Research Projects

Projects for 2017 are posted below; new projects will continue to be posted through February. To learn more about the type of research conducted by undergraduates, view the 2016 Research Symposium Abstracts.

This is a list of research projects that may have opportunities for undergraduate students. Please note that it is not a complete list of every SURF project. Undergraduates will discover other projects when talking directly to Purdue faculty.

You can browse all the projects on the list, or view only projects in the following categories:

Civil and Construction


Extraterrestrial Habitat Engineering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: ME and CE
Professor: Shirley Dyke
Preferred major(s): CE, ME, AAE or Planetary Science
Number of positions: 1-2

There is growing interest from Space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency in establishing permanent human settlements outside Earth. However, even a very cursory inspection of the proposals uncovers fatal flaws in their conceptual design. The buildings may not be able to support the load demands, which should include potential impact from meteorites and/or the seismic motions induced by such an impact, and perhaps most importantly, the materials used as cover for radiation protection may be radioactive themselves. Ongoing research interest focuses on mitigating astronauts' health and performance in space exploration and has neglected the largely unexplored needs regarding the habitat and infrastructure required on extraterrestrial bodies. Their design and sustainability represents a multidisciplinary engineering and scientific challenge for humanity. In a context of extreme environments, it is especially important to design buildings whether for habitation, laboratory or manufacturing, that are capable of responding to prevailing conditions not only as a protective measure, but also to enable future generations to thrive under such conditions.

Participating undergraduate researchers would be tasked to design and develop the following areas:
- design and build a prototype habitat for a permanent human settlement on the Moon as a preliminary proof of concept.
- develop concept experiments to assess critical issues such as the challenge of pressurizing rock openings or for a cavern to survive a meteorite impact.

Construction, assembly and experimentation will be done in the laboratory, using Purdue's expertise in the emerging field of real-time hybrid simulation (RTHS). RTHS uses sub-structuring, feedback control and real-time parallel computing to break a complex system into several computational and physical subsystems, realistically allowing testing of systems that are too large to fit in a laboratory.

We are looking for students to play key roles in this project, under the guidance of a graduate student and faculty members. The students are also expected to prepare a poster presentation on the results, and author a research paper if the desired results are achieved.


Purdue AirSense: Creating a State-of-the-Art Air Pollution Monitoring Network for Purdue

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Educational Research/Social Science, Electronics, Environmental Science, Industrial Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Life Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Brandon Boor
Preferred major(s): Any engineering, science or human health major.
Desired experience:   Motivation to learn about, and solve, environmental, climate, and human health issues facing our planet. Past experience: working in the lab, analytical chemistry, programming (Matlab, Python, Java, LabVIEW, HTML), electronics/circuits, sensors.
Number of positions: 1-2

Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the world and responsible for 7 million deaths each year. Poor air quality is a serious issue in rapidly growing megacities and inside the homes of nearly 3 billion people that rely on solid fuels for cooking and heating. Join our team and help create a new, multidisciplinary air quality monitoring network for Purdue - Purdue AirSense. You will have the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art air quality instrumentation and emerging sensor technologies to monitor O3, CO, NOx, and tiny airborne particulate matter across the campus. We are creating a central site to track these pollutants in real-time on the roof-top of Hampton Hall, as well as a website to stream the data to the entire Purdue community for free. 4-5 students will be recruited to work as a team on this project, which is led by Profs. Brandon Boor (CE) & Greg Michalski (EAPS).


Structural Stability of Cylindrical Steel Storage Tanks

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Sukru Guzey
Preferred major(s): Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Structural Analysis
Number of positions: 1

Cylindrical steel storage tanks are essential parts of infrastructure and industrial facilities used to store liquids and granular bulk solids. There are many procedures given in design standards to withstand the possible load effects, such as the hydrostatic pressure of the stored liquid, the external wind pressure, internal and external pressures due to process, and seismic events. Failure of a tank may cause catastrophic consequences.

The internal hydrostatic pressure due to the stored liquid results in tensile circumferential stress in the steel plates forming the shell. Because the resultant circumferential stress is tension and not compression, the yielding and tensile rupture criteria are the main concern. Analysis and design principles to account tensile stresses due to hydrostatic pressure is well established (Azzuni and Guzey 2015).

External wind pressure is also a load effect for the design of cylindrical storage tanks. When a tank is empty, it is vulnerable to buckling due to external wind pressure. This buckling failure mode is addressed by increasing the overall stiffness of the structure by adding stiffener rings to the shell. However, current design specifications in North America and Europe are overly conservative for the sizing of the stiffener rings (Godoy, 2016). The current design rules for sizing the top stiffener ring is based on intuition and experience. Although some researchers suggested some analytical justifications (Adams, 1975), these justifications are based on a number of assumptions which are based on the yielding criteria of the stiffener ring and not the buckling criteria.

In this study we shall investigate analytical, semi-analytical and computational procedures to obtain a more robust and resilient design of cylindrical storage tanks due to external wind loading. We shall use classical thin shell theory to obtain an upper bound buckling capacity of cylindrical tanks under wind loading. We shall use Raleigh-Ritz methods to obtain a simple semi-analytical buckling expressions. In addition, we shall investigate the storage tanks using finite element analysis with the use of geometrically nonlinear analysis including imperfections (GNIA). With the GNIA we shall establish a lower bound buckling capacity of these tanks. Finally, we shall compare our results with the available experimental physical testing of the cylindrical tanks and suggest a new design procedure. The undergraduate SURF student will work under the mentorship of Dr. Guzey and a graduate student. The SURF student compile a literature review, perform numerical simulations using FEA computer program ABAQUS, and write scientific research papers and conference presentations.

Azzuni, E. and S. Guzey (2015). "Comparison of the shell design methods for cylindrical liquid storage tanks." Engineering Structures 101: 621-630.
L. A. Godoy (2016). "Buckling of vertical oil storage steel tanks: Review of static buckling studies." Thin-Walled Structures, 103: 1-21.
J. H. Adams (1975). "A study of wind girder requirements for large API 650 floating roof tanks." Refining, 40th mid-year meeting, American Petroleum Institute, 16-75.