Research Projects

Projects 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 2018 Research Symposium Abstracts.

2019 projects will continue to be posted through January!

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:

Mechanical Engineering

 

3D Printed Mobile Microrobots

Research categories:  Mechanical Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: David Cappelleri
Preferred major(s): ME, ECE, ChE
Desired experience:   Junior standing or higher, 3D printing experience, electrical circuits experience, CAD design fluency, programming experience.

In this project, the student will be tasked with using a state-of-the-art two photon polymerization (TPP) 3D printer to fabricate mobile microrobots for biomedical and manufacturing applications. A new technique will be developed for printing with photoresist with embedded magnetic particles and aligning the particles during the 3D printing process. The student will explore various micro-3D printer settings and evaluate them for different microrobot designs. The mobile microrobots produced will be tested with an external magnetic field generating system.

More information: multiscalerobotics.org

 

A New Ignition Technology for Lean-burn Combustion Engines

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Aeronautics & Astronautics
Professor: Li Qiao
Preferred major(s): Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, experimental skills, design experience

The gas turbine and internal combustion engine industries are pushing towards lean-burn combustion. Lean combustion means a small amount of fuel (much lower than the stoichiometric condition) is supplied and burned in the combustion chamber. The biggest advantage of lean-burn combustion is that it can lower emissions. However, lean-burn technologies have several challenges. One of the challenges is ignition, which becomes difficult for lean fuel/air mixtures. A potential solution is to use hot turbulent jets to ignition a lean mixture, rather than a spark plug. The hot jets are generated by burning a near-stoichiometric mixture in a small volume called pre-chamber.

This research will investigate the ignition behavior of a lean mixture by a hot turbulent jet. The undergraduate researcher will work closely with a graduate student on experiments. High-speed imaging techniques will be applied to visualize the jet penetration and ignition processes in a combustor at Zucrow Laboratories.

 

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) of Solid Propellants

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Steven Son
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, ChE or MSE
Desired experience:   Junior or senior level students are preferred. Aptitude and interest in graduate school also desirable. Good laboratory or hands on work experience desirable.

Significant advancements have been made in the fabrication of energetic materials with additive manufacturing (AM) processes. The geometric flexibility of AM has been touted, but little has been done to combine complex geometries with spatially-varying thermodynamically optimized materials in solid propellants. Investigation of the intersection of these areas is needed to fulfill the potential of tailorability of AM processes for propellant optimization. The propellant grains result in complex geometries. Recent development of an ultrasonic-vibration assisted direct write printing system at Purdue has opened a range of new materials for printing. Steps are being taken to combine AM techniques in a single, multi-nozzle printer to allow continuous fabrication of a propellant with two or more major components. This project will focus on printing thermodynamically optimized solid propellants in with a range of internal geometries and investigating their effects with classical and more recent diagnostic techniques.

 

Characterization of Decomposition and Detonation of Cocrystal Explosives

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Steven Son
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, ChE or MSE
Desired experience:   Junior or Senior UG students preferred. Good lab skills are highly desired.

Cocrystal explosives offer the possibility improved safety and performance over conventional materials. The SURF student would assist graduate students in the study of novel cocrystal explosives. Both slow heating and detonation experiments and detonation experiments will be designed and performed.

 

Computational Modeling of Photon Transport in Nanocomposites

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Xiulin Ruan
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Materials Sciences, Physics, Electrical Engineering, Computational Engineering
Desired experience:   The student should have an intermediate level of scientific computing experience (i.e. MATLAB or Python knowledge), strong analytical and numerical skills, and an interest in parallel computing. Completed coursework in Physics (Electricity & Magnetism) and Heat Transfer will be helpful, but not required.

This project will aid in an ongoing effort to achieve ultra-efficient nanocomposites for radiative cooling applications. Achieving radiative cooling requires engineering optical properties of nanocomposites to reflect and emit in certain regions. This work will focus on how to optimize the nanocomposites through computational modeling to achieve the optimal optical properties.

 

Cure-in-Place-Shelters for Disaster Preparedness

Research categories:  Chemical, Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Materials Engineering
Professor: Kendra Erk
Preferred major(s): Science or engineering students are welcome, including but not limited to chemistry, physics, geology, and the following engineering disciplines: chemical, civil, environmental, materials, mechanical.
Desired experience:   Enthusiasm for chemistry and an interest in materials research. Prior experiences with composites would be a benefit to the project but are not required.

Quick-cure polymer-based composites can be used for creating temporary shelters and other structures immediately after a disaster (i.e. earthquake, hurricane, etc.) Currently, it can take days to months to provide traditional types of temporary housing. The few temporary shelter options on the market are designed around concepts such as DRASH tents, modular construction, and trailers. Our research team has recently conducted studies on cured-in-place composites for infrastructure repair. This model polymer composite system could be developed into rapidly-deployable shelters that require few tools, could be towed, air-dropped, or stored, would be lightweight but strong and rigid. The SURF student will (1) investigate whether uncured composite can withstand the pressures necessary for inflation into shape, (2) assist in developing non-toxic UV-curable resin formulations and (3) characterize and understand how the mechanical, thermal, shelf-life and other material properties are influenced by the chemical formulation to determine structure/property/performance maps. Through this project, students will develop knowledge and important skills in material design and mechanical testing of composites.

