The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) is privileged to have a vibrant research program, with research expenditures exceeding $7 million annually. The research program supports a large population of more than 150 graduate students, almost equally divided between M.S. and Ph.D. students. While the department provides about 15-20 graduate teaching assistantships (GTA) every semester, most of its graduate students are supported through graduate research assistantships.
This page provides a brief description of main research areas in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Further information can be found on the personal webpages of individual faculty members and on the graduate program website.
Aerodynamics and Fluid Mechanics
Recent research in fluid mechanics and aerodynamics has been concentrated on problems in multiphase and density-stratified flows, low-Reynolds-number aerodynamics, boundary layer flow control, flows in microgravity environments, avian aerodynamics, external ballistics, unsteady aerodynamics, biomimetics, and unstable flight. The research funding has been approximately equally distributed between experimental and computational projects, with cutting-edge facilities and infrastructure available for both avenues of research. Fluid mechanics and aerodynamics research is also engaged with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Robotics area. A large number of doctoral, masters, and undergraduate students actively participate in these research efforts.
Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions
The MAE Department has active research programs in the fields of vehicle propulsion systems and internal combustion (IC) engines, with specific focus on their innovative design, technology development, performance and emissions, as well as fuel science and technology. Particular interest is placed on conventional and alternative fuels, their emission testing and mitigation. The specific goal of this research is to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and the consumption of petroleum-based fuels utilized by heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks, buses, locomotives or ships, where technology improvements have traditionally lagged behind lighter-duty vehicles. The list of alternative fuels evaluated in this research includes (though not limited to) CNG, LPG, H2, reforming gases, biofuels, biomass, coal-based fuels and natural gas (shale gas). The latter constitutes a core of the “Mountain of Excellence” multidisciplinary initiative of the university. In particular, our researchers are involved in the chassis dynamometer testing of the fuel economy and pollution for transit buses, conventional diesels, series and parallel hybrid buses, as well as the conversion of conventional diesel engines into dual-fuel engines for developing new applications of unconventional natural shale gas. Our research is pursuing several objectives associated with the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel, improving efficiency in small two stroke engines, and the quantification of methane emissions from across the natural gas supply chain. In addition, our research includes the development of multiple fuel power generators that will employ biofuels and waste cardboard; fundamental and applied studies of premixed flame acceleration and deflagration-to-detonation transition; mining fire safety; in-cylinder phenomena (efficiency, emissions) and engine-out emissions control (i.e., after-treatment design) using state-of-the-art experimental and numerical methods. Our particular areas of strength include on-road emissions measurements, gas turbine research and development, alternative fuels and advanced combustion for power generation and propulsion, optical diagnostics for combustion phenomena visualization and control, as well as emissions measurements for WVU’s EcoCAR3 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition team. Overall, the MAE department merges groundbreaking research with its application to real-life energy systems in order to provide industry, regulators, and researchers with the insight necessary for the practical implementation of alternative fuels and emissions control systems to a broad spectrum of engines and other power plants with a capacity ranging from 1 kW to 1 MW.
MAE Faculty engaged in Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions are: Slava Akkerman, Nigel Clark, Cosmin Dumitrescu, Hailin Li, Andrew Nix, Songgang Qiu, Gregory Thompson, Arvind Thiruvengadam, and Scott Wayne.
Biomedical Engineering research and degree programs are conducted jointly by the departments of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), and the Health Sciences Center (HSC). Areas of research include respiratory and diseased tissue mechanics, orthopedic mechanics, bone growth and fracture, and the application of computer-aided design and microprocessor-based instrumentation to rehabilitation.
Dynamics and Control
MAE faculty and students have performed a broad range of research projects in the general areas of dynamics and controls. Currently, active research areas include system modeling and simulation, state and parameter estimation, flight control, robotics, artificial intelligence, fault tolerant system monitoring and control, embedded systems design, instrumentation, elastodynamic analysis, active control in automated machines, and computer-aided design and manufacturing.
