Accurate Detection of Engine Knock

Engine knock is caused by the auto-ignition of the fuel and air mixture compressed in the cylinder before normal combustion is complete. A vehicle with engine knock will quickly suffer engine damage, yet operating at conditions far from the knock limit will quickly reduce fuel economy. Because engine knock typically generates high frequency vibrations in the engine, it can be measured by accelerometers mounted on the engine block. The intensity of the engine knock varies from cycle to cycle and can lead current knock detection systems to underestimate the level of knock resulting in possible engine damage or overestimate the level of knock resulting in fuel economy losses.

The solution to accurate engine knock measurement lies with statistical characterization. The invention is a software algorithm that capitalizes on current Engine Control Unit (ECU) hardware to fit the cycle-cycle knock intensities to a probability density function. The statistical characterization is more accurate for both stationery and non-stationery detection of engine knocks. The model was developed using a standard 3.0 liter, V-6 internal combustion engine.

Minimizing engine knock provides many advantages including reduced fuel consumption, reduced engine noise and improved tolerance to alternative fuels including biofuel blends. The developed software algorithm improves the robustness of existing ECU hardware with a more accurate measuring system. This calculation improves performance and extends internal combustion engine life while being applicable to most ECUs on the market.

Exclusive and nonexclusive license terms are available on this innovation (U.S. Patent No. 7,415,347, issued January 2008). For more information contact John Diebel in the Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, 906-487-1082.

Wet Oxidation of Lactose

Lactose is a low-value by-product of cheese production. Altogether, about 1.2 million tons are generated annually worldwide by the dairy industry. Most of the resulting lactose is disposed of in waste water leading to environmental problems. To reduce the environmental impact the dairy industry needs to minimize this waste, either by converting lactose to smaller organic and inorganic carbon compounds more suitable for disposal or, preferably, to a lactose derivative compound with significant value.

At Michigan Tech, researchers have modified a catalytic wet oxidation process (common in sewage treatment) where O2 is added to a 3 percent lactose-water solution in the presence of a catalyst under heat and pressure. Catalytic wet oxidation converts whey (comprised of water, proteins, minerals and lactose) to carbon dioxide and water. The process has been modified to produce lactobionic acid, a marketable by-product for food preservation, cosmetics and pharmaceutical applications.  During the process, heat is generated and may provide additional value as recovered energy.  In addition to producing a marketable by-product, this process is simple and offers a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional waste treatment methods.

Exclusive or nonexclusive licensing is available on this technology (U.S. Patent No. 7,371,362, issued May 13, 2008). For more information contact John Diebel in the Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, 906-487-1082.

How to entertain 300 companies

The job fairs at Michigan Tech regularly bring in companies by the hundreds; many hundreds. This Fall’s fair was no exception, and Michigan Tech’s Corporate Partnerships group teamed up again with the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation Smart Zone (MTEC SmartZone) to host recruiters, staff, and faculty at the Keweenaw Brewing Company. It’s tough to find time to connect everyone in a social setting with the pressure of the job fair and a full week of interview slots to fill, but beer and pizza seem to always motivate. Over 200 joined together in downtown Houghton to talk shop, and casually mingle before the busyness of the rest of the week hit. The MTEC SmartZone is a generous and natural fit for hosting this event. Their mission is to accelerate and foster high-tech business growth – focusing specifically on driving Michigan’s innovation leadership and economic growth with sustainable opportunities for companies and their employees to prosper in incubators and offices in any of three sites in the local Houghton area. The SmartZone even started the next morning at 6:30 with a hosted breakfast and a tour of their business spaces.

Learn more about what the MTEC SmartZone is doing for businesses.

And learn more about how to connect with Career Services.

Steel Day at Michigan Tech – Oct 15

Students from all majors will get a chance to learn about career opportunities in the steel industry on Tuesday, Oct. 15, during Michigan Tech’s first annual Steel Day. Major players in steel such as Gerdau, Nucor, Cliffs and ArcelorMittal will be interacting with students in a fun and informational setting.

The day will start with a cookout on the Dow Patio from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when students can visit interactive displays set up in the Dow Atrium. At 6:30 p.m., a panel of industry experts will answer questions and talk with students in the Memorial Union Ballroom A. Later that evening, over $1,500 in prizes will be raffled off to participants.

