Research Spotlight

Wrangling flow to quiet cars and aircraft

'Serpentine plasma actuators' described in Journal of Applied Physics may reduce noise and drag and increase fuel efficiency for future land and air vehicles

Subrata Roy and Mark Riherd

    WASHINGTON D.C. Oct. 18, 2013 -- Plasmas are a soup of charged particles in an electric field, and are normally found in stars and lightning bolts. With the use of high voltage equipment, very small plasmas can be used to manipulate fluid flows. In recent years, the development of devices known as plasma actuators has advanced the promise of controlling flows in new ways that increase lift, reduce drag and improve aerodynamic efficiencies -- advances that may lead to safer, more efficient and more quiet land and air vehicles in the near future. Unlike other flow control devices, plasma actuator geometries can be easily modified. Enter the serpentine shape, courtesy of the Applied Physics Research Group (APRG), a University of Florida research team in Gainesville that has been developing this and other types of novel plasma actuators for several years. The serpentine's sinuous, ribbon-like curves appear to impart greater levels of versatility than traditional geometries used in plasma flow control devices, according to Mark Riherd, a doctoral candidate working under Subrata Roy, the founding director of APRG. "Our serpentine device will have applications in reducing drag-related fuel costs for an automobile or an aircraft, minimizing the noise generated when flying over populated areas, mixing air-fuel mixtures for lean combustion, and enhancing heat transfer by generating local turbulence," Riherd said. In a report appearing in the Journal of Applied Physics, which is produced by AIP Publishing, the team validated the complex, three-dimensional flow structures induced by their serpentine plasma actuators by comparing numerical results with recent physical experiments in non-moving air. They then simulated the effects of the actuators in a non-turbulent boundary layer and over a small aircraft wing. Further tests are needed, but early results suggest serpentine flow wrangling may improve transportation efficiencies. "This may result in significant weight and fuel savings for future aircraft and automobiles, improving energy efficiency all around," Riherd said. Click Here for the Article

Layman Research Highlight Competition 2013

    The competition was organized and sponsored by Professor Raphael T. Haftka. The 18 submission were first judged by a class of entering freshmen during summer B, taking a research course with Professor Angela Lindner. The 6 finalists were judged by four of our staff members, Carrie Pridgeon, Mark Riedy, Casey Roca, and Judith Strach. The six finalists are listed below in order of their ratings, and their papers may be viewed by clicking on their papers.

    1. Kyle Rowe: Friction Makes The World Go Round
    2. Marlana Goldsmith: Ceramic Matrix Composites
    3. Michael Bobek: Sunlight to Gas Pump
    4. Angela Pitenis: Ultra Low Wearing Nanocomposites
    5. Kanwardeep Bhachu: Choosing The Best Material To Tolerate Cracks In Aircraft
    6. Gregory Parsard: Unlocking The Potential Of The World's Strongest Armor

    Layman Research Highlight Competition announcement

    Motivation: Understanding fully our research contributions usually requires specialized preparation and knowledge. However, success in our profession often requires explaining them to managers, colleagues, and sponsors who lack such preparation and knowledge. In addition, it may be important to explain what we do to family and friends, so that they will be able to fully share in our trials and triumphs. The Layman Research Highlight Competition is a challenge to our PhD students to select a topic from their research and write it so that a general audience will understand it, find it interesting, and appreciate why it is useful.

    Rules: The research highlight is limited to a single 8.5"x11" page with 1" margins containing text and graphics. Font size should not be smaller than 11, except for figure captions that may use 10 font. It should include the title and the author. Entries should be submitted by email by COB July 15 to Submittal implies agreement to have the highlight published on UF web pages and newsletters, and readiness to rank four other submissions if asked to.

    Evaluation criteria: The four evaluation criteria are accessibility (20%), clarity (30%), appeal (30%), and motivation (20%). Accessibility refers to the level of education required of the reader, with full credit given if an 8-grader should be able to understand and no credit if graduate education is required. Clarity refers to ease of understanding and absence of ambiguity (no need to speculate about what the author means). Appeal refers to the power of the page to entice a reader to read the piece (via title, headlines, graphics) and its power to keep the reader interested. Motivation refers to success in explaining why the research is worthwhile and what kind of impact it will have.

    Evaluation process: If the number of submissions exceeds 8, a preliminary stage will include cross evaluation. That is, each submitter will get four other submissions to rank, with the author's name removed. This will yield a composite rank (1-4) for each submission, and it will be used to determine 8 finalists. These finalists will be evaluated by 6-7 evaluators including at least three not having STEM college education. Last year we found that some evaluators use wide range of evaluations (e.g. from 0 to 10) while others use a narrow range (e.g., from 7 to 9). To compensate for that, scores for evaluators will be normalized by using their means and standard deviations.

