Overview of recent discoveries at CMU

Carnegie Mellon’s researchers are constantly making new discoveries in various fields of science. Here are summaries of some recent findings that you might have missed.

Using cuttlefish ink as novel battery materials

Researchers: Assistant professor of materials science and biomedical engineering Christopher Bettinger and associate professor of materials science and engineering and engineering and public policy Jay Whitacre.
Discovery: Cuttlefish are a type of marine animal closely related to squid, octopuses, and nautiluses. Though they seem to be an unlikely choice of study for a pair of scientists who work with batteries, Bettinger and Whitacre have discovered that the ink from cuttlefish “provides the perfect chemistry and nanostructure to power tiny electronic devices,” according to a university press release. In particular, cuttlefish will be useful in applications that are performed close to sensitive living tissue, such as for edible medical devices. The reason why cuttlefish ink is such an effective electrode material is that the melanin pigments in the ink exhibit charge storage capacities that are higher than those of synthetic melanin.

New developments in hydropower generation

Researcher: Professor of electrical and computer engineering Diana Marculescu.
Discovery: Hydropower — power that comes from the energy of moving water — is generally implemented in places where a lot of energy can be harnessed at once, such as at sites of large dams or water turbines. However, Marculescu is developing a way to make hydropower more efficient by generating smaller amounts of electricity in a larger amount of places. By using a process called hydrokinetic power extraction, Marculescu and her team will be able to harness small amounts of kinetic energy from multiple different water locations in a way that is both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than conventional hydropower methods.

Measuring the universe to 1 percent accuracy

Researchers: Assistant professor of physics Shirley Ho and postdoctoral fellow of physics Mariana Vargas-Magaña.
Discovery: In astronomy, a standard ruler is an astronomical object that has a known size. By combining this known size with the measured angular diameter of the object in the sky, its distance from the observer can be determined. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) — which Ho and Vargas-Magaña are members of — uses baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) — imprints of sound waves from the early universe that can be observed today in the distribution of galaxies — as a standard ruler. Ho and Vargas-Magaña measured BAO in parallel and perpendicular directions to gain a better understanding of the standard ruler, helping SDSS-III measure the scale of the universe to an accuracy of 1 percent.