To increase awareness of the steel industry, Michigan Tech’s materials science and engineering department, Advanced Metalworks Enterprise and student professional society Materials United are working with Career Services to organize and publicize this event.

Steel Day is meant to engage all students who might be interested in pursuing a career in this vital industry. Company representatives are hoping to build personal relationships with first-and second-year engineering students in an effort to promote careers within the industry.

Boron Nitride Nanotube Fabrication

Boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) provide many positive attributes over carbon nanotubes. BNNTs offer extraordinary mechanical properties and high thermal conductivity.  They also provide uniform electrical properties and high oxidation resistance. BTTNs are ideal for applications requiring high heat resistance, for computer chip manufacturing and insulation, and in cancer treatment known as Boron Neutron Capture Theory. However the difficulty of fabricating BNNTs has hindered their commercial adaptation.

At Michigan Tech, researchers have recently developed a new fabrication process that may make BTTNs more commercially competitive. A simple growth procedure has been developed to produce BNNTs in a conventional resistive tube furnace. The uniqueness of this approach utilizes a closed-end quartz tube to trap the growth vapor to enhance the nucleation probability of BNNTs at relatively low temperatures. Additionally, this process incorporates a magnesium oxide (MgO) coating on the substrates which further enhances the yield of BNNTs and allows for growth directly on the substrate. The fabrication process requires only a conventional tube furnace and is capable of producing higher yields through a more efficient conversion process.

A provisional patent application has been filed on this technology. Exclusive or nonexclusive license options are available. For more information contact John Diebel in the Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, 906-487-1082.

Synthesis of Carbon Nitrides and Lithium Cyanamide from Carbon Dioxide

Michigan Tech professor Yun Hang Hu has developed a new process to recover and dispose of CO2 emissions from point-continuous sources, like power plants and other industry emitters. Through a chemical process, the sequestered CO2 is transformed into two usable products; amorphous carbon nitride (C3N4), a semiconductor; and, lithium cyanamide (Li2CN2), a substance used to formulate fertilizers. This invention provides an energy efficient, exothermic, and cost effective method for converting carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, into useful materials.

This technology (U.S. Patent pending) is currently seeking commercialization partners for pilot plant validation. For more information contact Mike Morley in the Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, (906) 487-3485.

Titanium Dioxide Nanotubes for Irregular Surfaces

Medicine utilizes implants to repair damaged hips, knees and teeth. Various methods have been developed to provide a roughened implant surface that promotes bone growth.  These methods include sandblasting and chemical etching however; high costs and potential toxicity have left the medical device industry looking for better alternatives in preparing artificial joints and teeth for implant.

At Michigan Tech, researchers have developed a system of low cost electrodes (replaces platinum electrodes) that can be positioned to create titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanotubes on an irregular surface.  The resulting nanotubes have an outside diameter of approximately 120nm and a wall thickness of 20nm. The tubes can be etched in a close-packed configuration or free standing configuration.

This technology offers many advantages over current medical implant, surface preparation, methods.  TiO2 nanotubes create an irregular surface conducive to osteoblast colonization and eliminate the need for highly toxic hydrofluoric acid in the etching process.  This technology provides a programmable method for electrochemically etching irregular surface shapes and low cost TiO2 nanotubes replace expensive platinum electrodes with a cheaper electrode material.  The TiO2 nanotube technology is ideally suited for irregular surfaces, is safer than other etching processes and improves the implant surface.

A utility patent application has been filed for this technology and exclusive license terms are available.  For more information contact John Diebel in the Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, 906-487-1082.

Dow Company Great Lakes Bay Science and Engineering Festival

The Dow Chemical Company has taken the lead as naming sponsor of the Dow Chemical Company Great Lakes Bay Science & Engineering Festival at Delta College Oct. 4-5. The festival, hosted by Michigan Technological University and Delta College on the Delta College campus, will feature the Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers and the American Chemical Society Midland Section’s SciFest, performing their hands-on science shows.

The free two-day festival is designed to get children, adolescents and their families excited about science and engineering by engaging them in hands-on activities. Its ultimate goal is to attract more bright students into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies and careers.

On Friday, Oct. 4, the festival will host 4,000 middle school students from Midland, Bay City and Saginaw area schools. On Saturday, Oct. 5, it will be open to the public.