    Outcome: The winner of the competition will receive a $300 prize and something to brag about on their CV. In addition, highly rated entries may be featured on the group department web pages and possibly on other department and UF publications. In addition, the authors will receive feedback on how they can improve their submissions.

Prof. Mrinal Kumar wins NSF CAREER award

An Integrated Hybrid Forecasting Framework for Increased Wind Power Penetration

Mrinal Kumar

Nanomechanical and Tribological Properties on Hadrosaurid

    The goal of this research is to develop the next generation of algorithms to achieve significant improvement in short-term wind forecasting. Today, wind energy contributes merely 2% to the total electricity produced in the United States. One of the reasons for this situation is our inability to accurately forecast and characterize the uncertainty underlying local wind dynamics. This translates to low predictability, high risk and the need for expensive balancing power resources. One must be able to capture complex wind dynamics driven by multiple length and time scales, turbulence and orographic effects – all of which lead to the non-Gaussian nature of wind uncertainty, typically residing in very high dimensional spaces. The proposed integrated framework comprises of randomized algorithms for scalable nonlinear uncertainty propagation. The output from designed particle methods and advanced partial differential equation solvers will be combined with measured on-site data in the sense of optimal data fusion, leading to a hybrid forecasting structure. This work will significantly improve wind forecasts up to 48 hours in advance, leading to enhanced dispatch, scheduling and unit commitment operations in the day-ahead electricity market.

    A concurrent goal of this effort is to work with teachers to increase the participation of both students and educators in research related to renewable energy. A pilot initiative called the Sustainable Energy Professional Development Program will be put in place in collaboration with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training at University of Florida. An annual Renewable Energy Design Challenge (Challenge-RED) for high-school students is planned as part of the development program. The long-term education goal is to foster the next generation of professionals who will adopt leading roles in the push towards sustainable energy.

Nanomechanical and Tribological Properties on Hadrosaurid

Greg Sawyer & Brandon Krick

Nanomechanical and Tribological Properties on Hadrosaurid

    Prof. Greg Sawyer and his PhD student Brandon Krick measured nanomechanical and tribological properties on hadrosaurid (duck-billed dinosaur) dental fossils from the American Museum of Natural History. Using instruments designed and built in MAE, they measured tissue hardness and wear rates that were preserved in the 65 million year old tooth. These properties are preserved in fossilized teeth because apatite mineral content is the major determinant of dental tissue hardness. Measured tissue wear rates were used to simulate the formation of hadrosaurid tooth chewing surfaces using a 3-D wear simulation. The simulation results in a surface profile nearly identical to a naturally worn hadrosaurid dental battery. The model revealed how each tissue (of differing wear rates) contributed to the formation of sophisticated slicing and grinding features in these reptiles tens of millions of years before mammals evolved analogous chewing capacity. This capacity to measure wear-relevant properties preserved in fossils provides a new route to study biomechanics throughout evolution. The work was a collaboration with colleagues at FSU. See Science, October 5, 2012, pp.98-101.

Professor Researches Nuclear Power Plant Safety

DuWayne Schubring

Professor Researches Nuclear Power Plant Safety

    Japan's nuclear crisis left many people questioning the safety of nuclear plants. Assistant professor DuWayne Schubring has made it his job to be concerned about and work to improve upon the future safety of power plants. At the time the tsunami hit Japan, Schubring said the country's nuclear plants operated on active safety systems, which require energy to function. When power to the plants was knocked out, there was no way for the systems to have the energy to operate. These systems are necessary because even when you turn a nuclear power plant off, it's only 93% or 94% off, he said. Radioactive decay generates the rest, and it needs to be cooled in order to be turned off completely. With active safety systems that can't function, the cooling is impossible. Advanced nuclear power systems, nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics and nuclear reactor safety all fall under Schubring's research interests, and his work has involved developing better fundamental models to fit into the characterization of power plants.

A MEMS Piezoresistive Microphone for Aeroacoustic Applications

M. Sheplak, B. Homeijer and the Boeing Company

A MEMS Piezoresistive Microphone for Aeroacoustic Applications

    With air traffic expected to increase dramatically in the next decade and urban sprawl encroaching on airports, a reduction in the sound radiated from commercial airplanes is needed. To lower aircraft noise, manufacturers perform extensive scale model wind tunnel tests to locate and eliminate sound sources. One of the most important pieces of equipment needed is a low cost, robust microphone that is able to withstand large sound pressure levels. Utilizing microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology provides a means to meet the low cost and stringent performance specifications. In this work, non-linear composite plate mechanic models are developed together with a lumped element model that predicts the dynamic behavior of the microphone. These models are implemented into an optimization scheme to maximize the operational dynamic range and bandwidth of the device. The optimal design is then fabricated using a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) compatible process so the microphone may be integrated later with supporting circuitry.

