Computational Modeling for Improved Materials and Structures

Odegard, GregProf. Odegard is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Professor of Computational Mechanics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. His research is focused on computational modeling of advanced materials and structures for the aerospace, power transmission, and alternative fuels industries.

Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. As computers become increasingly fast, more opportunities exist to design new technologies in a purely computational environment. Computational modeling can cut development costs, speed up the design process, and provide insights where traditional Edisonian methods can’t. Prof. Odegard’s research group is involved in two main projects that utilize computational modeling for new technologies.

Prof. Odegard is the MTU site director of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) titled “Center for Novel High Voltage/Temperature Materials and Structures”. The goal of this center is to leverage federal and industrial funding to develop new materials to withstand harsh environments. Specifically, the center is focused on materials for the power transmission and aerospace industries. Computational modeling has helped speed up the process of developing new highly electrically conducting aluminum alloys for power transmission lines and temperature-resistant composite materials for aerospace vehicles. For these projects, Prof. Odegard’s team is working closely with center members Boeing, General Cable, Bonneville Power Administration, and Western Area Power Administration, and CTC Global.

Figure 1 – Computational modeling of conformable CNG tank

Figure 1 – Computational modeling of conformable CNG tank

As part of a $2.1M grant from Southwestern Energy, Prof. Odegard’s team is using computational modeling to facilitate the development of a conformable compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel tank for light-duty trucks. Traditional CNG tanks have a cylindrical geometry, which make them awkward to use in smaller vehicles and trucks. In conjunction with REL Inc., a Calumet-based partner in the project, the computational modeling is being used to help design conformable CNG tanks (Figure 1) before they are fabricated and tested, which greatly reduces the overall development costs.