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Biofuels or Bust: Researcher Studies Next-Generation Energy

Ask Subith Vasu what drives him, and he’ll answer a rapidly changing automotive industry and consumer demand for environmentally friendly products. The assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering works with his student research team testing next-generation fuels to find out which ones are actually better for cars and the planet.

“There are a number of different biofuels being invented, but we don’t yet know if they’re compatible with engines or with the environment,” Vasu said. “It’s our goal to research and get answers to these fundamental questions.”

Vasu and his students research high temperature energy conversion to discover what happens when fuels such as gasoline convert into energy and change into new substances. The creation of new biofuels, Vasu said, brings questions of whether the fuel will emit substances that are safe for vehicle engines and for the environment. In his lab, Vasu uses a shock tube to study how these fuels break down – at what temperature, how long it takes and what they emit.

It’s this work with his student team that led Vasu recently to be named recipient of the 2018 Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers – or SAE – whose original leadership team in 1905 included Henry Ford. The international award, established in 1963, honors and recognizes younger engineering educators who are preparing students to successfully meet the challenges that face society.

By providing hand-on learning opportunities, that’s exactly what Vasu is doing, his students say. “In [past] internships, I saw a number of engineers doing managerial and quality control work, and I knew that’s not what I wanted,” said Sam Barak, a graduate research assistant and doctoral student. “I wanted to be the one doing the research and creating the protocols. And to do that, I needed my Ph.D. and this hands-on research.”

As the first person at UCF to receive this SAE award, Vasu hopes his student team will grab the attention of an entire industry.

“Traditionally, winners of the award come from the U.S. Midwest, where companies like Ford and GM thrive,” he said. “Just like UCF supplies the power-generation and aerospace workforce, Midwestern universities supply the automotive workforce. This award means that we’ll be able to create a network and pipeline for students wanting to go into the automotive industry.

“I’ll be preparing my students with the knowledge of what automotive industry leaders need and want, and that is so valuable in today’s competitive landscape.”

This is not the first international recognition for Vasu and his team. He was the 2017 winner of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Dilip Ballal Early Career Award for contributions to gas turbine area. His research group also was the subject matter of a 2016 United Nations documentary film, “Combustion Man,” which featured his research on destroying chemical weapons.

Additionally, Vasu received the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Young Investigator Award, and he was an early career grant recipient of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund. At UCF, Vasu is a 2016 Research for the Stars recipient and an inaugural UCF Luminary. Vasu also is a participating faculty member in the interdisciplinary energy conversion and propulsion cluster and a faculty member in UCF’s Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research.

He will receive this latest award April 10 in Detroit at the annual SAE World Congress.

Article by Katie Wyche, originally posted on UCF Today

2018-02-15T17:47:47+00:00 February 15th, 2018|Categories: News|

Seminar Series: Jet Noise Simulations-Towards Noise Control

UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department continues its Seminar Series by welcoming Dr. Tasos Lyrintzis on Friday, February 16th from 1:30-2:20PM in ENG II, Room 103. Dr. Lyrintzis will present his topic Jet Noise Simulations-Towards Noise Control.

(Abstract) Jet noise is an important issue concerns for people living or working in the vicinity of airports, stringent noise regulations, and military operational requirements. Processing speeds and memory limitations of existing supercomputers limit the faithfulness of these simulations. Thus the simulations are not accurate enough to allow design and testing of noise reduction strategies. In order to simulate realistic situations very fine grids (e.g. on the order of tens of billions of points) are sometimes needed, requiring significant computational resources. Thus very efficient algorithms are needed. An efficient, petascalable code has been developed based on the large eddy simulation (LES) technique. The code is a high-order multi-block structured solver capable of simulating both subsonic jets and supersonic jets with shock waves. A digital filter-based approximate turbulent inflow boundary condition is used. A wall model is employed in the nozzle walls to save computational time. Finally, a ghost-point-based immersed boundary method is implemented to allow simulation of complex nozzle shapes that show promise of noise reduction. We will show validation efforts for various noise control strategies including chevrons, beveling and fluidic injections.


