2012 Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE) Projects and Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) Research Projects

Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)

Directions: Please consider all of the projects in this list carefully before applying to the SURE program (http://www.engin.umich.edu/gradadmissions/sure/index.html). You MUST list your top three project choices in order of preference (by ECE Project #) on your SURE application.  You are welcome to contact faculty if you have additional, specific questions regarding these projects.

ECE Project 1: Solar Cell Device Modeling

Faculty Mentor: Jamie Phillips (jphilli@umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Course in semiconductor device physics (EECS 320); basic skills in computer programming


Our group is currently investigating new material structures based on II-VI compound semiconductors in the goal of achieving next generation solar cells with improved efficiency and/or lower cost. As a part of this effort, modeling of the electrical and optical properties of the devices is desired to determine optimal device design and to interpret experimental device results. In this project, you will simulate the electrical and optical characteristics of solar cell devices to determine optimal material thickness, doping, and composition. Simulations will also be used to match experimental results on solar cell devices to determine factors limiting power conversion efficiency. Device modeling will utilize Sentaurus Device and custom Matlab software, no prior experience with these packages is required.


ECE Project 2: Modeling and Analysis of Discrete Event Systems Using DESUMA

Faculty Mentor: Stéphane Lafortune (stephane@eecs.umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Junior standing in EE or CE; knowledge of C and/or C++ and/or Java required; familiarity with Matlab, Simulink, and Stateflow recommended; familiarity with finite-state automata recommended.


As computers and computer-based technological systems are becoming an essential part of our daily lives (automobiles, electronics, etc.) and of the infrastructures of our society (power systems, transportation, etc.), the need for new techniques, methodologies and tools to design, analyze and control highly complex dynamical systems grows. An important class of dynamical systems encountered in today's technological systems is the class with discrete state spaces and event-driven dynamics, known as "discrete event systems" (DES). Over the years, several techniques and methodologies, with their associated software tools, have been developed to model, analyze, and control discrete event systems. One of these tools is DESUMA. See http://www.eecs.umich.edu/umdes/toolboxes.html


The objective of this project is to construct and analyze discrete event models of technological systems using DESUMA and other related software tools. The starting point will typically be a Matlab model in Simulink/Stateflow. From it, a discrete event abstraction will be constructed, resulting in a model that can be analyzed using DESUMA. An existing tool for converting a Stateflow model into one accepted by DESUMA will need to be enhanced. Various enhancements to DESUMA may also need to be implemented. The student will work closely with a graduate student expert in discrete event systems.


ECE Project 3: Ultra-low Power Circuit Design for Millimeter Sized Sensor Nodes

Faculty Mentor: David Blaauw (blaauw@umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Introductory circuits course, such EECS 312, is strongly preferred; VLSI design course, such as EECS 427, is a plus.


We are developing sensor nodes that have a size of 1 millimeter or less.  The sensor nodes contain a small microprocessor, a transducer, such as pressure sensor or imager, a power source such as a battery and radio circuits. Reducing a sensor processor node to this minute size allows the sensor node to be used in a host of new and interesting applications, including implanted biomedical applications and monitoring of the environment.  The work will depend on the background of the candidate and can include testing and diagnosis of fabricated chips, help with circuit design for processor, power management, and sensors, or software development for sensor applications.


ECE Project 4: Evaluation and Development of Wireless Receivers

Faculty Mentor: Michael Flynn (mpflynn@umich.edu)

Prerequisites : Matlab and some knowledge of digital and analog circuit design; knowledge of National Instruments software is helpful but not required.


This research project will evaluate wireless systems, help develop demonstrations of the wireless transceivers and help develop new transceiver circuits.. Michael Flynn’s research group has developed integrated wireless transceivers with record energy efficiency. These devices work with WiFi, Zigbee and other standards. Wireless systems with integrated sensors and processing are also being developed.  As an example, a wireless sensor measures magnetic field strength and transmits the measured data to a base station. This SURE project will involve the design of new boards, and the writing test software as well as software to control instruments. Some integrated circuit design will also be included in the project.


ECE Project 5: Unplug and Play

Faculty Mentor: Anthony Grbic (agrbic@umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Strong interest in radio frequency (RF) systems, electromagnetics, and circuits/electronics. Skills in a.c. circuit analysis and transmission-line analysis. Knowledge of electrostatics and magnetostatics. Knowledge of time-varying electromagnetic fields and electronics is an asset.