Materials Science and Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering (MS&E) research focuses on the study of metals, ceramics, glass, polymers, semiconductors, composites, nanomaterials and biomaterials. The area of study is diverse and multidisciplinary, since it incorporates aspects of chemistry, physics, electronics, mechanics, biology and medicine. Research in the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department primarily focuses on: materials for energy generation, conversion, and storage; biomedical, emissions, and smart sensors/devices; 3D printing and manufacturing; advanced coatings; modeling and fabrication of high performance polymers and composites; and nanomaterials for energy, biomedical, and smart devices.
Solid Mechanics and Machine Design
The area of Solid Mechanics and Machine Design (SMMD) encompasses the theoretical, numerical, and experimental studies of solid bodies, from the local deformations of flexible bodies to the static and dynamic response of structural systems.
The SMMD faculty carry out basic and applied engineering research including mechanics of composite materials, damage mechanics, fracture mechanics, dynamic simulations and stability of heavy vehicles, structural dynamics, rotor-dynamics, metamaterials, multifunctional materials, computational particle mechanics, and the characterization of thermo-mechanical behavior of materials and structures, both in the laboratory and in-field conditions. Furthermore, the SMMD faculty conduct interdisciplinary research in cooperation with the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, including the development, testing, validation, and field implementation of inflatable structures.
Faculty engaged in the SMMD area are: Ever Barbero, Bruce Kang, Kenneth Means, Victor Mucino, Sam Mukdadi, Stefanos Papanikolaou, Jacky Prucz, Nithi Sivaneri, James Smith, Gregory Thompson, and Eduardo Sosa.
Space Flight and Systems
The Space Flight and Systems area is a multi-disciplinary research field. Research within the MAE Department focuses on spacecraft design, guidance, navigation, and control (GNC), space robotics, planetary exploration, satellite navigation (e.g., GPS), radioisotope thermoelectric generation (RTG), in-space 3D printing, orbital mechanics, and trajectory optimization. Additionally, WVU is home to the state-of-the-art West Virginia Robotic Technology Center which is developing technologies that will enable a servicing spacecraft to grapple a client spacecraft for repair or refueling.
The MAE Department conducts intensive fundamental and applied research in thermal sciences, with diverse applications to thermal systems. The nexus of this research is in developing engineering systems that improve efficiency and in gaining an impactful understanding of such systems. Specifically, our researchers work in the fields of thermodynamics, combustion, heat transfer, as well as in power generation and energy systems. The latter includes (though not limited to) the development and analysis of the Stirling cycle machines, their power conversion and efficiency; advanced manufacturing as applied to Stirling cycle engines and coolers, as well as the design and testing of advanced heat transportation systems. Other primary areas of interest are gas turbine systems for aircraft propulsion and power applications; gas turbine cooling and heat transfer; integration and cooling of advanced pressure gain combustion systems; analysis of fuels and advanced combustors for power generation and propulsion; optical diagnostics for visualization and control of combustion phenomena; gas turbine engine aerothermal and materials study and the reactor design; fluidized bed and oscillating-jet combustion; energy analysis of buildings; numerical analysis of thermal systems; computational fluid dynamics with a particular interest in reacting flows simulations. Our research facilities include a high-attitude simulation chamber for ablation and wear studies; a fluidized bed combustion laboratory, thermal analyzers, electrically-heated, natural-convection water facility; Schlieren systems for flows with varying density; recording thermocouple data-acquisition systems; a water reservoir for thermal stratification studies; the engine research laboratory, the advanced combustion research laboratory and the emissions research laboratory.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Robotics
Active research areas in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and robotics include UAV/Micro Air Vehicle (MAV)/robot design, avionics and instrumentation, system integration, flight simulation, flight testing, biomimetic applications to UAV’s, experimental and computational fluid dynamics, guidable smart munitions, formation flight control, fault-tolerant flight control, UAV Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC), air traffic management, sense and avoid, planetary rover navigation, robotic pollination, and multi-vehicle cooperative perception, planning, and control. In addition, a team of faculty and students, mostly from the MAE department, won NASA’s Centennial Challenge for Sample Return Robot in 2014, 2015, and 2016.