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Deciphering Signals, Engineering Solutions

The world is full of signals — changes in temperature, pressure, frequency — and Texas State University’s Dr. Semih Aslan, associate professor of engineering, can read them.


Aslan uses sensors and signal-processing methods to collect and translate raw data into vital information for addressing engineering challenges. One focus of his work is designing systems for better, more efficient stewardship of our natural resources, such as solar energy and water.

Solar panels get dirty over time, and cleaning them is a huge cost for solar farms. To determine how much difference dirt can make, Aslan’s team tested a range of conditions and watched the resulting power signal: wattage. They found that dusty solar panels can reduce energy output by 5 to 70 percent, depending on the specific conditions. This is valuable knowledge for solar farms as they configure the panels, make operating budgets and project their future power supply.


Dr. Semih Aslan cleans off a solar panel with a rag and water

In addition to solar research, Aslan explores the efficiency of our water usage. “One of the biggest problems we’re going to face in the future is freshwater shortage,” Aslan reports. “Water will always need to be transported from point A to point B. We can determine if there are problems along the way, and address them.”

“One of the biggest problems we’re going to face in the future is freshwater shortage,” Aslan reports.

To do this, Aslan is developing a much faster system for detecting buried water pipeline leaks — in seconds, rather than today’s average of a week or more. His underground sensors receive signals such as temperature and pressure, then transmit that data to an above-ground antenna and on to a computer. Aslan translates changes in these numbers into the likelihood of a leak in the pipe. This quicker detection means less wasted water, potentially saving millions or billions of gallons.


Key Stats:

From the FluksAqua report, 2016:

  • Texas loses almost 103 billion gallons of water to leaks each year.

Dr. Semih Aslan's research on solar panel efficiency found:

  • Dirty solar panels, covered in dust or sand, lead to a 5-70% reduction in energy.