Founded in Elizabeth, NJ in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, Princeton University was formally renamed in 1896. It is the fourth-oldest college in the United States.

A Princeton-led international team developed a ventilator that consists of a gas inlet valve and a gas outlet valve, along with a series of controls and alarms to ensure proper monitoring and customizability from patient to patient. The design is built from readily available parts and is presented under an open license, allowing developing countries to quickly and easily manufacture their own units.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science was created in 1921. Notable graduates of the school include Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, Google executive Eric Schmidt, Internet pioneer Bob Kahn, former Chrysler head Lee Iacocca, and six NASA astronauts.

Today, the school consists of six departments:

Chemical and Biological Engineering

Princeton University offered its first courses in chemical engineering in 1922. Today, researchers in chemical and biological engineering (CBE) address problems in human health, energy, materials science, and industrial processes.

A new technology being developed by Princeton researchers and alumni could offer a more effective and robust delivery method for COVID-19 vaccines. Compared to current vaccines, the technology — which relies on a new type of nanoparticle — could introduce five times as much of the vaccine's active ingredient, mRNA, into recipients’ cells. This technology will be a boon for triggering a stronger immune response while also providing a more scalable vaccine production line.

In research that may eventually help crops survive drought, scientists uncovered a key reason that mixing hydrogels with soil has sometimes proven disappointing for farmers and demonstrated an experimental platform that allows scientists to study the hydrogels’ hidden workings in soils along with other compressed, confined environments. Results will provide guidelines for designing hydrogels that can optimally absorb water depending on the soil in which they are meant to be used, potentially helping to address growing demands for food and water.

CBE researchers are helping to develop a new treatment for the widespread and devastating diseases toxoplasmosis and malaria. They are preparing the drug compound into a medicine that is both safe and effective for humans and is able to reach its intended sites of action in the body in sufficient doses. The new drug — designated JAG21 — was found to be highly effective against parasites in cell-based studies in the lab.

Researchers are looking to an unusual water source: air. The team aims to use thermo-responsive hydrogels or networks of polymers commonly used in biomedical applications for water harvesting. The hydrogels change whether they attract or repel water depending on their temperature. The material can absorb water from the air in the evening when it is cool and when the temperature warms up during the day beyond a certain threshold, the hydrogel releases the absorbed water.

Two industrial robots were used to construct the LightVault. The robots take turns placing a brick and supporting the structure, working from one side to the other. Here, one of the construction robots is seen through the double-curved LightVault structure. (Photo: SOM, Maciej Grzeskowiak)

A CBE team developed a sensor that could allow practical and low-cost detection of low concentrations of methane gas. The sensor uses an interband cascade light emitting device (ICLED) to detect methane concentrations as low as 0.1 part per million. Measuring methane emissions and leaks is important to a variety of industries because the gas contributes to global warming and air pollution. The sensors could be used to better understand methane emissions from livestock and dairy farms and to enable more accurate and pervasive monitoring of the climate crisis.

As the planet's burden of rubber and plastic rises, scientists look to the promise of closed-loop recycling to reduce trash. CBE scientists discovered a potentially game-changing new molecule — from a material known for over a century and used to make common products like tires and shoe soles. The molecule — referred to as a “polymer of squares” — could one day enable the use of plastic products many times over, unlike most of today's plastic that can only be recycled once, if at all.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Civil and environmental engineering research addresses fundamental questions associated with the built environment, the natural environment, and interactions between the two. Focus areas include environmental and structural monitoring, air quality and water quality, urban environments including smart cities, impacts of climate change on water resources and natural hazards, and impacts of energy technology on the environment.

Researchers at Princeton used two industrial robots to build the LightVault that is 7 feet tall, 12 feet across, and 21 feet long and is constructed of 338 transparent glass bricks. Using the robots improved the structural efficiency by making it doubly curved, which reduced the amount of material required. This was only possible because of the robots’ strength and precision. The team devised a process in which the two robots worked together to assemble the central arch of the vault without any scaffolding or other support. Each robot would place one brick, then hold the structure while the other robot placed the next brick.

A new chip speeds artificial intelligence systems called neural nets while slashing power use. The chips could help bring advanced applications to remote devices such as cars and smartphones. (Photo: Hongyang Jia/ Princeton University)

In a series of lab tests conducted by Princeton scientists, a relatively common soil bacterium demonstrated its ability to break down the difficult-to-remove class of pollutants called PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The bacterium removed 60% of PFAS over 100 days of observation. PFAS have been widely used in products from non-stick pans to firefight-ing foam and the EPA has evidence that exposure to PFAS is harmful to human health.

