Research Projects

This is a list of research projects that may have opportunities for undergraduate students. You can browse all the projects, or view only projects in the following categories:

Aerospace Engineering

 

Combustion and Shock Synthesis of materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Steven Son
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, MSE, or ChE
Desired experience:   Two or more years toward B.S. in engineer or science degree.
Number of positions: 1

The SURF student will work with a team to understand how reactive synthesis materials can be modified to enable successful synthesis of materials (such as cubic boron nitride) by shock-assisted reaction. A gas gun will be used to perform experiments. Dynamic experiments will be used to examine the response of the materials and final materials will be characterized.

 

Design and Testing of a Novel Concept for Variable Flow Pumps

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Ag & Bio Eng. / Mech. Eng.
Professor: Andrea Vacca
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Ag and Bio, Aerospace, Material Engineering
Desired experience:   CAD modeling / fluid mechanics / fluid power / labview
Number of positions: 1

The present project is aimed at realizing a prototype of a novel concept of pumps. The novel concept consists in realizing a variable flow regulation using the principle of external gear machines. The novel concept guarantees higher energy efficiency of the overall hydraulic system.

The student's contribution within this project will be the design of an actual prototype of the new concept, suitable to operate at a level of delivery pressure up to 10 bar. On the basis of fluid-dynamic simulation results, the student will design all internal parts and follow the manufacturing process. In the final period of the project, it is expected an experimental activity aimed at verifying the expected pump performance on a research test rig utilizing existing facilities at the Maha Fluid Power Research Center of Purdue.

 

Development of Phase Transforming Cellular Materials (Design and 3D Printing)

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Engineering (Aero, Civil, Mechanical)
Desired experience:   - Mechanics (mechanics of materials, strength of materials) - Background on CAD software, - Some programming experience would be desired
Number of positions: 1

Phase transforming cellular materials (PXCMs) are a new type of energy-absorbing material which can resist high impact loads without experiencing irreversible deformation. PXCMs exhibit the same level of energy dissipation as traditional cellular materials but are capable of returning to their original shape. This new type of material could be utilized in many applications: automobiles, protective gear, or buildings.
PXCMs consist of periodic unit cells. Each unit cell includes several sinusoidal beams and stiffened beams. A unit cell has multiple stable configurations and each stable configuration is associated with a unique stable material phase. Under an impact load, the progressive phase transformation of each unit cell in a PXCM results in energy dissipation.
PXCMs have exhibited excellent performance resisting loads in one direction. However, it is desirable to develop and test PXCMs that are capable of resisting loads from multiple (and even arbitrary) directions. The objective of this project is to fabricate and test new 3D PXCM models. Those models will be designed using computer-aided design (CAD) modeling software and fabricated using a 3D printer. Compression and tension tests will be conducted on testing machines to evaluate the performance of these 3D printed PXCMs. The test results will then be analyzed using scripts in any number of computer languages (e.g. MATLAB, Python, or C).

 

Development of a new NanoHUB Tool: Coarse graining of Crystalline Nano-Cellulose.

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Engineering (Materials, Mechanical, Civil, Aero, Industrial, etc. ), Physics or Chemistry
Desired experience:   Required: Some Programming (the student will learn how to program in NanoHUB), Desired: - Some basic Mechanics (e.g., strength of materials) - Modeling (atomistic, mechanics)
Number of positions: 1

The purpose of this project is to provide numerical tools for understanding the mechanical properties of Crystalline Nano-cellulose (CNC) at different length scale. Due to defects formation at mesoscale, mechanical properties of nano-materials could decrease dramatically and influence the overall performance of materials. Although there are sufficient and advanced numerical packages for modeling materials at nano-scale and macro-scale, having an efficient and reliable numerical method for meso-scale is still challenging. Here we develop a coarse graining modeling tools which provides insight for CNCs interaction, defects formation and mechanical properties at meso-scale. Students working in this project not only learn some important concepts in engineering, but also learn how develop a tool and work with advanced numerical packages.

 

Experimental Study of Breakage of Particles under Compression

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Weinong Chen
Preferred major(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering
Desired experience:   Any prior experience of using servo-hydraulic machines will be helpful but not required. Microscopy (optical and electron) experience will also be helpful.
Number of positions: 1

Particles in granular materials undergo compressive loading during their manufacturing, processing, handling, transportation, and use. Under large compressive load, some of the particles break. Common example of this phenomenon is breaking of sand particles in sand bags when bullets hit them. Aim of this project is to obtain the complete understanding of causes of particle fracture and also assess the effects of various parameters such as material properties on how particles fracture. To gain this understanding, we need to perform a number of particle compression experiments in which one or two particles will be compressed between two stiff platens at a constant speed. The compression experiments will be repeated for five different materials: soda lime glass, silica sand, polycrystalline silicon, yttria stabilized zirconia, and acrylic (PMMA). The selected student will perform these compression experiments using the servo-hydraulic loading machine. They will then analyze the compression data using MATLAB. They will also observe the fractured particles under optical or electron microscope. The compression data along with the microscopy images will provide us a valuable insight into why and how particles fracture.

