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The College of Engineering has identified two NPRE projects— one aimed at special nuclear material detection and the other, at nuclear security—among the first six projects the new Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program will support.
The intent of SRI, which grew out of discussions at the College Leadership Retreat, is to place Illinois in a clear leadership position in promising new and growing areas of engineering research. SRI will support early stage research—the initiation and exploration of new research—through strategic investment in the form of seed funding. Late-stage funding will support projects that develop engineering leadership by collecting and building on existing capabilities in units or groups to form new interdisciplinary focus areas or centers.
Selected for early-stage funding is the work of Associate Prof. Brent Heuser and Assistant Prof. Ling Jian Meng, collaborating with Physics Associate Prof. Matthias Grosse Perdekamp, on the project, “Interrogation of Special Nuclear Material Using the UIUC Pulsed Neutron Facility.”
According to the College, “Nuclear security has become very important both domestically and internationally. The ability to monitor port-of-entry, to track fissile material across international borders, to properly safeguard the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile, and to develop nuclear counterterrorism measures all require the development of innovative technology and technical expertise in special nuclear material (SNM) detection.”
This proposal is aimed at developing the technical infrastructure and expertise within NPRE for studying SNM. The initiative brings together three faculty membe
In addition to helping researchers pursue the SNM investigation, the new equipment also is expected to allow NPRE to develop new curriculum.
Receiving SRI late-stage funding is Prof. Rizwan Uddin’s work with William Sanders, professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory, on “Digital/Cyber Security and Nuclear Security.”
“The nuclear industry and homeland security establishments have an urgent need to continuously push the state of the art to develop new, advanced, and nuclear-grade digital control and cyber security technologies,” according to the College. “Because of its existing expertise in nuclear engineering, and in digital and cyber security, the University of Illinois is uniquely positioned to develop a national center for digital instrumentation and control, and for cyber security for nuclear-specific applications.”
Work is already underway in NPRE on the development of a test bed to simulate cyber attacks at a nuclear power plant, and CSL has recently acquired a state-of -the-art fault tolerant controller based on a Triple-Modular Redundant (TMR) architecture. The goal is to marry the expertise available at NPRE and CSL (and in other parts of the college and campus) to develop a center for digital (control) and cyber security for nuclear-specific applications. In addition to integrating the available expertise, the project will include an international workshop on campus in spring 2013 to present Illinois’ leadership in this area.
“We believe the future of engineering innovation, as it applies to grand societal challenges, lies in interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration,” said College of Engineering Dean Ilesanmi Adesida. “We encourage faculty to pursue intellectually diverse projects which are of substantial scientific promise and address those issues which will be appropriately the interest of many funding agencies.”