Computer Science

The department focuses research on artificial intelligence and machine learning, graphics and vision, systems and networking, computer architecture, computational biology, and neuroscience.

Using ribbons many times finer than a human hair, Princeton researchers have developed a highly sensitive flow meter that is inexpensive and useful in large-scale commercial and industrial applications. (Photo by the researchers)

Using radar commonly deployed to track speeders and fast-balls, researchers developed an automated system that will allow cars to peer around corners and spot oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The system, easily integrated into today's vehicles, uses Doppler radar to bounce radio waves off surfaces such as buildings and parked automobiles. The radar signal hits the surface at an angle, so its reflection rebounds off like a cue ball hitting the wall of a pool table. The signal goes on to strike objects hidden around the corner. Some of the radar signal bounces back to detectors mounted on the car, allowing the system to see objects around the corner and tell whether they are moving or stationary.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Princeton's electrical engineering program, started in 1889 as one of the first in the United States, remains at the forefront of the field, with research aimed at the physics of semiconductors, electronic and optical devices, design of computers and networks, materials science and nanotechnologies, algorithms and structures for information, and biological technologies.

A team of engineers demonstrated a new kind of wireless chip architecture that would improve the quality of wireless signals in 5G applications. Future wireless systems devices would be more efficient across their full range of power use and signal frequencies.

Computers are renowned for flexibility, running everything from game consoles to stock exchanges. But at the level of computation, most computers rely on arrays of identical processors called cores. Princeton researchers built a hardware platform that allows different kinds of computer cores to fit together, allowing designers to customize systems in new ways. The goal is to create new systems that parcel out tasks among specialized cores, increasing efficiency and speed.

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers developed a diagnostic tool to analyze chest x-rays for patterns in diseased lungs. The new tool could give doctors valuable information about a patient's condition quickly and cheaply at the point of care. A machine learning model looks at a simple X-ray image and finds patterns that are too subtle even for the expert human eye. This tool would give doctors a new measure for determining the type and severity of COVID-19 pneumonia.

A Princeton team built a platform that allows computer designers to customize systems in new ways, mixing systems to boost performance. Researchers can connect their cores into the modifiable hardware framework, which readily supports multiple Instruction Set Architectures (ISAs) and can scale to handle as many as half a billion cores. (Photo: Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy)

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Mechanical and aerospace engineers (MAEs) at Princeton have played leading roles in combustion, fluid flow modeling and measurement, laser technologies and materials, propulsion, environmental science, and aerospace dynamics over the past half century. MAEs also have a major impact in control and dynamical systems, satellite technology and propulsion, stability and control of vehicles, robotics, pollution and alternative fuels, and instrumentation.

MAEs adapted machine learning frameworks from other arenas to the field of robot locomotion and manipulation, applying generalization theory to the complex task of making guarantees on robots’ performance in unfamiliar settings. In a proof of principle, the researchers validated the technique by assessing the obstacle avoidance of a small drone as it flew down a 60-foot-long corridor dotted with cardboard cylinders. The guaranteed success rate of the drone's control policy was 88.4% and it avoided obstacles in 18 of 20 trials (90%).

Researchers developed sustainable, self-morphing building blocks from the nano to macro scales inspired by biological systems to devise novel manufacturing processes of highly efficient structures and components from centimeter to meter scale. The systems will be lightweight yet ultra-strong, self-supportive, adaptive, and energy efficient. They could be used as alternatives to common construction materials such as concrete, steel, aluminum, and carbon fibers that create a lot of construction waste and energy consumption.

Using ribbons many times finer than a human hair, Princeton researchers have developed a highly sensitive flow meter that is inexpensive and useful in large-scale commercial and industrial applications. The novel sensor can determine the flow velocity in a way different from all available sensors in a process called elastic filament velocimetry (EFV). The sensors are extremely sensitive to small flow rates and their simplicity makes manufacturing very scalable and cost efficient. Both attributes will allow for large-scale commercial and industrial applications including chemical manufacturing, refining, and pharmaceutical manufacturing and delivery. The team is also working to adapt the technology for further uses such as administering medicine to patients in syringe-like devices when dosage control is critical.

Operations Research and Financial Engineering

The ongoing information and machine learning revolution has had enormous impact on almost every aspect of society and the workplace. Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) research focuses on the foundations of data science and probabilistic modeling, with applications in communications, economics and finance, energy and the environment, healthcare management, physical and biological sciences, social networks, and transportation.

Technology Transfer

The Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) provides technology transfer services for university researchers, industry partners, entrepreneurs, and investors. Contact John Ritter, Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 609-258-1570. Learn more about the OTL .

For information on Princeton technologies available for licensing, visit here .


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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