 

Experimental testing and validation of P-band bistatic remote sensing of soil moisture

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Electronics, Environmental Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): Electrical engineering, physics, aerospace engineering
Desired experience:   Basic signal processing, linear systems. Experience in working with electronic equipment and computer programming. Some knowledge of statistics helpful.
Number of positions: 1

This activity is part of a larger research project, funded under the NASA Instrument Incubator Program, to develop and test a prototype for a new instrument for the remote sensing of sub-surface, or “root-zone” soil moisture. This is an important quantity to measure for our understanding of the water cycle and for practical applications in agricultural forecasting. The innovative technology in this instrument, is the use of “signals of opportunity” (SoOp’s), which are reflections of communication satellite transmissions. In contrast to active radar remote sensing, a SoOp instrument will be much smaller and lower power, as it does not need an transmitter. SoOp also allows measurements to be made in frequency bands that are not protected for scientific use, essentially making the entire microwave spectrum available for remote sensing.

In this particular application, we will use communication signals in P-band (230-270 MHz), which can penetrate the soil to several decimeters. For comparison, satellite instruments today operate in L-band which has a penetration depth of ~5 cm.

On this project, a SURF student would learn the fundamental physical models, apply them in simulations, to predict the sensitivity of the P-band reflectivity to soil moisture variation and instrument calibration. The student would also assist in assembling instrumentation for ground experimentation, processing the data and interpreting the results.

Students should have some experience with electronic equipment and computer programming, and know basic signal processing and linear systems. An interest in Earth and environmental sciences is desirable.

 

Hierarchical Microstructure Descriptions of Materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): CS, AAE, ME, MSE, ECE, IE
Desired experience:   Computer programming - We ask that a student be willing to program in Matlab and Python. iOS application development would also be a plus.
Number of positions: 1

Within our research group, we often use many advanced characterization techniques to probe the unique structure of materials. For instance, we identify a region of interest on the material and conduct separate analyses to quantify grain structure, residual stresses, phases, defect content, and chemical gradients. These distinct datasets need to be aligned and placed on the same grid. Afterwards, we deform the material and quantify the evolution of the microstructure attributes. This provides large amounts of data that needs to be stored and recalled to extract materials science in physically meaningful ways. We are looking for a student interested in programming and creating general tools that help with data structure.

 

High-Strain-Rate Loading of Energetic Materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Weinong Chen
Preferred major(s): Aeronautics & Astronautics, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Student should be familiar with MATLAB. Previous lab experience, experience with energetic material, and/or experience with high strain rate loading would be useful, however it is not required.
Number of positions: 1

High energetic materials have a variety of uses from military-grade explosives to rocket propellant. Given the nature of these compounds, it is understandably important that the materials do not accidentally react. In order to design safety features to prevent this, one must first understand the conditions that cause the high energetic material to react. This project will focus on experimentally determining hotspot formation, crack formation in the high energetic crystals, and delamination of the polymer binder from the crystals using high-strain-rate loading, along with modifying experiments using previous data to determine better results.

In this project, the student will learn how to operate dynamic stress-strain testing equipment, such as the split-hopkinson pressure bar, how to quantify and analyze results, and gain general experience with lab operations. The SURF student will work with a Master's student in the Aeronautics & Astronautics department.

 

In Situ Strain Mapping Experiments

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): AAE, MSE, or ME
Number of positions: 2

The research we do is building relationships between the material's microstructure and the subsequent performance of the material, in terms of fatigue, fracture, creep, delamination, corrosion, plasticity, etc. The majority of our group’s work has been on advanced alloys and composites. Both material systems have direct applications in Aerospace Engineering, as we work closely with these industries. We are looking for a motivated, hard-working student interested in research within the field of experimental mechanics of materials.

The in situ experiments include advanced materials testing, using state-of-the-art 3d strain mapping. We deposit self-assembled sub-micron particles on the material’s surface and track their displacement as we deform the specimen. Coupled with characterization of the materials microstructure, we can obtain strain localization as a precursor to failure. Specific projects look at increasing the structural integrity of additive manufactured materials and increasing fidelity of lifing analysis to introduce new light weight materials into applications.

