Advanced Power System
In the face of an impending energy crisis, the Advanced Power Systems Research Center is exploring alternative energy sources that will help mitigate the economic ramification of increased oil prices that are expected in coming years. The focus is on Alternative Energy Sources such as biofuels, fuel cells, and wind turbines. The most immediately feasible alternative energy source is biofuels. With decades of expertise and numerous innovative engine research labs, the APS group is well-equipped to devise the necessary modifications to IC engines that will allow them to run on high mix biofuel, which will improve efficiency and reduce emissions without sacrificing torque, fuel economy, or smooth vehicle operation.
The group also focuses on Energy System Optimization to ensure efficient use of future fuel supplies. Thermal-fluid experts are working to characterize two-phase flows in heat exchangers, enhance flows in fuel cells, and to develop methods and technologies that will allow the utilization of gasified natural material in power generation systems. Researchers are also investigating ways to optimize the flow of air across wind turbines in order to increase productivity. By investigating current and emerging technologies, the group is bridging the gap between today's fossil fuel economy and a multi-source economy that promises a more stable and sustainable future.
Engineering Education Innovation
As the world continues to change with globalization and technological advances so must engineering education programs. The Engineering Education Innovation research group seeks to understand and improve the total educational experience in order to prepare engineering students for the demands of a changing workplace.
Areas of focus include analyzing student motivation and gain insight into their emotional state as a means to assess the effectiveness of current educational practices. In the process the group is required to shift their methodology from familiar, numerical experiments to more nuanced measurement often employed by social scientists. With their finding the research group will develop curriculum improvement design to increase students' global competency and lifelong learning skills to better prepare graduates for academic and professional work.
Mechanics of Multi-scale Materials
The Mechanics of Multi-scale Materials research group uncovers the relationships of structures across the full range of engineering scales, from the molecular to the macro. In addition to established practices of nano-scale modeling and large-scale structural mechanics, the research group is bridging the gap between these scales by developing accurate constitutive modeling and characterization of each intermediate level. The research group identifies the critical parameters that lead to success or failure of material for a particular application. For example, to better understand how the material properties of polymer-based structural composites affect airfoil performance, researchers are using advanced modeling and experimental methods to pattern the relevant materials mechanics operating at each scale. Others are working to model structural foam designs for aerospace and automotive products, with the goal of improving thermal insulation, impact absorption, and moment of inertia. Uncovering how the nano- and micro-level mechanics play into the millimeter and meter level structures enables advanced composite materials to be optimized for structural performance.
Through advanced multi-scale modeling, simulation, and experimentation, research is focused on developing methods that will inform emerging technologies including nano-, micro-, and biomedical engineering and science. The Mechanics of Multi-scale Materials research group is well positioned to advance the state-of-the-art in this rapidly emerging field. As functions of intermediate scales between the nano and macro are characterized, novel materials and composites can be created and optimized. Researchers are working on novel experiments, MEMS/NEMS, atomistic and continuum modeling, multifunction materials and devices, microfluidic, tissue engineering, nanostructured material, material characterization, biological transport, cell mechanics and physics-based modeling.
Multidisciplinary Engineered Dynamic Systems
The Multidisciplinary Engineered Dynamic Systems research is collaborative research at the interface of engineering disciplines such as dynamics, vibration, acoustics, signal processing, molecular biology, and controls. These disciplines are becoming increasingly more important due to advances in nano technology, higher machinery speeds, demanding operational loads, compact and lightweight designs, and new engineered materials. Experimental work is evolving very rapidly with the advent of high-speed processors, signal processing and embedded control processor, smart sensors and actuators.
When faced with complaints about noise or unpleasant vibration, many global manufacturers turn to the Multidisciplinary Engineered Dynamic Systems research group to investigate and improve their systems' behavior. Researchers employ experimental and simulation-based methods to turn a grating whine into a gentle hum that exists below the realm of human perception. With modern lab facilities that include anechoic and reverberation chambers, researchers in the Multidisciplinary Engineered Dynamic Systems research group are well-equipped to undertake studies of components and systems in full-scale operation. Current projects include noise pollution control of running automobiles in the Chassis Dyno Laboratory and field studies of excavator cab noise for Volvo Construction Equipment Company.
Multi-scale Sensors and Systems
The Multi-scale Sensors and Systems Research Group specialize in the design, fabrication, integration, and testing of physically and functionally compatible devices and components that differ in size by thousands or millions of times. With decades of multi-scale research and expertise, the group is poised to dramatically change the face of technology across the full range of engineering and science applications. The Multi-scale Sensors and Systems research focuses on developing sensors that allow real-time monitoring and control to ensure system stability for applications that require feedback at each process stage, from the molecular scale detection of phenomena to wide area measurement.
Currently, a major area of research for the group is the development of distributed sensing for sustainable fuel production and utilization. The increase the efficiency and optimization of energy conversion from biomass, the group is developing sensors that will support the operation of biofuel production plants and ethanol engines. Their goal is to detect and report feedback at every stage of energy use, from the nano-scale reactions at the moment of combustion to the reactions as exhaust leaves an automobile.
The Multi-scale Sensors and Systems research group encourages interdisciplinary research and implementation of nanotechnologies and microtechnologies into deployable systems. Researchers collaborate with cross-departmental colleagues on projects that include biosensing technologies, microfluidics for fuel cells, and micro-scale metal forming. The future of multi-scale sensors and systems research lies in the use of biological materials and processes that are able to function in non-biological systems. MuSTI Center
The Space Systems Research group is creating innovative electric propulsion systems to make space travel more feasible, efficient and economical. These systems have a higher potential exhaust velocity than their chemical counterparts and require less fuel to reach orbit. The Space Systems Research group is home to the Ion Space Propulsion Laboratory, where the group designed and built the first bismuth-fueled Hall-Effect thruster demonstrated outside of the Soviet Union. Work continues toward a full bismuth system.
The Space Systems research also addresses the immediate challenge of integrating plasma propulsion systems into existing satellite technology. The group is developing methods and devices to improve real-time performance; they are building micro-thrusters using electron emitter arrays with self-regenerating nanotips, solving the problem of nanotip degradation and allowing an extended system lifetime. Researchers are also creating methods to identify and mitigate common issues associated with electric propulsion, with projects that investigate refractory powder metallurgy, thruster thermal modeling, magnetic field topology, electron trapping, and sputter erosion.
Faculty within the Space Systems research group intends to expand their research expertise and build a foundation of experimentalists in attitude control technology, robotics, chemical propulsion, power systems, lightweight structures, and astrodynamics. The Space Systems group is poised to shape the future of space exploration.
Sustainable Manufacturing and Design Area
The areas of Manufacturing and Design are fundamental intersections of the interdisciplinary research groups. Manufacturing research emphasizes topics in mechanics and materials science. Current research activity is in mechanics of materials with microstructure, experimental mechanics, plasticity, wave propagation and dynamic fracture, biomechanics, micromechanics, ceramics, crashworthiness, composites, and computational mechanics.
Design research emphasizes the development of design methodologies and computer-aided design and analysis tools and the modeling and control of dynamic processes in engineering systems. Current research activity is examining feature extraction from CAD models, robust design methods, engineering acoustics and noise control, noise-vibrations-harshness, modal analysis, system modeling and identification, control systems, system dynamics, environmental issues in engineering design, and biomechanical design.