

There will soon be many more exciting fuel-, energy-, and environment-related things to report on. The "CITRIS-Copenhagen Research Conference on Climate and Energy: Finding the Way to Stabilization Through Innovation" is meeting in Denmark on June 18 and 19. This important conference will bring some of the world's top scientists and engineers together with industry and government leaders to discuss the future of energy production, distribution, and conservation. Stay tuned for more information from this wonderful upcoming event: http://www.c-grace.org/

Finally, I want to mention that CITRIS has just signed a contract with the City of San Francisco for an innovative and important security camera project. I am especially excited by this three-way project, which employs CITRIS expertise in technology, law, and sociology. It combines the technological challenge of deploying the surveillance cameras in big public spaces, the legal ramifications of placing them there, and the sociological implications of how people will respond to their presence. I want to thank our staff, particularly our development manager Travis Richardson, for stewarding this project through to funding. And I want to take this chance to wish Travis and his wife Jen a bon voyage as they leave CITRIS for southern California, where Jen is pursuing her dreams in the legal profession and Travis his as a Hollywood screenwriter!

Keep up the good work!

Professor Paul K. Wright
Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society
C-GRACE International Meeting in Copenhagen

On June 18-19, CITRIS is co-hosting the international C-GRACE conference on innovation in climate and energy. C-GRACE’s primary objective is to contribute towards making the 2009 U.N. Climate Summit a success by advising political decision-makers on solving the climate crisis while allowing for continued growth and prosperity.



Winners announced for Big Ideas contest

Six projects were awarded a total of $30K at this year's CITRIS Big Ideas contest, with the top two prizes going to healthcare-related issues. Congratulations to all of the students who entered.



Ming Wu named Chief Scientist

Ming Wu has been appointed the new Chief Scientist for CITRIS at Berkeley. He is currently Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley, and Co-Director of Berkeley Sensors and Actuators Center (BSAC). Ming brings to the CITRIS leadership a rich background in science and engineering. His expertise in optoelectronics and related topics will be incredibly useful to the mission of CITRIS going forward, especially as we place continued emphasis on communications platforms and various testbeds for experimentation and outreach.


Energy Shock: Perspective by Dan Kammen

UC Berkeley Professor Daniel Kammen has written a thought-provoking perspective on the energy crisis and the role of the C-GRACE meeting with CITRIS and the Copenhagen Climate Council.



Seed Funding Successfully Launches Projects

The CITRIS Seed Funding Program started more than a year ago as a way to kick-start research projects and centers on the four CITRIS campuses by awarding between $50,000–$75,000 for proposals that utilize information technology to solve large societal problems including healthcare, services, and intelligent infrastructures. The program has awarded approximately $2 million dollars towards research support for almost 30 projects and centers.



UCSC Computer Scientists Develop Solutions for Long-term Storage of Digital Data

As the world moves to digital storage for archival purposes, there is an increasing demand for reliable, low-power, cost-effective, easy-to-maintain storage that can still provide adequate performance for information retrieval and auditing purposes. Ethan Miller at the University of California, Santa Cruz has a new approach, called Pergamum, a distributed network of intelligent, disk-based, storage appliances that stores data reliably and energy-efficiently.


Cell Phone as a Platform for Healthcare Awards from MSR

CITRIS projects using cell phones as a healthcare platform at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz are among the projects supported by a recent Microsoft Research initiative.



UCSC to Lead Pioneering Study of Pumas in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Led by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and using innovative collars made at CITRIS, the project will shed light on the movement, range, physiology, and predatory habits of pumas.



Low-cost Fuel Cell Project wins CET competition

A group that wants to make a cheap fuel cell that can efficiently convert hydrocarbon fuel into electricity won this year's CET Cleantech Innovation Contest.



Videos now online for Scientific Colloquium for Healthcare, Engineering and Medicine II

On May 16, CITRIS held its second Scientific Colloquium for Healthcare, Engineering and Medicine (SCHEME) event at the UC Davis Medical Center. This highly interactive event featured panel discussions focused on themes in which clinicians and engineers can collaborate to solve some of the most challenging healthcare technology issues in such fields as microsurgical procedures, cardiovascular, and medical simulations with gaming and visualization. The videos for this event are now online at http://youtube.com/view_play_list?p=865A5E647BCED43B.



CITRIS Headquarters Dedication, Feb. 27, 2009

On Feb. 27, 2009, CITRIS will mark the official opening of its new headquarters, Sutardja Dai Hall, with a day of talks and celebration.