 

Design and Analysis of Novel Approaches for Packaging of Li-Ion Batteries for Automotive Applications

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: School of Mechanical Engineeing
Professor: Thomas Siegmund
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering

E-mobility is a key driver of future transportation systems. E-vehicles rely on energy storage in batteries, and such batteries packages need to be integrated into the overall vehicle structure under consideration of structural and thermal design considerations. This research project will advance novel solutions to do so. The SURF student will work on CAD model design, simulations and experiments on simulated Li-ion battery packages for mechanical and thermal safety.

 

Elastically-driven flow focusing in micro-channels

Research categories:  Chemical, Life Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Vivek Narsimhan
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering, Biological Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics
Desired experience:   Basic understanding of MATLAB

Separation of biological suspensions (e.g., cells, bacteria, macro-particles in solution) find wide use in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Traditional techniques such as centrifugation and filtration (size-exclusion) are common, but for many point-of-care applications, it is desired to use strategies that are more gentle, cheap, portable, and low-volume. Here, microfluidics has emerged as an attractive method to address these concerns. Using channels with minimal power sources or moving parts (i.e., only syringes), several laboratory studies have demonstrated that one can purify and isolate cancer cells, leukocytes, or bacteria samples from diluted whole blood without the use of specific biomarkers. The scientific premise behind these studies is that various components in blood have different shapes, sizes, and deformability, and this variability in physical properties allows one to isolate/purify these components using flow forces.

In this project, we propose to improve focusing-based microfluidic techniques through the addition of long-chain, charge-neutral polymers (e.g., PEO or PVP) to the biological suspension. If added in dilute amounts (~1% wt. or below), these bio-compatible polymers impart additional flow forces to the particles in the fluid. These forces depend sensitively depend on the particle’s size, shape, and deformability, and hence can be used to fractionate particles by shape and size. The student will do the following: (a) fabricate non-spherical microparticles, and (b) visualize these particles flowing in a microfluidic device through microscopy or holography. The student will learn basic synthesis and image processing for this project.

 

Engineering of the Tumor Microenvironment of Pancreatic Cancer

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Bumsoo Han
Preferred major(s): Mechanical or Biomedical Engineering Majors
Desired experience:   Course work on solid and fluid mechanics are required - Basic programming skill on Matlab - Basic wet lab skills are preferred, but not required.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) poses a significant challenge with dismal 7% 5-year survival rates. Ineffective treatment of PDAC is linked primarily to poor drug delivery through a dense PDAC stroma and to elevated drug resistance of pancreatic cancer cells. These are largely correlated to the complex tumor microenvironment (TME) of PDAC. Due to its complexity, it is extremely difficult to identify promising molecular targets and to devise innovative strategies for efficient delivery of molecules at the PDAC TME. In order to address this technical challenge, this project aims to develop and validate engineered tumor models based on microfluidics and tissue engineering technologies. Students in this project are expected to learn about microfabrication, biomechanics, biotransport and fluorescence microscopy and analysis.

 

Enhance the Burn Rate of Solid Propellants

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Aeronautics & Astronautics
Professor: Li Qiao
Preferred major(s): Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Thermodynamics, aerodynamics, propulsion

Composite solid propellants are a major source of chemical energy for most of the solid rockets in use today with applications to space, ballistic, tactical and assist propulsion, and are made up of three components: binder, energetic fuel and oxidizer. Enhancing the burn rates of solid propellants is crucial for improving performance of solid rocket motors in terms of higher thrust, simplified propellant grain geometry, and reduced overall size and weight of the propulsion system.

In this research, the undergraduate student will work closely with a graduate student to explore methods to enhance the burn rates of solid propellants. The nature of the research is experimental, involving materials synthesis and characterization, combustion measurement using high-speed infrared camera, and data collection and analysis.

 

Geodesic convolution with various applications in 3D data analysis

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Min Liu
Preferred major(s): ME, ECE, CS
Desired experience:   python, c++ code, experience with convolutional neural networks

The scope this project is to explore the mechanics of geodesic convolution (in contrast to the standard Euclidean space convolution) for deep neural networks. The objective is to research for a more efficient, robust and shape-aware filter to support various applications for 3D vision data analysis, E.g. Autonomous CAR, robot navigation, and Augmented realities.

 

High-Volume Treatment of Metal-Polluted Water

Research categories:  Agricultural, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Materials Engineering
Professor: Kendra Erk
Preferred major(s): Science or engineering students are welcome, including but not limited to chemistry, physics, geology, and the following engineering disciplines: chemical, civil, environmental, materials, mechanical.
Desired experience:   Enthusiasm for chemistry and an interest in materials research. Prior experiences with composites would be a benefit to the project but are not required.

