MIME Students Earn Prestigious Awards
Two MIME students were selected by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships program for fully funded graduate studies this year. The prestigious award reaches only about 2,000 of the most outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines from accredited U.S. institutions.
Our winners, Aaron Fillo, advised by Dr. David Blunck, and Andy Abate, coadvised by Dr. Jonathan Hurst and Dr. Ross Hatton, are pursuing cutting-edge research in thermal-fluid sciences and robotics, respectively.
For Fillo, an Eagle Scout’s sensibilities about playing with fire have developed into a project that looks anew at the physics behind the turbulent flame speed of large hydrocarbon fuels, and his work is already attracting the interest of transportation industry stalwarts.
For Abate, designing a new agile, bipedal robot, improving his previous work on the Dynamic Robotics Lab’s ATRIAS, has the long-term potential to transform the multi-million dollar research platform into a fully mobile robotic scout, costing as much as a family car, and fitting into a typical backpack.
Abate’s next-generation robot design goals are twofold — to improve energy efficiency and to dramatically increase mobility and speed. “If we want rescue robots to climb ladders and duck under debris in fallen buildings, we’ll need more sophisticated leg designs.” Abate said.
He plans to create a new design, incorporating his research in compliance and actuation. ATRIAS’s success at running has been based on symmetry and simplicity of design, but the more complex designs will require this advanced research.
“ATRIAS had two springy joints per leg, and those springs were easy to tune because of the leg symmetry. When we start having three or four different links in an articulated leg design, we have to fine-tune the springs so that the joints naturally work together in a way which is good for locomotion,” he said.
Abate is also designing custom, lightweight, and sturdy transmissions for the joints based on cycloid geometry: a concept currently used in aerospace and heavy industry. This design is expected to dramatically increase the efficiency of the new robot over that of ATRIAS.
Fillo’s research on the turbulent flame speed of liquid jet fuels comes as global dependence on hydrocarbon fuel remains high and interest in energy conservation and fossil-fuel alternatives gains traction. He cites U.S. consumption data at 18.49 million barrels of oil a day, of which 70 percent is used in transportation.
“Despite decades of common use, the turbulent combustion of these fuels in modern internal combustion and gas turbine engines is poorly understood. This inability to predict combustion performance can result in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in certification and development of new engines,” Fillo said.
Fillo expects that his research will provide turbulent combustion data needed to improve the industry’s understanding and approach jet engine design and analysis.
And looking forward, Fillo sees great potential to improve our understanding of alternative jet fuels.
“My research has the potential to generate a new, affordable methodology for evaluating alternative fuels enabling reduced fossil fuel dependence and lowering emissions,” he said.
These results could be passed on to engine manufacturing companies and the Federal Aviation Administration, who have expressed significant interest in turbulent combustion research, enabling industry-wide collaboration.