2018-02-14T09:52:54+00:00 February 14th, 2018|Categories: Seminar Series|

Seminar Series: Current Programs at DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office

UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department continues its Seminar Series by welcoming Dr. David R. Forrest on Friday, February 9th from 1:30-2:20PM in ENG II, Room 103. Dr. Forrest will present his topic Current Programs at DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.

(Abstract) The Advanced Manufacturing Office supports R&D projects, R&D consortia, and early-stage technical partnerships with national laboratories, companies (for-profit and not-for profit), state and local governments, and universities through competitive, merit reviewed funding opportunities designed to investigate new manufacturing technologies.

AMO’s R&D projects explore novel energy-efficient, next-generation materials and innovative process technologies for both targeting specific industry sectors and a wider range of manufacturing industries. In addition, R&D projects focus on foundational or advanced energy technologies across multiple industry sectors. All of AMO’s R&D investments are high impact, use project diversity to spread risk, target nationally important innovations at critical decision points, and contribute to quantifiable energy savings.

Dr. Forrest will provide an overview of the R&D Projects Group at the DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and describe the exciting programmatic efforts in advanced materials processes for conductors, atomically precise materials, and beyond.


2018-02-06T15:12:52+00:00 February 6th, 2018|Categories: Seminar Series|

Seminar Series: Multidisciplinary Optimization and Uncertainty Quantification in Design and Services of Engineering Assets

UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department continues its Seminar Series by welcoming Dr. Felipe Viana on Friday, February 2nd from 1:30-2:20PM in ENG II, Room 103. Dr. Viana will present his topic “Multidisciplinary Optimization and Uncertainty Quantification in Design and Services of Engineering Assets”.

(Abstract) The design, manufacturing, and service of machines for transportation, power generation, and oil and gas industries present innumerous opportunities for multidisciplinary optimization and uncertainty quantification. Engineers and analysts are constantly challenged to balance performance, reliability, and cost, while industry is addressing growing demands, tight regulations, and the need for rational use of resources. This seminar will present successful applications of multidisciplinary optimization and uncertainty quantification during design and illustrate opportunities in post design. The discussions will be centered on how the use of state-of-the art computational methods allow the fusion of heterogeneous sources of data with engineering models.

First, a surrogate-based framework is presented as an enabler for engineering design optimization. In addition to minimizing the number of high-fidelity simulations, the surrogate-based framework has shown to be (a) capable of handling highly non-linear design spaces, (b) able to scale with parallel computing, and (c) robust to incomplete or failed simulations. Second, a statistical approach for characterizing prediction uncertainty of high-fidelity models is presented. The Bayesian formulation of the Gaussian process is used to fuse information from limited amount of simulations and experimental data. The framework has been successfully used to quantify uncertainty due to (a) model parameters, (b) number of simulations and experiments, and (c) discrepancy between the simulation code and the actual physical system. Finally, the multidisciplinary nature of post-design is illustrated through examples in asset performance management (lifing of gas turbine components) and operations optimization (power system model identification). Other post-design opportunities include but are not limited to (a) minimization of unplanned downtime, (b) maximization of productivity trends, and (c) cost avoidance in regulatory compliance.


2018-01-30T09:31:29+00:00 January 30th, 2018|Categories: Seminar Series|

MAE Professor Inducted into AIAA Class of 2018 Associate Fellows

Dr. Subith Vasu was among the honorees formally inducted into the class of 2018 by the The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) at its AIAA Associate Fellows Recognition Ceremony and Dinner on Monday, January 8, 2018, at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida, in conjunction with the 2018 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition.

