Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011
Engineer's work at home in the final frontier
MANHATTAN -- Bill Kuhn's research can best be described as out of this world. Literally.
Kuhn, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Kansas State University, along with a team of university faculty and students, is working with NASA to create and test new wireless technology that can be used in space exploration. He was recently recognized for his work by the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative, which named him as one of the top 150 scientists to operate in Kansas throughout its 150 years of statehood.
With astronauts' health and safety a concern, Kuhn and teammates are designing wireless technology for space suits. These products will monitor an astronaut's health and can communicate that information to short- and long-range health-monitoring systems.
Kuhn and his graduate students, together with colleagues at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and engineers at Peregrine Semiconductor, also created a micro transceiver designed to help in the search for water -- and ultimately life -- on Mars. These new transceivers are 30 times smaller in size, 100 times lighter and 10 times more energy efficient than the previous transceivers NASA currently uses. Because of the transceiver's portability, now smaller planetary scout craft can be used for exploration missions and multiple vehicles can be carried in a single launch.
"Having grown up during the days of the moon landings and learned about wireless technology through ham radio during my precollege years, combining the two interests was a natural progression," Kuhn said. "I focused on electronics in undergraduate school and on radio design in grad school. This research area is also a great fit for the talents of students who choose to concentrate in the wireless technology at Kansas State University."
Ad Astra's project, "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting," is a celebration of the state's sesquicentennial. It is meant to emphasize the importance of science and the career possibilities in research and innovation to K-12 students. Throughout the year the initiative is spotlighting Kansas researchers, inventors and engineers from the past to the present who have advanced their field. Kuhn is the 12th active faculty member at K-State to be named a top scientist. The organization has recognized other historically noted Kansas researchers like George Washington Carver, Charles H. Sternberg, Clyde Cessna and Clyde Tombaugh.