 

Laser Diagnostics Applied to Reacting Fluid Flows for Propulsion Devices

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Terrence Meyer
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Aerospace, or Chemical Engineering; Physics; Chemistry
Desired experience:   Physics, chemistry, and mathematics courses
Number of positions: 1

Propulsion, transportation, and energy systems rely on the turbulent mixing and efficient chemical reaction of fuels and oxidizers. Such reactions can take place in the liquid, gas, or solid phases and are investigated using sophisticated imaging and spectroscopic techniques. The undergraduate research assistant will work with graduate students and research faculty to assemble and operate flow hardware, align and test optical diagnostic instrumentation, and help collect and analyze data acquired using such techniques. The flows are designed to simulate conditions that are present in a variety of practical devices. The student will gain valuable hands-on experience and theoretical background that will be of use in a variety of fields related to mechanical, aerospace, and chemical engineering, as well as gain insight into potential areas of research for graduate study.

 

Modeling and Control of Aircraft Fuel Thermal Management Systems

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Neera Jain
Preferred major(s): Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Desired coursework: thermodynamics, dynamics, control systems. Desired skills: exceptional coding skills. This project may contain aspects that are restricted to U.S. Citizens.
Number of positions: 1

The thermal and power demands on energy systems across a range of applications and industries are facing unprecedented growth. These systems are increasingly required to operate near the edges of their operating envelopes. As a specific example, tactical aircraft must dissipate waste heat to protect flight critical systems. However, each subsequent generation of aircraft faces increasing thermal challenges with decreasing availability of heat sinks – namely onboard fuel and ambient air – and increasing mission loads. This is especially apparent in tactical aircraft with shrinking component footprint requirements and dynamic, strenuous mission profiles. Better energy resource allocation across the aircraft and over the mission is crucial for expanding aircraft capability. Therefore, we require systematic design of energy resource management algorithms that maximize system capability via tight integration among mixed energy domain subsystems.

In this project, you will augment an existing model of a notional fuel thermal management system (FTMS) to include additional aircraft subsystems that are tightly coupled with the performance of the FTMS. You will also use optimization software to optimize the performance of the aircraft over various mission profiles.

 

Modeling and Control of a PEM Fuel Cell Micro-CHP System

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Neera Jain
Preferred major(s): Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Desired coursework: Thermodynamics, Dynamics, Control Systems, Mechatronics Desired skills: proficiency with MATLAB and LabVIEW software; experience with experimental hardware, specifically data acquisition; experience coding in Modelica
Number of positions: 1

There is a growing interest in distributed energy resources (DERs) in the United States and around the world. Blackouts continue to cause major disruptions in the U.S., but a more distributed energy generation landscape can offer more robustness to these types of failures. From an efficiency standpoint, transmission losses can be minimized by generating and consuming electricity at the same location through an increase in the use of DERs. Finally, since many DERs are themselves renewable (e.g. rooftop photovoltaic solar panel installations), distributed energy generation has the potential to decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

A DER of particular interest is micro-CHP (Combined Heat and Power), also called micro cogeneration. CHP is the use of a prime mover (such as a gas turbine engine) to simultaneously generate electricity and recover useful thermal energy that would otherwise be wasted in the production of electricity, thereby resulting in systems with significantly higher efficiencies than traditional power plants. While CHP has been traditionally used in the industrial and large-scale commercial sectors, micro-CHP systems typically produce up to 50kW of electricity and are primarily aimed at the residential and small building market to meet electricity and hot water and/or space heating needs. From an economic perspective, these systems are particularly advantageous in locations where electricity prices are much higher than natural gas prices, and/or where robustness to grid failures is particularly important (e.g. in a hospital). Common prime movers for micro-CHP include combustion engines, Stirling engines, and fuel cells. Among these, PEMFC (proton-exchange membrane fuel cell) micro-CHP systems have a strong potential for high electrical efficiency, low emissions, and rapid transient response to load variability.

In our research group, we are interested in determining the optimal way to control these systems, particularly through the use of integrated thermal storage. In this project you will work with a graduate student to derive a dynamic model our experimental PEMFC micro-CHP system and collect experimental data to validate the model. Depending on your experience level and interest, the project may include control design (in simulation) for the purpose of optimizing the use of the thermal storage integrated with the PEMFC micro-CHP system.

 

Simulation of Hydrostatic Pumps for High Pressure Applications

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Ag & Bio Eng. / Mech. Eng.
Professor: Andrea Vacca
Preferred major(s): AA / ECE / ME / ABE
Desired experience:   programming expertise; knowledge of Phyton
Number of positions: 1

Within this project, an advance simulation tool for high pressure pumps, based on the external gear design principle will be created.
The numerical model will focus on the study of the flow dynamics aspects related to the displacing action realized by the unit. The model will take advantage of already existing tools for the generation of the necessary input data related to the geometry.
The simulation will be based on simplified CFD approaches related to the modeling of the flow, considering also aspects related to fluid cavitation.
The model will be implemented in Python.
The activity will also include a validation of the simulation model, based on experimental data available for both standard and novel designs of external gear pumps.