“The distinguished individuals comprising the Class of 2018 Associate Fellows exemplify extraordinary accomplishments and leadership in the global aerospace community,” said AIAA President Jim Maser. “Each individual has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to furthering the advancement of aerospace science and technology, and each has performed important work that the Institute is proud to recognize. Their dedication, ingenuity, and accomplishments serve as an inspiration to current and future aerospace professionals. I look forward to helping honor their achievements at the 2018 AIAA SciTech Forum this January.”

The grade of Associate Fellow recognizes individuals “who have accomplished or been in charge of important engineering or scientific work, or who have done original work of outstanding merit, or who have otherwise made outstanding contributions to the arts, sciences, or technology of aeronautics or astronautics.” To be selected as an Associate Fellow an individual must be an AIAA Senior Member in good standing, with at least twelve years professional experience, and be recommended by a minimum of three current Associate Fellows.

View the entire class on the AIAA website.

2018-01-18T09:42:28+00:00 January 18th, 2018|Categories: News|

Seminar Series: Sensorimotor Control of Grasp Force with a Soft Prosthetic Hand

UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department continues its Seminar Series by welcoming Dr. Qiushi Fu on Friday, January 19th from 1:30-2:20PM in ENG II, Room 103. Dr. Fu will present his topic “Sensorimotor Control of Grasp Forcewith a Soft Prosthetic Hand”.

(Abstract) Control of powered prostheses using electrical activity from muscles (myoelectric control) has been a major research focus for decades due to its critical role for improving quality of life in individuals with limb loss. Although dexterity and robustness are ranked among the highest design priorities from users, accomplishment of these objectives remains challenging. By merging with the neuroscientific concept of postural synergies of the human hands, a multi degrees of freedom soft prosthetic hand (SoftHand Pro, SHP) was created to provide adaptive and robust functional grasps with only one actuator, which leads to simple and intuitive myoelectric control of grasp kinematics. This talk will focus on the recent development of the sensorimotor control of grasp forces using SHP during hand-object interactions. Specifically, we integrated a context aware switching gain controller with mechanotactile haptic feedback to allow human-like modulation of grasp force to object physical properties. Furthermore, we showed how training protocols can be improved to help user better understand the substituting haptic feedback in force matching tasks. These findings demonstrated the advantage of bio-inspired design and control of prosthetic systems.


2018-01-16T15:51:17+00:00 January 16th, 2018|Categories: Seminar Series|

Seminar Series: Polymer Nanocomposites R&D for Additive Manufacturing

UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department continues its Seminar Series by welcoming Dr. Joseph H. Koo on Friday, January 12th from 1:30-2:20PM in ENG II, Room 103. Dr. Koo will present his topic “Polymer Nanocomposites R&D for Additive Manufacturing”.

(Abstract) A revolution is occurring in the manner that parts are made.  It started with techniques and machines providing a means to rapidly build prototypes of hardware in various polymers for marketing, etc.  However, new techniques have quickly progressed in the manufacturing of parts used in aerospace flight vehicles, such as rocket engines.  These are no longer toys or desktop displays that are being made.  Almost every week, it is reported that additional parts critical to flight are now being manufactured by techniques labeled 3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM).  Furthermore, the materials used in these techniques are quickly expanding.  The geometries are becoming more complex and the addition of fibers and powders into the matrix are being attempted.  In this seminar, an overview of additive manufacturing techniques, such as selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), and HP Jet Fusion 3D printer (JF3D) will be presented.  The similarities and differences of these three AM techniques are compared.  R&D of different polymer nanocomposites that can be used by these three AM techniques are undergoing study at UT & KAI.  Material properties of these AM polymers are characterized.


2018-01-11T13:27:17+00:00 January 11th, 2018|Categories: Seminar Series|

Doug Guidish – Founder of Guard Dog Valves – Talks UCF Senior Design on Lend Me Your Engineers Episode 10

On the season finale of Lend Me Your Engineers, Kamryn explains why Hobbits don’t wear shoes. Also, Doug Guidish, the founder of Guard Dog Valves, joins the podcast to talk about working with UCF Seniors through the Engineering Design Program (21:00). Plus, audio from the first annual UCF MAE Grad Bash (32:00)!

