Research Projects

Our undergraduate researchers come from a variety of majors within the Fulton College of Engineering and Technology and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Research projects in IMMERSE are collaborations between students from a range of disciplines and focus on a variety of topics, including microelectronics, photonics, and biomedical engineering.

IMMERSE student researchers are often listed as authors on conference presentations, and on any publications relating to their projects. Students are also heavily involved in the writing and submission of technical publications, and are given the opportunity to present their research at various conferences relating to their fields of study. This experience of writing and publishing technical papers in peer-reviewed journals is a great opportunity for students to learn the ins and outs of scientific research.

Below are highlighted just a few of the projects currently going on in IMMERSE. If you'd like more information on any of the projects listed here, please feel free to contact us at or stop by any of our labs in the Clyde Building.

Recent IMMERSE Projects

Biooptofluidics: Liquid-Filled Optical Waveguides for On-Chip Chemical Analysis

Dr. Aaron Hawkins

Optofluidics is one of the most exciting new areas in the optics field. Our research concentrates on optofluidic waveguides which can confine light in very low refractive index materials like water. Using these structures, we are able to probe fluids containing biologic particles such as viruses and DNA strands. We collaborate with chemists and biologists at BYU, academic research groups at other universities, and commercial companies. We are currently working on rapid tests for virus infections like Ebola and Zika and bacterial infections like the very dangerous drug-resistant bacteria strains which are becoming a bigger and bigger health risk. Our end goal is the development of a portable instrument which can provide test results in less than one hour for many different virus and bacteria strains.

Our group concentrates on the microfabrication of sensor chips used for bioparticle detection. This work is carried out in the BYU cleanroom using silicon wafers. The image on the left below show some of the sophisticated waveguides and microchannels we have built on the microscale. A completed sensor chip is shown on the right.


Holographic Video Monitor

Dr. Daniel Smalley

The BYU/MIT holographic video is the world's first, low-cost holographic video monitor. This display differs from other electroholographic display technologies in that it can be driven from a commodity PC and boasts, full color, VGA resolution and video rate operation. This is made possible by the use of low cost waveguide-based spatial light modulators created as part of Dr. Smalley's PhD work.

Concrete Bridge Deck Scanning

Dr. Brian Mazzeo

Infrastructure deterioration is a pressing problem facing modern societies. In particular, reinforced concrete bridge decks are susceptible to corrosion because of frequent application of deicing salt during winter months. The objective of this research is to develop fast, accurate scanning solutions using electrochemical and acoustic techniques to rapidly evaluate the condition of bridge decks.

FPGA Design Tools

Dr. Brent Nelson

Custom computing architectures that employ FPGAs have been shown to provide significant improvements in computational performance and energy efficiency over traditional programmable processors. These benefits are possible due to the ability to customize a hardware circuit to a single computation and to replicate this computation many times. These computational benefits, however, are limited to those hardware circuit designers who have the skills to design FPGA circuits. This project is investigating techniques and tools for improving the productivity of FPGA design. A variety of tools have been created at BYU to facilitate FPGA design productivity including JHDL, RapidSmith, TINCR, and EDIFTools. RapidSmith is a research-based, open source FPGA CAD tool written in Java for modern Xilinx FPGAs. Based on XDL, its objective is to serve as a rapid prototyping platform for research ideas and algorithms relating to low level FPGA CAD tools. 

Reliable FPGA Computing

Dr. Mike Wirthlin

The growing use of satellites for complex communication, remote sensing, and surveillance applications requires significant computing resources. Modern satellites systems require far more computing power than every before and there is a great need to provide high-performance computing systems in space that are small, light weight, reliable, and consume limited energy. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) provide significant computing resources at the fraction of the power needed by conventional processor technologies. FPGAs, however, are sensitive to the ionizing radiation found in space environments and will not operate reliably unless appropriate radiation mitigation techniques are employed. This project is developing techniques for providing high-reliability, high-performance computing for space systems using FPGAs and other programmable technologies. This project is investigating novel reliability techniques, deign tools, computer architecture approaches, and software for providing the most reliable deployment of FPGA-based systems. The results from this work are directly applicable to high-reliabile computing in conventional environments on earth as well as within high-energy physics experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). 


Fiber Bragg Gratings Interrogation for Composite Impact Sensing

Dr. Stephen Schultz

Fiber composite materials are valuable for their lightweight and high-strength capabilities. For this reason they are being used in the construction of automobiles, bridges, and cargo vessels. However, shock, impact, or stress may cause internal damage to the materials that lead to significant reductions in component lifetime and result in disastrous failures. Fiber Bragg gratings (FBG) sensors react to environmental changes such as strain, which allow strain variations to be detected when the composite structure is subjected to impact events. A high-speed full-spectrum interrogation system is capable of recording detailed strain measurements of composite structures enabling better characterization of their failure modes.


3D Phase Sensitive B1 Mapping

Dr. Neal Bangerter

Sodium MRI can be used to, assess cartilage health, characterize tumors, detect abnormal sodium levels in the kidneys, and to assess tissue damage following a stroke. However low sodium concentration in tissues, a rapid exponential decay and a low gyro-magnetic ratio makes sodium MRI more challenging.

Our group has been working on quantitative techniques for accurately measuring sodium concentrations in human tissue using MRI. Accurate quantification of sodium concentration is important and it requires accurate measurement of sodium T1, T2 and B1 mapping. However, high noise levels in Sodium MRI make accurate B1 mapping in reasonable time intervals challenging. The new Phase Sensitive B1 mapping technique describes B1 homogeneity better than the standard dual angle method and for a broader range of flip angles under high noise situations. Thus Phase sensitive B1 mapping is a much better candidate for sodium MRI, with high noise and large B1 variation.

Micropower Circuit Design

Dr. Wood Chiang

Our lab has developed numerous microchips for wireless communications, bio sensing, imaging, and instrumentation. We are currently working on several exciting projects including a detector to sense dust on Mars, a receiver for autonomous vehicles, a phase shifter for satellite communications, an analog-to-digital converter for ultra high-speed wireless communications, an image sensor for bio sensing, an ion detector for a mass spectrometer, and many others. Our students learn fundamental circuit theories, simulation techniques, layout, and measurement throughout the project to enable them to succeed in graduate school and industry.