News Release| NSF-funded Engineering Projects; Cal State L.A.

Cal State L.A. implements new system for fluid flow study, investigates redesign of terahertz detector camera

Pacheco-Vega’s research teams receive National Science Foundation support

Los Angeles, CA – Two Cal State L.A. research teams—directed by CSULA Mechanical Engineering Professor Arturo J. Pacheco-Vega (Arcadia resident)—are analyzing new instructional strategies and experimental system to better understand the physics of fluid flow as well as exploring the redesign of a terahertz detector camera for high-energy physics research, respectively.

Through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Cal State L.A. a pair of grants to support these research projects.

Working in collaboration with scientists at Interactive Flow Studies in Rochester, MN, Pacheco-Vega has teamed up with CSULA Professors Crist Khachikian and Gustavo Menezes to conduct a study on the “Implementation of Educational Particle Image Velocimetry Suits in Fluid Mechanics Laboratory Experiments.”

According to Pacheco-Vega, the overall objective is to develop and implement a number of visualization experiments within the framework of a so-called education particle image velocimetry (ePIV), which was recently developed to be used in fluid mechanics lab.

A fluid is defined as “any material that flows in response to an applied shear stress; thus, both liquids and gases are fluids.” The field of fluid mechanics is concerned with the way a fluid flows under the action of forces. For instance, fluid flows can be driven by changes in pressure, density and/or temperature.

He added, “Since flow visualization with the ePIV system provides an excellent opportunity to appreciate the complexity of flow phenomena, our team is focusing on creating learning materials, implementing new instructional strategies, developing faculty expertise, and assessing student achievement toward understanding the physics of fluid flow.”

The $105,000 two-year NSF grant has enabled CSULA undergraduate student, Ricardo Medina of civil engineering, to also be involved with this project.

Additionally, working directly with engineers at RadiaBeam Technologies in Santa Monica, Pacheco-Vega and CSULA Professor Adel Sharif have already designed a low-cost, wideband detector camera and are currently focusing on creating a prototype that reflects their “Analysis and Redesign of a Terahertz (THz) Camera.”

“The prototype camera,” Pacheco-Vega explained, “can be used as a diagnostic tool for terahertz sources, such as a free electron laser for high-energy physics research. It is capable of generating spatially-resolved images of radiation beams in a multispectral range of wavelengths, from infrared to terahertz. The symbol ‘THz’ refers to the frequency values of electromagnetic waves in the 1012 cycles-per-second range.”

This project is supported by another $105,000 NSF grant to investigate and redesign the THz camera with a target holder and water chamber for thermal analysis as well as material science experiments. CSULA undergraduate students who have contributed to the project include Usama Tohid, Sevak Ghazaryan and Harutyun Hakobayan from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Also, Guillaume Hufschmitt from France participated in the project as an intern during the fall quarter.

Pacheco-Vega, who received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from University of Notre Dame, is an expert in the areas of thermal and fluids engineering. His research is focused on the simulation, optimization and control of energy systems, and on the application of soft computing techniques in complex systems.

Khachikian, who earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from UCLA, specializes in the areas of fluid mechanics, environmental engineering, sewage treatment, and groundwater contamination and remediation.

Menezes, who received his Ph.D. in infrastructures and environmental systems from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, is an expert in the areas of solute migration in natural systems and water quality.

Sharif received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from CSULA and his Ph.D. in materials science engineering from UC Irvine. His expertise is in machine design and materials science.  

The NSF SBIR Program aims to increase the incentive and opportunity for small firms to undertake cutting-edge, high-risk, high-quality scientific, engineering, or science/engineering education research that would have a high potential economic payoff if the research is successful.

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