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2017-12-07T11:15:18+00:00 December 7th, 2017|Categories: Podcasts|

Going Global: UCF Engineers Shine Conducting Research Abroad

If your idea of an engineering student is a rainbow-haired former fine arts major who traveled to Cologne, Germany for a ten-week science fellowship at the German Aerospace Center as well as a stint at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago and, oh, yes, is a woman, then you might be familiar with Seetha Raghavan’s lab.

Raghavan, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida, is passionate about creating a world-class research environment for students – one that spans the globe, while ensuring that engineering appeals to all types of students. The rich experience also creates better rounded engineers, which gives them an edge when looking for jobs after college.

“It is really important to me that students get varied experiences that will enable them to communicate globally as an engineer,” Raghavan said.

That begins with attracting students who might not traditionally be exposed to engineering as a career choice and extends to leveraging high-quality research collaborations around the world.

Guided by UCF’s five goals that include providing international focus to research and curricula and achieving international prominence, Raghavan’s personal story sheds light on her philosophy.

As an undergraduate, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and then pursued a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at ISAE SUPAERO in France. Following seven years working as a senior engineer in Singapore, she traveled again, this time to Purdue University in the U.S. for her doctoral studies.

Having worked or studied on three continents, she is determined that her students will have similar opportunities. “Every place helps you grow in a different way,” she said. “International experiences are an important way of building your capability as a student and as a researcher.”

While at UCF, Raghavan initiated a collaboration with researchers from DLR or German Aerospace Center in Cologne seven years ago. This encouraged DLR researchers to travel to the U.S. to work with Raghavan and her students on joint experiments at Argonne and led to 2012 National Science Foundation funding for catalyzing new International collaborations that supported two UCF students to spend a summer at DLR’s facility in Cologne.

Raghavan received further funding from the National Science Foundation, in 2015, to establish an International Research Experiences for student program that would support four students a year for three years to study with the scientists in Germany.

Since that time two teams of eight students have taken part in the summer experience and more UCF faculty have started to form collaborations with DLR researchers; applications just closed for the 2018 visit.

The students spend the spring semester preparing their research projects and holding biweekly Skype sessions with their German mentors so they are prepared to hit the ground running once they arrive in summer. They write a blog on their experiences and organize outreach activities on international research for high-schoolers.

Lin Rossmann, the former artist who originally had her heart set on being a fashion photographer, was directionless after completing her art degree until she visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. There, a student engineering competition inspired her to channel her love for space development into an engineering career.

“It’s silly to think that engineering is not creative – engineering is all about innovation and problem solving,” she said.

Rossmann returned to school for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Her international research experience and collaboration was instrumental in her decision to continue on for her master’s degree in materials science and she has since received a NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium Masters Fellowship. She hopes to return to Germany for a year or two to focus on her research.

Brooke Sarley, a senior in mechanical engineering, received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship provided by the Office of Undergraduate Research to participate in experiments that were going to be conducted at the Argonne laboratory. She was so captivated by the process of creating super alloys through additive manufacturing that she applied for the international research fellowship and traveled to do research in Germany the next summer.

She said her time in Germany helped her appreciate the freedom to focus exclusively on research without distraction. Being fully prepared before her fellowship helped with the intimidation factor, she said.

Estefania Bohorquez, a senior in civil engineering, said she loves structural engineering and all of its applications. Her motivation for research abroad began with her interest in studying preservation of historic structures such as cathedrals and coliseums.

“There is a global effort to preserve these structures and a lot of this is outside the U.S.” she said.

Before her fellowship in Germany, she had experiences as varied as working for the Walt Disney co. and Siemens Power Generation researching gas turbine thermal cover typical failures.

