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On the heels of Oregon’s 2018 wildfire season, its costliest ever, researchers at Oregon State University are ramping up efforts to better predict how the blazes behave, including how they generate fire-spreading embers.
A team led by David Blunck, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has been chosen by the Department of Defense to spearhead a new $2.1 million effort to study the burning of live fuels, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service on this four-year grant. Kyle Niemeyer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Chris Hagen, associate professor of energy systems engineering, are co-principal investigators.
Julie Tucker, College of Engineering Dean’s Professor, is finding ways to better predict the performance of materials used in extreme environments.
Funded by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Tucker and her team are examining how alloys degrade during long-term service at moderately elevated temperatures (200-500 C). She is using irradiation to speed up, by several orders of magnitude, the phase transformations that degrade properties, making laboratory studies feasible.
Oregon State researchers are developing techniques to manufacture less expensive steel alloys to use in place of nickel-based superalloys. Oxide dispersion strengthened 304 stainless steel holds promise as an alternative, because it extends the high temperature properties of conventional stainless steel. However, the standard production process for it is solid state, making it too expensive.
This year, Somayeh Pasebani, assistant professor of advanced manufacturing, and Brian Paul, professorof advanced manufacturing, showed that it’s possible to produce a metal matrix composite using laser powder bed fusion.
Geoff Hollinger envisions a future where autonomous robotic systems navigate any environment, no matter how dynamic or unpredictable, gathering and sharing real-time information for the benefit of scientists, first responders, and the general public.
Hollinger, associate professor of mechanical engineering, recently won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his proposal titled “Topological Planning in Information Space for Intelligent Robotic Systems,” which will help take his research closer to that goal.
Caitlyn Clark, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, is exploring how to best design offshore wind energy systems for maximum power production and reliability at minimum cost.
Working with Bryony DuPont, Boeing Professor in Mechanical Engineering Design, Clark completed her master’s thesis on offshore renewable energy. She then traveled to Aalborg University in Denmark as part of the Fulbright program, teaming with experts to explore how combining offshore wind and wave energy systems can increase overall system reliability and production.
The Department of Energy has given two awards totaling $4.7 million to Bahman Abbasi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. These will have significant impacts on the future of clean water.
One award will fund the development of a new technology to treat hydraulic fracturing wastewater and improve the public health and environmental impact concerns associated with it. The other project will develop a solar-thermal desalination system, designed to be modular, scalable, portable, and economical.
Agility Robotics, a company launched out of Oregon State research, designs and builds walking and running robots. Its first robot, Cassie, has been joined by Digit, which adds an upper torso, arms, sensors, and additional computing power.
“For robots, these new capabilities are important when moving through complex, human-oriented environments,” said Jonathan Hurst, associate professor of robotics and co-founder of Agility Robotics.
Agility recently partnered with Ford Motor Co. to explore deploying Digit robots from automated delivery vans to carry packages from curb to doorstep.
Another Oregon State spinoff, Pellucere (formerly known as CSD Nano), which applies in-field optical coatings, is set to begin full-scale commercial deployment after a major investment.
One of its products, MoreSun, is a solar coating and application system that adds an anti-reflective and anti-soiling silica coating to solar panels in the field, increasing energy output by up to 4.7%. It was developed through a National Science Foundation-funded project led by Brian Paul, professor of advanced manufacturing. Paul partnered with Jimmy Yang, professor of finance, and Chih-hung Chang, professor of chemical engineering, to leverage their joint research work in micro- and nano-manufacturing to formulate new approaches to thin film deposition.
“Manufacturing is changing,” said Karl Haapala, Tom and Carmen West Faculty Scholar and associate professor of advanced manufacturing. “The deployment of new information, sensing, and control technologies, as well as advances in materials science and processing, are driving these changes. Industry wants engineering graduates who understand those intersecting domains.”
This past year, MIME launched a new undergraduate program, combining majors in manufacturing engineering and mechanical engineering. With this new dual major, students will focus on product development — translating initial concepts into physical items that can be competitively produced.
Daimler Trucks North America is the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America, a leading producer of medium-duty and specialized commercial vehicles, and a key research partner of the College of Engineering.
Recently, professors of industrial engineering David Kim and David Porter, along with Hector Vergara, associate professor of industrial engineering, worked with DTNA to evaluate an assembly system and to identify non-capital-intensive changes that would increase production throughput. The same group also helped DTNA develop an approach for quantitatively generating a weekly job sequence based on a variety of factors, resulting in increased system performance.
In a separate project, DTNA is funding graduate student Kyle O’Brien to research range-extending path planning for autonomous electric trucks. Advising on this project are Cindy Grimm, associate professor of robotics, and Bob Paasch, professor of mechanical engineering. They are also supervising DTNA-sponsored development of an autonomous car by undergraduate students. Other examples of work with DTNA include a project led by Ross Hatton, associate professor of robotics, to develop models to help autonomous systems better predict the motion of a towed trailer, and another led by John Parmigiani, associate professor of mechanical engineering, fatigue-testing fiber composites that may one day replace some metals components on DTNA’s trucks.