Research to Evaluate the Ability of Musculoskeletal Models

Professor B.J. Fregly, Dr. Darryl D'Lima of Scripps Clinic and Dr. Thor Besier of Stanford University

A MEMS Piezoresistive Microphone for Aeroacoustic Applications

    Professor B.J. Fregly is spearheading a research effort to critically evaluate the ability of musculoskeletal models to predict muscle and joint contact forces in the knee reliably during walking. Knowledge of these internal loads could improve the diagnosis and treatment of neuromusculoskeletal disorders that affect walking ability (e.g., stroke, cerebral palsy, osteoarthritis). Fregly and his collaborators Dr. Darryl D'Lima of Scripps Clinic and Dr. Thor Besier of Stanford University are organizing a "grand challenge" competition at the 2010 ASME Summer Bioengineering Conference in Florida. Competitors will use experimental movement data released by D'Lima to attempt to predict contact forces in the knee during walking without knowing the measured values in advance. Blinded predictions will be submitted to the research team, and the best predictions will be presented in a special session at the conference next June. Fregly and Besier have developed a web site to disseminate information about and data for the competition (

Current News

Recent Department Awards and Recognitions

    Dr. Subrata Roy has been awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering's 2013 Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award for his pioneering work on novel plasma actuators. The Distinguished Visiting Fellowship enables an academic engineering department in a United Kingdom (UK) university to share expertise and harness world-class research capability by collaborating with international experts. As a part of this award he will be hosted by the University of Manchester, UK from June 15-July15, 2013 and will visit different European academic and research institutions to build collaborations for Joint studies on plasma flow technologies for low speed separation control and drag reduction.

    Dr. Henry Sodano has been awarded the American Society for Composites 2012 Young Composites Researcher Award. The Young Composites Researcher Award is given to a member of the composites community who early in their career has made a significant impact on the science and technology of composite materials through a sustained research effort. His efforts have focused on the development of ceramic nanowires grown on reinforcing fibers and high energy density nanocomposite capacitors. The award will be presented at the American Society for Composites' 27th Annual Technical Conference on October 2nd 2012 in Arlington, Texas.

    Dr. Hugh Fan, MAE, has been selected as the recipient of a Fraunhofer Bessel Research Award in recognition of lifetime achievements in research. As an awardee, Dr. Fan will be invited to carry out research projects of his own choice in cooperation with specialist colleagues in Germany.

    Bhavani V. Sankar is the recipient of the 2009 ASC/DEStech Award given by the American Society for Composites. The award is sponsored by Destech Publishing Co., a major publisher of books and conference proceedings in the area of composites.

    Professor Hitomi Greenslet received the certificate of Merit for Excellent Paper of the Conference, 3rd JSME/ASME International Conference on Materials and Processing, September 14, 2009. The award was given by the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers for the paper entitled, Study of magnetic field assisted finishing of quartz wafers. Authors: Hitomi Yamaguchi (Greenslet), Kazuki Yumoto, Takeo Shinmura, and Takahiko Okazaki.

2013 Outstanding Alumni Awards / 2014 nominations are open

    The following MAE alumni were honored as the 2013 MAE Outstanding Alumnus Award winners. We had a number of outstanding nominations, and it was a challenge to select the winners. 1) Brian Holloway (DARPA), 2) Charles Myers (Lockheed Martin), 3) Ed Duran (GE Aviation), 4) Jack Sparks (SERF Consulting) and 5) Adam Zaricki (Harris Corporation). The Outstanding Alumnus Awardees were honored at the Annual MAE Awards Banquet on April 12, 2013. Please see the Spring 2013 newsletter below for a photograph of the winners. Previous nominations will be kept in file and considered next year along with any new nominations.

2014 Outstanding Alumni Awards Nominations are now OPEN!

    For the academic year 2013-2014 we encourage nominations for both the MAE Outstanding Young Alumnus Award and the MAE Outstanding Alumnus Award. Nomination forms are due by February 12, 2014 and will be evaluated by an award committee.  Decisions will be reached by February 24, 2014, and the awards will be bestowed on the awardees at the MAE Annual Awards Banquet on April 3, 2014. We request the nomination process to be discreet and without the involvement of the nominee.  Nominations can be submitted over the web or mailed to MAE Outstanding Alumnus Award, Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, 231 MAE-A, PO Box 116250, Gainesville, FL, 32611.


Spring 2008 Newsletter

Department Newsletter

    The MAE department regularly publishes a newsletter showcasing its current activities. The newsletter includes a feature story, an 'in the news' section as well as faculty news, alumni news and many more articles which will give an insight into the MAE department.   Current Issue:   PDF   Flash

Seminars and Events

    Here are some of the upcoming seminars and events