This project involves hands-on experience in the emerging field of “witricity” (wireless electricity). The concept of wirelessly transferring power through near-field coupling was revived in 2007 at MIT and has since gained strong scientific and commercial interest. In fact, wireless charging is expected to grow to a 23 billion dollar industry by 2015. In the experimental demonstration at MIT, power was resonantly transferred over a distance of 2 meters using receiver and transmitter coils. An operating frequency of 9 MHz allowed the coils to remain within each other’s near field even at distances of a few meters. Such a scheme could be used to efficiently charge mobile devices such as laptop computers, PDA’s, digital cameras and cell phones wirelessly.  Mobile devices would gradually charge throughout the course of the day, thereby removing the need for a power cord connection. 


In this project, the student will work in Prof. Grbic’s research group on the development of a witricity system. The student will first learn the fundamentals of wireless non-radiative power transfer and then perform circuit simulations of a system using Agilent Advanced Design System (ADS): an RF/microwave CAD package that is the industry leader in high frequency design. The second part of the project will involve designing, fabricating and testing a wireless power system in printed circuit technology.



ECE Project 6: Transforming Space

Faculty Mentor: Anthony Grbic (agrbic@umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Skills in transmission-line analysis.

Knowledge of time-varying electromagnetic fields: plane waves.


This project will delve into the world of transformation optics, where space is transformed to manipulate and harness electromagnetic fields.  In transformation optics, the path of an electromagnetic wave is controlled through the spatial variation of a material’s permittivity and permeability (,). Specifically, the change in path of an electromagnetic wave is recorded as a coordinate transformation which directly translates to a change in the permittivity and permeability of the underlying material. The emerging field of transformation optics has lead to numerous new microwave and optical devices, the most fantastic of which has been the realization of an invisibility cloak. 


In this project, the student will work in Prof. Grbic’s research group on the development of transformation-designed microwave devices. The student will first learn the theory behind transformation optics, and then apply their knowledge to the analysis and design of a microwave device such as an antenna beamformer or flat lens system.  The device will be designed by combining concepts from transformation optics and circuit theory.


ECE Project 7: Intense digital processing for a low-power sensing front end

Faculty Mentor: Zhengya Zhang (zhengya@eecs.umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Junior or senior; interest in signal processing and digital hardware design; coursework in digital systems and/or computer architecture, linear algebra, and digital signal processing; experience with C and Matlab programming

Description: Advances in very-large-scale integration (VLSI) allow sophisticated signal processing to be performed with a smaller cost. In this research, you will be developing an optimization engine for recovering sparse samples collected by sensor front end. Sparse sensing reduces the power consumption of tiny sensors and increases their lifetime. However, the recovery needs to be done by a sophisticated compressive sensing processor that should be parallelized to deliver an acceptable performance. In this research, you will explore algorithmic, architectural and circuit techniques to optimize the design of the compressive sensing processor to improve its performance and power efficiency.


ECE Project 8: High-performance channel coding for energy-efficient communication

Faculty Mentor: Zhengya Zhang (zhengya@eecs.umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Junior or senior; interest in communications and digital hardware design; coursework in digital systems and/or computer architecture, probability, and linear algebra; experience in C, Matlab, and FPGA

Description: Energy-efficient communication systems require both low transmit energy and low receive energy. Powerful channel codes such as Turbo and LDPC have been invented and used in all the latest wireless, wireline and satellite communication systems to reduce transmit energy, but their decoders are very complex and energy hungry. Polar code is the most recent development in coding theory that has been proven to approach the Shanon limit. The polar encoding is highly structured, which leads to highly efficient decoding. In this research, you will investigate novel hardware architectures of successive-cancellation decoders for polar codes and analyze the decoder’s runtime performance. The hardware architectures will be synthesized and demonstrated on FPGA.


