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ECE Students take home 24th Annual Denman Undergraduate Research Forum Wins

Rudy FinkUndergraduate research at The Ohio State University allows students to solve complex problems and learn something new about their passions. Each year, the Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum honors their achievements. 

At the recent 24th annual Denman Forum, Electrical and Computer Engineering students Brett Ringel and Rudy Fink took home awards. 

Fink won second place in the Structural and Material Fabrication and Design category for his research project, “Field Programmable Shortwave Infrared Photodetectors.” 

The project explored the possibility of developing a single photodiode to meet both requirements for an optical communications receiver and a light intensity sensor for 1550 nm light performance. 

“We hoped to use a type of material called a Type-II Superlattice (T2SL) to make a device that can function either in high sensitivity (APD) mode or high dynamic range (PIN) mode, depending on how much voltage we apply to the device,” he said.

Their resulting technology, and one developed by the University of Virginia, both had superior signal to noise ratio (SNR) over existing commercial devices in either high dynamic range mode and high sensitivity mode. In testing situations that more closely match the intended operating conditions, their device did not outperform the one developed by University of Virginia. However, Fink said, the Ohio State device detects a wider range of wavelengths, revealing its strength.

Fink hopes his research will contribute to developing a single device to detect optical communication pulses as well as light sensitivity. Currently these are tasks accomplished by two separate devices. 

“By developing this device that could do both, NASA, the sponsor of the project, could use less complex optics and reduce their power consumption,” he said.

Overall, Fink views his research experience as a growing opportunity.

“I can see how my understanding of the theory increases daily. I just started learning about semiconductors two years ago, so it’s really cool to see how previously difficult concepts can seem simple now. It makes me excited about the problems that seem difficult today,” he said.

Fink plans to continue this research at the Krishna Infrared Detectors (KIND) Laboratory under Dr. Sanjay Krishna while pursuing a Master’s degree at Ohio State.

Brett RingelRingel minors in Computer Information Sciences as well as Entrepreneurship & Innovation. He won second place in the category for Engineering: Chemical and Environment for his project on "Imaging Methane Gas Clouds Using Infrared Laser Spectroscopy."

His research was based on detecting methane gas leaks in order to provide technicians with a safer way to examine and locate them. 

Ringel was pleasantly surprised with the results.

“The concept was actually very feasible, more so than I think our group had originally anticipated. The sensor could get accurate methane concentration readings even though windows. Furthermore, we were able to make an invisible gas visible on a screen in real time," he said.

Ringel hopes the research will prove the underutilized opportunities of laser sensing. He plans to stay at Ohio State for graduate school through the BS/MS program. He is also advised by Krishna.

Both student winners said they would like to thank their research partners and the Denman Research Forum for the opportunity to present their work.

Story by Hannah Romich, ECE Student PR Writer