University of Massachusetts Amherst

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The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image of an ant, as demonstrated for a high-school outreach program, has inspired Assistant Professor Jun Yao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop bioinspired, ultrasensitive pressure and strain sensors using microparticles resembling the bristles or tactile hairs ubiquitous in insects. “My hope was that the extremely enlarged image of an ant, perhaps a bit scary and monster-like, would excite the students’ interest in the ordinarily invisible nanoscale domain,” says Yao. Much more than that, the demo inspired Yao’s own subsequent research and his resultant paper in the prestigious journal Nature Communications on the 4th of December 2018.

Electrical and computer engineering (ECE) graduate students Ali Kiaghadi and Morgan Baima were part of a team of UMass Amherst scientists who developed Tribexor, a fabric-based, triboelectric, joint-sensing system that can be integrated with loose-fitting clothing to sense a variety of joint movements such as flexion, extension, and velocity of joint movement. The UMass researchers introduced Tribexor in a paper presented at SenSys 2018, the 16th ACM Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems, held from November 4 to 7 in Shenzhen, China. The information about Tribexor was reported in an Inside UMass article: New Fabric-Based Sensor Overcomes Loose Clothing Obstacle.

In early October Lindsey McGinnis of New England Public Radio reported on the pioneering research of Electrical and Computer Engineering doctoral student Chris Merola, who is trying to create much more efficient cell towers to service the sonic boom in cellular networks. “Americans' wireless data consumption has skyrocketed since 4G technology was introduced nearly a decade ago,” wrote McGinnis. “Smartphones have become essential for on-the-go work and entertainment, fueling the need for 5G. But how do you create a cellular network that accommodates everything from streaming services to self-driving cars?”

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