ECE Project 9: Recognizing Visual Categories from Images and Videos

Faculty Mentor: Silvio Savarese (silvio@eecs.umich.edu)

Prerequisites: Linear algebra; some knowledge of Probability & Statistics; MATLAB or C++ programming experience is desirable


The ability to interpret the semantic of objects, their geometric attributes as well as their spatial and functional relationships within complex environments is essential for an intelligent visual system. In visual recognition, the problem of categorizing generic objects is a highly challenging one. Single objects vary in appearances and shapes under various photometric (e.g. illumination) and geometric (e.g. scale, view point, occlusion, etc.) transformations. In order to address these challenges, researchers in the Vision Lab at the University of Michigan are developing cutting edge technology in visual recognition. Our goals are to: i) introduce novel representations for describing rigid and nonrigid object categories. ii) Design methodologies for learning multiview models where training data is provided in an unorganized fashion (e.g, from the Internet); iii) design algorithms for accurate object detection and view point estimation from either images or video sequences. Be part of the team and get involved in one of our projects!

Tools developed in this project are critical in a large number of applications such as autonomous vehicle navigation, robot sensing and manipulation, mobile vision, postproduction movie editing, image database indexing, and humancomputer interface. Our technology can play a fundamental role in designing systems that can help people with reduced functional capabilities due to aging or disability toward the goal of improving and sustaining the quality of life for all people.


ECE Project 10: Model to Hardware Correlation and Optimization of Energy Harvesters

Faculty Mentor: Khalil Najafi

Prerequisite: Electromagnetics, Basic mechanics (understanding of springs as oscillators), some experience with Matlab


America’s bridges and other civil infrastructure are rapidly aging and annual human inspections are costly, inefficient, and cannot detect rapid deterioration which might cause catastrophic failure such as the collapse of the Minnesota I-35W bridge in 2007. One solution is to utilize sensor networks which continuously monitor and report back on the bridge’s condition, but it is not practical to power such sensors off of batteries or wired power. Therefore we have developed a mechanical energy harvester called the PFIG (parametric frequency increased generator – google it to learn more) which can harvest the gentle movement of the bridge and convert it into a stored DC voltage. In this project, the student will complete matlab simulations and lab-bench testing of the PFIG to correlate our existing models with measured PFIG performance. Specifically, the SURE student will use the model to hardware correlation to help optimize the mechanical-electrical transduction and latching mechanisms. Additionally, as time and interest allows, the student may help design, build and test discrete circuits used to convert the PFIG output into DC voltage.



ECE Project 11: Ink-jet printing of insulators for all-printed thin film transistors

Faculty Mentor: B. Peterson

Prerequisite: Course on semiconductor devices or electronic materials; at least one chemistry course (preferably two) with lab OR a course on microfabrication (e.g. EECS 423 or 425). Background could be chemistry, EE or materials science.


We would like to use ink-jet printing to make transistors for low-cost and large-area electronics on flexible substrates. In this project the student will use the ink jet printer in the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility to make the electrical insulator layer of the transistor. This will be done by printing liquid inks to form a dielectric such as alumina (aluminum oxide). The dielectric will be integrated with printed semiconductor and conductor layers which have already been developed to form an all-printed transistor.



ECE Project 12: Thermoplastic stamping for low-cost micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)

Faculty Mentor: B. Peterson

Prerequisite: At least one of the following courses: thermodynamics, mechanics, electromagnetics and/or a course on microfabrication (e.g. EECS 423 or 425 or similar). Background could be chemistry, EE, physics, chem eng., or materials science.


Thermoplastic stamping is a commonly used industrial technique for forming plastic shapes. In this project the student will use this technique to make low-cost micro-scale shapes, that is, shapes with dimensions of << 1mm, by using etched silicon wafers to form the mold for stamping. In addition the student will learn how to test their devices both mechanically and electrically. The project will involve work in the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility cleanroom.


ECE Project 13: An Experimental Investigation on the Use of Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers to Enhance Capabilities of Ultra-small Spacecraft

Faculty Member: Brian E. Gilchrist

Prerequisites: Calculus III, Physics I and II (mechanics and electromagnetics), basic circuits. Advanced circuits and physics courses are desired. A demonstrated interest in cross-disciplinary projects is also a plus.


The growing success of nanospacecraft (1–10 kg) over the past decade has generated interest in exploring the potential for even smaller spacecraft, both as stand-alone satellites or as a distributed swarm.  Because of advances in integrated circuit and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, the feasibility of miniaturized spacecraft at the levels of fully monolithic semiconductor integrated circuits (10–100 mg) or hybrid integrated circuits (10–100 g) is being seriously investigated.  To provide a sense of scale, the new “ultra-small” spacecraft concept is smaller and lighter than many modern cellular phones. 


