Researchers Receive $1.7 Million

Michigan Tech researchers have been awarded $1.7 million to develop structural foams that could be used in security applications.

The 15-month, Phase 1 contract was awarded by Raytheon Company as part of a $3.7 million program funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop lightweight, portable barriers that could be used to help protect vulnerable targets and provide safe crowd control.

“We need very strong and lightweight barriers that could be erected quickly at any location and can be removed very quickly, and we can do that with polymer foams,” said principal investigator Ghatu Subhash, a professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics. “They will also be environmentally benign, fire-resistant and pose no health hazards.”

The research is being conducted through Michigan Tech’s Center for Environmentally Benign Functional Materials and its Sustainable Futures Institute. Co-principal investigators on the project are associate professor Gerard Caneba and professor David Shonnard, both of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Subhash Receives 2005 Research Award

Professor Ghatu Subhash, who has gained an international reputation for his research in mechanical engineering and materials science, is the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2005 Research Award.

This makes him one of a handful of MTU faculty to be honored with both the Research Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award, which he received in 1994.

“I am really honored and humbled–this was a bit unexpected,” said Subhash, the associate chair and director of graduate studies of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. He credited both the university, his students and his department for supporting him in all facets of the academic mission.

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Odegard Earns NASA Grant

A researcher at Michigan Technological University has received a $255,000 grant from NASA. His work in developing computer models for tiny materials could result in stronger, lighter aircraft.

Greg Odegard, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, creates these models to predict the strength of nanomaterials. One nanometer is equal to one-billionth of a meter.

“The materials we use, called nanotubes, are so small that we must rely on computer models to determine their stiffness and strength,” Odegard said. “It is very expensive to do this through experimentation.”

Scientists typically add these small nano-particles to other materials to take advantage of a specific property; for example, strength or resistance to corrosion.

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Dr. Lyon B. King Wins Presidential Award

Assistant Professor L. Brad King (MEEM) traveled to Washington, DC, this week to accept a 2003 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at the White House.

King is among 60 faculty members selected from U.S. colleges and universities to receive a Presidential Award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers at the beginning of their careers. The recipients are chosen by the White House from among nominees selected by the top U.S. research agencies, including NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. King’s name was put forward by the Department of Defense. All nominees have received their PhD degrees within the last five years.

As part of the Presidential Award, King receives a five-year, $500,000 grant to continue his research on very-high-powered ion engines, which could be used for manned Mars missions or ambitious robotic space science missions.

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Ion Space Propulsion Lab

L. Brad King (MEEM) has received $185,000 from the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research for his project, “A Ground-Test Facility for High-Power Electric Thrusters Operating on Condensable Propellants.” This Grant resulted in the design and fabrication of a space- simulation facility used to test electric thrusters for spacecraft. The facility was specifically designed to accommodate thrusters using condensable metal propellants such as bismuth. Apparatus includes a large 2-m x 4-m vacuum vessel evacuated through three 2,000-liter-per-second turbomolecular pumps, a 20-kW DC power supply, a remote translation system, and computer data acquisition center.

Sustainable Futures Receives $3.6 Million

What kind of program is this?

Engineering graduate students with a social scientist as an advisor? Students spending one semester in extreme northern Michigan and the next just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi delta?

Cajun pasties, anyone?

This cross-country, cross-cultural experience all stems from a new $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the Sustainable Futures IGERT. Michigan Tech and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will operate the program beginning this fall.

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Professor Mahesh Gupta’s Research Garners NSF Award

Mahesh Gupta’s fledgling enterprise has just received a $100,000 vote of confidence in the form of a Small Business Innovative Research Grant.

A number of federal agencies award SBIR grants, but this is the first from the National Science Foundation to be given to an Upper Peninsula business.

Gupta, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, started Plastic Flow, LLC, in 2002 to provide consulting services to plastics manufacturers. The firm, located in the Michigan Tech SmartZone, markets Gupta’s PELDOM software, which helps take the guesswork out of making extruded plastic products.

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Product Modularity–The Link Between Product Architecture and Product Life-Cycle Costs

John Gershenson (MEEM) has received a $289,439 grant for his project, “Product Modularity–The Link Between Product Architecture and Product Life-Cycle Costs.” This grant provides for the development of a method for understanding qualitative and quantitative connections among product architecture, product modularity, and life-cycle costs. Product architecture – the structure of assemblies, sub-assemblies, and components – has an enormous impact on the costs associated with each life-cycle phase of a product; manufacturing, assembly, service, retirement, etc. Component grouping into modules is one of the critical early decisions made by designers. This work aims to provide the relationship between modularity decisions and life-cycle product costs that designers lack by quantitatively relating each to product architecture. The result is a validated, implementable design method that includes these quantitative relationships. We hope to explicitly show, and therefore encourage, the application of validation to design methods.

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Ford Gift Opens Door to Nanotech Research

Two Michigan Technological University researchers are undertaking a brand-new endeavor that could play a role in fields as diverse as chemical warfare and computer touch screens, thanks to an unusual gift from the Ford Motor Company.

Ford has donated five patents that could serve as a springboard to the creation of some of the finest filters seen outside of nature.

The patents relate to conductive polymers, which the scientists hope to use as glue for building membranes so fine they could separate out oxygen (or more sinister gases) from the ambient air. The work involves combining 21st-century polymers and one of the most ancient organisms on earth, the diatom.

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