Mining of coal and metallurgical ores has significantly impacted the land and groundwater quality in many semi-arid regions and there are great challenges to mitigate the impact of this legacy pollution. The impacted areas have a portion of their scarce water resources chemically contaminated and are lacking a cost-effective and comprehensive strategy to rehabilitate the fouled groundwater. Laboratory testing of polluted water will be passively treated with geotextile-like materials that have been surface modified with polymers and clay minerals designed to selectively sequester trace chemical pollutants. The novel engineered material will be designed to have high surface area in a structure that will minimally impact water transport. As the water passes over the material, the pollutant will be irreversibly bound to the surface. The SURF student will investigate chemical surface modification of polymer mesh materials to induce chemical binding of the select pollutants. Testing will include measuring the reduction in pollutants as a function of exposure time and determining the total binding capacity of the modified material mesh exposed to a mixture of pollutants and other species typically present in groundwater (i.e. organic/inorganic particulates).

 

Illumination of Damage through Microtomography

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): AAE, ME, MSE, EE, CSE, or IE
Desired experience:   Students are expected to work with Image Processing and Visualization tools, as well as Matlab.

Damage in structural materials is often difficult to quantify, instead we rely on large scale component level testing and curve fitting. With the advent of advanced microtomography, we have the ability to identify damage inside the bulk of the material, in which the samples are subjected to mechanical loading. Thus, in this project, microtomography scans will be reconstructed and the damage in the form of voids or cracks will be characterized and quantified in several material systems (including carbon fiber reinforced composites and Ti-6Al-4V produced via additive manufacturing). The interaction of damage with microstructural features will be assessed, in order to achieve a physics-based understanding of material failure.

 

Lake Michigan Ecosystem Modeling

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Environmental Science, Mechanical Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Cary Troy
Preferred major(s): Civil, Environmental, or Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Proficiency in Matlab; Good communication skills, written and oral; Exposure to differential equations

This is an NSF-funded project examining the role of turbulence in the Lake Michigan ecosystem. Particularly, the project is quantifying the interactions between water column turbulence and the ability of invasive quagga mussels to filter nutrients and plankton out of the water column. The SURF research will involve the development of a 1-D biogeochemical model that models the temporal and vertical distribution of nutrients (e.g. phosphorus), phytoplankton, and zooplankton in Lake Michigan. The successful SURF applicant will be responsible for the coding and development of the model in Matlab, as well as potentially participating in data collection on Lake Michigan and the analysis of this data.

 

Micro/nano Scale 3D Laser Printing

Research categories:  Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Xianfan Xu
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Materials Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:   Junior or Senior standing, GPA>3.6

The ability to create 3D structures in the micro and nanoscale is important in many fields including electronics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering and is an emerging area of research and development. This project deals with the development and testing of a setup for building microscopic 3D structures with the help of a femtosecond laser. A method known as two photon polymerization is typically used to fabricate such structures in which a polymer is exposed to laser and at the point of the exposure the polymer changes its structure. Moving the laser in a predefined path helps in getting the desired shape and the structures are then built in a layer by layer fashion. The setup incorporates all the steps from a designing a CAD model file to slicing the model in layers to generating the motion path of the laser needed for fabricating the structure. In order to make a solid and stable structure, investigation of better materials and optimization of the process parameters is needed. Besides, possible improvements to the control algorithms used in the setup can be done to increase the efficiency of the process and build the structures faster.

 

Particle Detachment from Polymeric Substrates upon Mechanical Deformation

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Materials Engineering
Professor: Chelsea Davis
Preferred major(s): Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Polymer Science

The attachment of small particles to a soft adhesive layer is critical in the handling of energetic materials and active pharmaceutical ingredients that are often produced in powder form. An understanding of the debonding mechanisms of rigid spherical and prismatic particles from a polymer substrate due to mechanical deformation will enable the development of precisely-controlled particle adhesion and release systems. This project will investigate the debonding process of rigid microparticles from thermoplastic and elastomeric substrates subjected to various modes of mechanical deformation (specifically uniaxial tension and flexion). Our experimental approach will involve sample preparation, micromechanical testing, and imaging via optical and electron microscopy conducted by the student.

 

Preliminary Design of a 10-passenger Regional Electric Aircraft

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Nicole Key
Preferred major(s): AAE or ME
Desired experience:   Students who have taken Aircraft design related courses are strongly encouraged to apply.

The goal of the project is to explore the design envelope for regional electric aircrafts. The project starts with mission requirements including input information of range and maximum takeoff weight. Preliminary design of the aircraft will be performed including trade studies.

 

Smart Manufacturing using IoT and Machine Learning

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Innovative Technology/Design, Mechanical Engineering
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Martin Jun
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Computer Engineering, or Computer Science
Desired experience:   Virtual reality programming, mechatronics, CAD design and programming for graphics, signal processing and data analysis, machining, etc.

Autonomous operation and decision making during manufacturing processes and production are important. Using IoT technologies, machine-to-machine, machine-to-human communication and data generation are achieved and machine learning algorithms are used for data analysis and decision making. The student will work on virtual reality (VR) based visualization of data achieved from IoT devices connected to CNC machine and robots and analyze data using machine learning.