We are investigating an approach for ultra-small spacecraft propulsion that appears to scale to the small size needed, is propellantless, and could enable substantially improved communications.  The approach uses a short, semi-rigid electrodynamic tether (EDT) for propulsion, which keeps the overall ChipSat mass low and provides enough thrust to overcome drag in low Earth orbit (LEO).  The EDT uses the Lorentz force, utilizing a current in a conducting tether in the presence of the Earth’s magnetic field to produce a force. 


SURE students involved in this project will have an opportunity to build and test the EDT and other satellite subsystems. Students working on this project will also be able to conduct laboratory experiments that will tell us more about how the satellite operates in LEO.


ECE Project 14: Ultra-low power circuit design for security applications

Faculty mentor: Dennis Sylvester (dmcs@umich.edu)
Preqreqs: 1st class (at minimum) in transistor-level digital circuits including some familiarity with SPICE simulation. For instance EECS 312, but EECS 427 is desirable. Verilog programming experience ideally.

We have successfully designed the lowest power implementations ever reported of many key circuit building blocks for wireless sensing systems, including voltage references, microcontrollers, timers, static memories, and others. Some applications of interest may require significant security, and would therefore benefit from having AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption capabilities integrated on-chip. This project will investigate low power circuit implementations of the AES standard, using both synthesized and custom design strategies.


ECE Project 15: Soft error characterization in low voltage microcontrollers
Faculty mentor: Dennis Sylvester (dmcs@umich.edu)
Prereqs: 1st class (at minimum) in transistor-level digital circuits including some familiarity with SPICE simulation. For instance EECS 312, but EECS 427 is desirable.

There is significant interest in aggressively voltage-scaled processors (and memories, timers, ADCs, etc.) for use in wireless sensing, implantable devices, and other energy and power-constrained applications. These low-Vdd integrated circuits enable major energy improvements over conventional devices, but there are gaps in the understanding of their overall reliability. This project will examine soft error behavior of our recently designed ultra-low power processors to learn about the nature of transient errors in low voltage designs. This will include measurements of the chips under accelerated radiation conditions.


ECE Project 16: Characterization and modeling of Power Electronics Devices for applications in VHF dc-dc converters.

Faculty Mentor: Juan Manuel Rivas Davila (jmrivas@umich.edu)
Prerequisites: Electric circuits, elector-magnetics, basic semiconductors , familiarity (or willingness to learn) Matlab and Pspice


This projects aims to develop circuits and component models to simulate and design of switching power converters switching at VHF frequencies (30MHz to 300MHz). This is between two and three orders of magnitude higher than conventional power electronics design. Among the advantages of designing converters at these frequencies are the reductions in size, and the possibility to operate in harsh environments.


The student working in this project will measure and characterize RF semiconductors, and passive components over wide frequency ranges and temperatures.


ECE Project 17: WHISPER: Wireless, Handheld, Infrastructureless, Secure Communication System for the Prevention of Eavesdropping and Reprisal
Faculty Mentor: Robert Dick dickrp@eecs.umich.edu. Project in collaboration with Prof. Z. Morley Mao and Prof. Dan Wallach.

Prerequisites: Operating systems or smartphone programming experience. Experience with Java programming or wireless communication fundamentals is useful.
Develop Android/GPhone applications and/or user interfaces for secure, difficult-to-interrupt, and censorship-resistant infrastructureless communication among normal people. There is already a team of two Ph.D. students, three undergraduates, and three faculty working on this lively project but there are so many things left to do.  Please join us.  Example projects follow: (1) Implement or port to Android a Twitter-like or instant-messaging client that supports our underlying network protocols (not TCP/IP). (2) Design and implement a secure contact storage daemon. (3) Evaluate and design secure ad hoc communication protocols. (4) Modify Android platform devices to use existing public key management tools.  (5) Port a particular 802.11b driver to an Android-platform smartphone.

ECE Project 18: Air Quality Sensor Network Deployment
Faculty Mentor: Robert Dick dickrp@eecs.umich.edu.

Prerequisites: Experience with embedded software design or the use of relational databases will be helpful.

Projects include (1) assisting with experiments using compact, portable air quality sensing pods that can detect multiple air contaminants, (2) improving the data acquisition, storage, analysis, and display infrastructure, and (3) porting a data collection application from Android devices to iPhones.

ECE Project 19: Web Interface for Easy-To-Use Wireless Sensor Network Programming Language
Faculty Mentor: Robert Dick dickrp@eecs.umich.edu.