As the daughter of two engineers, she said it is probably not surprising that she entered the field but she said she was surprised to see fewer females studying engineering in the United States than in her native country, Colombia.

Bohorquez has applied for a Fulbright award to return to Germany for further study next year and intends to pursue graduate school.

Owen Pryor, a doctoral student who received bachelor’s degrees in political science and aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, all at UCF, specializes in combustion and how long it takes to ignite a fuel source.

At DLR he had the opportunity to work with a model system that uses pure oxygen to help burn fuel that can result in fewer emissions. He said that in his years of schooling he never stopped to consider that engineering could take him around the world.

“I thought that maybe I would get a job and move to another country but I didn’t realize this was part of being an engineer.”

Story by Barbara Abney, originally posted on UCF Today

2017-11-22T13:11:26+00:00 November 22nd, 2017|Categories: News|

Using Rocket Science to Make Coal-Fueled Power Plants More Efficient, Safe

A team led by University of Central Florida engineers is using rocket science in the form of a rotating engine sparked by multiple detonation points to make coal-fueled power plants more efficient and safer for the environment.

Kareem Ahmed and Subith Vasu, assistant professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering, are leading the investigation for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and are the first in the country to explore the technology for fueling energy systems.

The $1.3 million project is one of nine funded by the agency and one of only three led by universities. The team will receive $1 million from the DOE and $300,000 from other resources.

Coal is one of the world’s most abundant fuel sources. Coal-fueled power plants provide a third of the electricity we have today in our homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy but also produces carbon dioxide emissions that are a danger to the environment. Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas and has been linked by scientists to global warming. The DOE invested $12 million into the nine research projects to enable the expanded use of coal while also achieving the goal of zero pollutants.

Ahmed and Vasu’s project will explore the feasibility of using coal to power rotating detonation engines, a type of circular design that is spun by successive supersonic detonation waves.

“The goal is to have these supersonic detonation waves interact with the coal particles and fuse them into nothingness while producing significant amounts of energy, similar to planetary supernovas,” Ahmed said. “Creating conditions that will help us burn coal efficiently are crucial.”

Rotating detonation engines are actively being explored by Department of Defense for use in rocket and jet engines, which the UCF team is already involved in.

The technology could be more fuel-efficient than conventional engines because burning happens supersonically at higher pressures created by these detonations. While the approach has not yet been explored for coal-powered energy systems, the team is predicting that in addition to requiring less power, the systems will also produce fewer emissions.

Ahmed said the reason only three university-led projects were selected is because the type of proposed high-impact work is often easier for industry to undertake.

He credits UCF’s Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Engine Research, led by Professor Jayanta Kapat and where he and Vasu serve as faculty, as providing the partnerships with companies such as Aerojet Rocketdyne that many universities cannot offer.

“CATER offers the kind of fundamental and applied research industry needs,” Vasu said. “Most of our projects involve industry so we understand their requirements.”

Ahmed said his continuing work with Aerojet Rocketdyne on related projects was critical to obtaining the proper equipment for the research as well as familiarizing the team with the coal-fired rotating detonating combustor process. Two graduate students and one post-doctoral scholar will assist with the project.

Ahmed also spent last summer working on a U.S. Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship program that focused on rotating detonating engines. He also has been awarded grants from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Doctoral New Investigator from the American Chemical Society – Petroleum Research Fund to explore the mechanisms of turbulent deflagration-to-detonation transition and hypersonic standing detonations, both of which played a key role in the proposed work.

By combining Vasu’s expertise in combustion chemistry and emission-laser diagnostics and Ahmed’s strengths in propulsion and combustion-laser diagnostics with the industry connections, the team was the perfect fit for the research, Vasu said.

“Using less fuel for power generation means an incredible savings both financially and in terms of the environment,” Vasu said.

Story by Barbara Abney, originally posted on UCF Today

2017-11-22T13:15:40+00:00 November 21st, 2017|Categories: News|