“STEM literacy has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. It helps us make critical decisions, and it reveals the power of the world we inhabit,” said Rob Vallentine, director, North America geographic site public affairs, and global director, STEM education at The Dow Chemical Company. “We believe engaging, hands-on learning opportunities are critical for building, supporting and growing the STEM pipeline. The Science and Engineering Festival is a great example of this model.”

Other major sponsors so far include Denso International America Inc., Nexteer Automotive, CMS Energy and the Dow Corning Foundation Donor Advised Funds awarded by the Midland Area Community Foundation, Saginaw Community Foundation and Bay Area Community Foundation.

Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers undergraduate and graduate student volunteers conduct high-energy, sometimes startling demonstrations and activities involving the young people who come to their performances. Science and engineering are anything but dull when you can make—and eat—liquid nitrogen ice cream, shoot a ping pong ball through a soda can using nothing more powerful than air or walk on (and sink in) a sticky liquid-solid called ooblek.

Mind Trekkers has brought the “Wow!” of STEM to hundreds of thousands of young people all over the country since the traveling science show was established in 2010. Partnering with the USA Science & Engineering Festival, Mind Trekkers will take its performance to the nation’s capital in April 2014.

ACS Midland’s SciFest also brings hands-on science to curious people of all ages, with exhibits, activities and performances. The Midland Local Section of ACS won a ChemLuminary award from the national ACS for SciFest in 2011.

Michigan Tech and Delta College are inviting other organizations and corporations interested in science, engineering and STEM education to participate in the Great Lakes Bay Science & Engineering Festival. Email Steve Patchin at Michigan Tech for more information at

Smart Control System for Suppressing Boom Oscillation in Heavy Hydraulic Equipment

A major problem facing operators of heavy hydraulic equipment is boom oscillation. Speed fluctuations resulting from moving and stopping payloads cause boom oscillations to occur. In turn, these oscillations transfer along the boom to longitudinal oscillation of the excavator body where they result in early wear on mechanical parts and harmful effects on human health including operator fatigue.

Manual correction is impossible given the time to dampen the oscillation for accurate placement of the bucket is greater than the time gained through increasing the maneuver speed. In addition to machine wear and operator health issues, this results in lower productivity.

The solution to this problem is a smart control system, developed at Michigan Tech, that implements an active boom oscillation control in hydraulic equipment. The control system continuously monitors the sensor signal inputs such as the hydraulic pressure profile of boom cylinder. The smart control system continuously analyzes the sensor profiles and evaluates the data to predict boom oscillations. When the system anticipates an upcoming boom oscillation, it generates one or more control impulse input motions to counteract the impending oscillation. The level of oscillation control experienced by test operators operating with this system is substantially greater than experienced with any competing oscillation control strategy or technology.

This technology offers a number of advantages when implemented on excavators, backhoes, wheel loaders and other similar equipment. It can be retrofitted onto existing equipment designs and improves operator’s working environment and performance. This technology also enhances dynamic stability and maximizes the life expectancy of the machine.

The smart control system has been tested at the laboratory and field scale on a commercially produced excavator. Development was in cooperation with a heavy equipment manufacturing company who holds a non-exclusive license. The smart control technology can be incorporated into existing heavy equipment designs and only requires the addition of an inexpensive signal processing control unit.

Additional non-exclusive license terms are available. For licensing information contact Mike Morley in the Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, 906-487-3485.

Career Services Suite Renewed by Black and Veatch

(left to right) Don Gibson, Electrical Controls Supervisor and Vikas Bhargava (’05 MSEE) Power Delivery Supervisor/Chief Engineer for Black and Veatch, Ann Arbor Michigan office, presented a check for $10,000 to Michigan Tech’s Julie Way, Career Services and Brent Burns, Corporate Partnerships, renewing their support for Career Services Partnership, Career Center interview room, Undergraduate Expo, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduate scholarships, and diversity student organization funding.

The Black and Veatch Suite in the Career Services Offices, provides prime interview space while on campus and feature interior posters, coffee mugs, pens, and other insignia from the sponsoring company. In addition to on campus interviews, the full time office of Julie Way, Assistant Director for Career Development Education, sees hundreds of students each semester.

For more information on Career Services Interview Room Sponsorships, please contact Jim Desrochers at 906-487-2313 or, or visit