Prerequisites: HTML and CGI.  Python experience also helpful.

Develop a web interface to allow users to compose code in an easy-to-use wireless sensor network design language and return appropriate executables for use in configuring the network nodes.

ECE Project 20: Power and Performance Optimization for Machines in Data Center
Faculty Mentor: Robert Dick dickrp@eecs.umich.edu.

Prerequisites: Experience with C.  Systems programming experience also helpful.
Determine the change in application power consumption and performance under different workload distributions for applications appropriate to data centers (think Google).  Run benchmarks on server machines and measure the power consumption.  Modify benchmarks to gather more appropriate information.

ECE Project 21: Build Library of Modular Sensing and Actuation Components
Faculty Mentor: Robert Dick dickrp@eecs.umich.edu.

Prerequisites: Experience with either printed circuit board design or low-level
(embedded) systems programming.

Extend an existing distributed sensing platform to support new sensing and actuation functions by developing new hardware modules and/or interface and data analysis software for these modules.

ECE Project 22: Algorithms and System Architectures for Resource-Constrained Retrofitted Home Automation Applications
Faculty Mentor: Robert Dick dickrp@eecs.umich.edu.

Prerequisites: Experience with scripting languages such as python on perl, Linux system administration, and algorithm design.  Students for this project must be highly self-directed.

Integrate off-the-shelf sensing and actuation components with a (most likely) Linux platform controller by writing scripts and doing some light-weight systems programming.  Develop algorithms for automated data analysis and actuation using the deployed system.

ECE Project 23: Wireless Powering of Implantable Biosensors from Ultrasonic Energy Transmission
Faculty Mentor: Euisik Yoon esyoon@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Electromagnetics; Freshman Physics; Wave Propagation

Ultrasonic imaging is frequently used for investigating abnormality in tissues and organs. We can use the same technology to transfer the power to the implantable devices. In this project, students will design and make a prototype device to show the proof of concept and test it in a phantom body. Characterization or estimation of energy transfer efficiency will be investigated.

ECE Project 24: Wireless Drug Release from MEMS Reservoir Arrays
Faculty Mentor: Euisik Yoon esyoon@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Electromagnetics; Freshman Physics; Wave Propagation

In this project students will design and make a mechanical resonant reservoir which contains a drug to be released inside the body. The energy will be transmitted from the external source and the drug will be released. The drug reservoir will be made of polymer. Initial design parameters will optimized from the first-order analytical calculation as well as from numerical simulation. Test will be completed and compared with the experimental data.

ECE Project 25: Cancers-on-Chip for Chemo Drug Screening and Stem Cell Niche Studies
Faculty Mentor: Euisik Yoon esyoon@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge in microfabrication technology; Introductory Biology

Students will design and fabricate a microfluidic chip to capture cancer cells and test the efficacy of chemo drugs in the fabricated chip. In collaboration with Medical School, especially with Cancer Center, we will load various cancer cell types and screen the most effect drugs to treat the cancer. It is critical to kill cancer stem cells selectively from the bulk tumor cells. Also, the technologies and assays will be developed to enhance or inhibit the stemness of cancer cells in the given conditions.

ECE Project 26: Efficiency Optimization of Organic Photovoltaic Cells
Faculty Mentor: Professor Stephen Forrest Project (Primary Contact is Jeramy Zimmerman jeramyz@umich.edu)
Prerequisites: Junior standing in EECE or MSE. Must be comfortable working with electronic test equipment and chemicals in a laboratory setting.

This laboratory conducts research on thin molecular films for use in solar energy harvesting for electricity generation. The student will fabricate and test solar cells with the goal of maximizing their efficiency. Cells have been demonstrated in this laboratory with excellent efficiencies, but improved processing should allow for improved conventional and bulk heterojunction cells. For more information on the work conducted in the Optoelectronic Components and Materials Group led by Professor Stephen Forrest, see http://www.umich.edu/~ocm/

ECE Project 27: High sensitivity and high bandwidth photodetector system
Faculty Mentor: Professor Jay Guo guo@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of circuits and semiconductor photodetector is required to complete the project.

The project is to design and construct a high speed photodetector circuit to receive signals from a microring resonator that is used to detect high frequency ultrasound. The target performance metric is to provide large gain (~1mV/uW) and with frequency response range of ~500MHz.