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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Laboratory Cool. Fuel.

The Iconic Palouse List

We’ve all been in the room when that one Husky fan blurted out, “I don’t know why anyone would go to the Palouse. It’s a desert.” Or that one new department chair that said, “I’ve seen what the region has to offer,” before quickly leaving. For everyone else, who are still open to discovery, this list is for you.

Before we start the list let’s get our bearings straight. The Palouse is the local name for a distinct climate region in Southeastern Washington characterized by low grassy hills. The origin of the regional name ‘Palouse’ is unknown. It literally translates in French to a … » More …

How to reliably get brilliant teams

… build them!

Talk to any researcher and they’ll go on ad nauseum to explain their philosophy for building brilliant teams. It’s just the next step after how to reliably get brilliant students. So why am I adding to the noise with this post? Because when you’re in the middle of building something great, it’s easy to get side tracked and forget your core values and principles; whatever they be.

Think back about the amazing teams you’ve been fortunate to be a part of over the years. Several key factors were likely involved:

Contrasting and complimentary characters — think the A team, Star Trek, … » More …

The test of time — to reach someone

Now that we have a framework for both social thermodynamics in equilibrium and in non-equilibrium transport we have an interesting opportunity to test the consistency of both through the time domain. This is enabled by the correlation between thermodynamic and transport properties — one of the greatest unsolved challenges in thermophysical properties is a direct derivation of transport properties from thermodynamic properties. Only recently has the residual entropy — the entropy that emerges due to real fluid intermolecular exchanges — been shown to be a powerful scaling tool to help with this challenge. This observation seams obvious in social space as the empathy that emerges … » More …

How non-equilibrium transport leads to social structures

“Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function and this is the law.” — Louis Sullivan 1896
How Thermodynamic Laws Shape Structures
The challenge any engineer faces is the optimal form for a design. Why is a try shaped like a tree? And why does this look like a river delta, or a lung, or a neuron?

In the 1990’s mechanical engineering professor Adrian Bejan developed the “Constructal Law of … » More …

Social Efficiencies

Several friends have been asking me to comment on a recent article from Wired Magazine titled, “The Genius Neuroscientist Who May Hold the Secret to True AI.” The article is about Karl Friston’s “Free energy principle” which is essentially that the purpose of life is to minimize the free energy — defined qualitatively as the difference between your expectations and your sensory inputs. The secret, according to the article, is applying thermodynamic principles to intelligence. For any of you following these posts that comes as no surprise. The timing of this article is convenient as I’ve been waiting for awhile now to write what … » More …

Education Unleashed

Structure versus unstructured — it’s the age-old debate in education. It’s popped up recently in my department, my lab, and my family. While thinking about this in passing I had a major shift in how I view the problem. Hopefully, it will change how you consider the problem too.

The problem is best exemplified for engineers by the traditional mathematics curriculum. Anybody that’s had a calculus class knows that the textbook is packed with equations that you, through repetition, are supposed to derive the solution for. Nobody has any clue where the starting equations come from, what they are connected to, or why they matter. … » More …

“It’s like teaching engineers how to negotiate.”

Congratulations! You got the interview. Just don’t mess it up with these common mistakes. What you might not have thought about yet is the negotiation. Whether you realize it or not, the negotiation process usually starts during the interview. So plan ahead and get an early start.

Negotiating has never felt natural for me. It goes with the territory of being an engineer. Everything we do is about working more efficiently, taking only what we need, delivering something that works consistently within the physical bounds allowed by nature, and building our reputation based on the merit of the products we produce. The engineer’s creed … » More …

Start your cryogenics career with a Boom!


People often ask both why and how I ended up focusing my career on a niche area like cryogenic hydrogen. To be honest, I had no idea that cryogenics was even a field of research, like the vast majority of engineering and physics students graduating from our universities. I started down this path by accident when my Master’s Thesis Advisors at the University of Idaho, Dr. Richard Jacobsen and Dr. Steve Penoncello, gave me the option in the Fall of 2005 to either write new equations of state for hydrogen or natural gas distribution. I chose hydrogen, because of rockets, like most young engineers … » More …

The power of story

The room was packed with the who’s-who — and somehow I’m in the panel on stage. The mic was passed to me. Not knowing how to begin, I just told my story. Not far along I started receiving smiles, nods, and laughter from the audience. From that point on I knew I had an audience that could relate to my story.

(Here’s a secret for those of you that don’t know me — I’ve never been great at telling stories.)

It’s amazing how effective a story is at communicating — despite the fact that everyone’s story is different. There is something inherent about a personal … » More …

The magic of magnetizing air

One of the HYPER lab’s favorite demonstrations for visitors is magnetizing air — yes, the stuff you’re breathing can be magnetized. We play around before these demos and come up with amazing ideas, and we’ve got patent-pending technology to prove it.

Here’s what you’ll need to do this:

Support a small metal container over a surface. In the picture above we’re using a thin-walled stainless steel beaker and a test-tube stand.
Fill the metal container with liquid nitrogen (make sure you’re following all necessary safety precautions before handling liquid nitrogen).
Because the normal boiling point temperature of liquid nitrogen (~77 K) is … » More …