Mechanical Engineering 2023 SURE Research Projects

ME Project #1: Dynamics of Piezoelectric Microsystems

Faculty Mentor: Kenn Oldham, [email protected]

Project Description: Piezoelectric microsystems are miniature sensors and actuators that convert strain to voltage, and vice versa, in devices just a few millimeters in size.  Applications include miniature robotics, medical devices, and micro-assembly.  In this project, the student will perform a combination of experimental testing and dynamic modeling of devices fabricated by the Microdynamics Laboratory in Mechanical Engineering, to better understand motions that are feasible for these miniature-engineered systems.

Research Mode: Hybrid, In-Lab

ME Project #2: Oil Wicking Through Dendrites

Faculty Mentor: Solomon Adera, [email protected]

Project Description: Experimental characterization and modeling of oil wicking through porous ice dendritic network.

Research mode: In-Lab

ME Project #3: Sessile Water Droplet Evaporation

Faculty Mentor: Solomon Adera, [email protected]

Project Description: Experimental characterization and modeling of the evaporation of a sessile water droplet residing on micro/nanotextured oil-impregnated surfaces.

Research mode: In-Lab

ME Project #4: Engineering Synthetic Exocytosis

Faculty Mentor: Allen Liu, [email protected]

Project Description: Building synthetic cells is an exciting area of synthetic biology with opportunities to unravel basic design and organizational principles of cellular life and biomedical applications. The current paradigm in the construction of a bottom-up synthetic cell system involves the creation of more sophisticated cell-like systems based on the current understanding of cellular designs. We are interested in creating a synthetic cell that can secrete contents upon a stimulus. This is akin to how natural platelets and macrophages secrete enzymes when they become stimulated. In this project, we are using complementary peptides or DNA strands to induce fusion between two membranes and developing strategies to have membrane fusion be dependent on calcium ions. Ultimately, we want to develop synthetic cells that can sense mechanical forces to trigger the release of small molecules. Such systems will have profound implications for the future development of cell-based therapy. As part of the team, the student involved will have an opportunity to learn various in vitro biology and imaging techniques. Candidates with interests in biology and hands-on lab work are highly desirable. Basic knowledge of chemistry and molecular biology is a plus.

Research Mode: In-Lab

ME Project #5:  Design and Testing Optimization of a Salt Hydrate Reactor

Faculty Mentor: Bala Chandran Rohni, [email protected]

Prerequisites: Thermo-dynamics, Introduction to Programming

Desirable Pre-requisites: Intro to Heat Transfer, SolidWorks/CAD, MATLAB, COMSOL, Arduino, Desire to do hands-on experiments

Project Description: Salt hydrates offer the ability to store thermal energy to enable deeper penetration of renewables. By absorbing and releasing water vapor from the air, salt hydrates can shift building heating and cooling loads. Although promising, current salt hydrate reactors tend to be demonstrations and suffer from a lack of design optimization. This project will focus on the design and testing of a lab-scale reactor prototype to see how system parameters impact the performance of the salts. Experimental results will be coupled with existing multi-physics models to gain fundamental insight into the limiting mechanisms that guide power output and cyclability. These results will help create a design guide to inform future efforts in salt hydrate reactors.

Research Mode: In-Lab

ME Project # 6: Life Cycle Assessments and Policies: Why It Matters for Hydrogen and Other Fuels

Faculty Mentor: Volker Sick, [email protected]

Project Description: The need for and interest in the production of hydrogen, as well as fuels from carbon dioxide, is increasing rapidly. There are significant technical, financial, and regulatory barriers to overcome to build up the associated industry. This project will analyze an example production process and how its success will depend on the availability of suitable policy support. With the passage of the Infrastructure law and the inflation reduction act, the US now has several instruments in place to support the construction and operation of new production plants. The project will examine how policies will favor or support particular technology pathways.

Research Mode: In-Lab, Hybrid

ME Project #7: 3D-Printing of Custom Assistive Devices

Faculty Mentor: Albert Shih, [email protected] (Miguel Funes)

Project Description: This project explores the use of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) for custom assistive devices to improve the quality of care for people with disabilities. The project works closely with the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center (UMOPC) with the goal to develop design and manufacturing methodologies for a new service system for rapid turn-around and high-quality 3D printing of assistive devices that will have personalized fit and comfort. Such assistive devices include lower and upper limb prostheses, orthoses for diabetes partial foot amputees, and ankle-foot orthoses for stroke patients. Contact modeling based on computed tomography (CT) or 3D scanning images will be developed to design the geometry.

Research Mode: In-Lab

ME Project #8: Freeze Casting with Improved Thermal Control

Faculty Mentor: Wenda Tan, [email protected]

Prerequisites: design, manufacturing, mechatronics

Project Description: Freeze casting is a cost-effective way to fabricate directional porous ceramics materials ( In the current process, the freezing usually starts from a stationary cold plate. As the freezing front moves away from the cold plate, the temperature gradient and cooling rate at the freezing front are reduced, causing the porous microstructure to gradually change. The variation of porous microstructure along the freeze direction introduces directional inconsistency to the final products, which is a great challenge for the freeze-casting process. In this project, we plan to design and prototype a freeze-casting system to enable improved control of thermal conditions. The project, if successful, will allow the fabrication of consistent porous ceramics microstructure along the freezing direction.
Research Mode: In-Lab 

ME Project #9: Computational Studies of High-Speed Interfacial Flows

Faculty Mentor: Eric Johnsen, [email protected]

Project Description: In this project, the student will computationally investigate the evolution of interfaces separating different fluids (e.g., bubbles, droplets, etc.) undergoing large accelerations. The scientific goal is to better understand how interfaces deform under such accelerations and how rapidly the different fluids mix. Depending on the student’s interests, the project may emphasize basic flow physics studies using large-scale numerical simulations, numerical methods development, and/or data-driven modeling/machine learning. Motivating applications range from biomedical (cavitation-bubble dynamics in therapeutic ultrasound or traumatic brain injury) to energy (interfacial instabilities in inertial confinement fusion), from transportation (droplets dynamics in hypersonics, cavitation erosion in naval hydrodynamics) to astrophysics (vortex rings in supernovae).

ME Project #10:  Shape Memory Alloys for Gripping Middle Ear Prostheses

Faculty Mentor: Karl Grosh, [email protected]
Project Description: The middle ear bones are the smallest bones in the human body (1 millimeter in diameter and ~10 millimeters long).  These bones are responsible for transmitting sound from the outer ear to the fluid-filled cochlea which then sends signals to the brain.  Over 360 million people worldwide and 30 million people in the US suffer from significant hearing loss (a loss that affects their daily life), and auditory prostheses (hearing aids and cochlear implants) make a significant difference in people’s lives.  We have a project to build ultra-miniature and lightweight (less than 10 milligrams – lighter than a rice grain) accelerometers that fit on the middle ear bones to enhance the safety, usability, and comfort of auditory prostheses.  Our work in fabricating the accelerometers is progressing with benchtop and human testing underway, but we need a robust way to hold the accelerometer and attach it to the middle ear bones.  In this SURE project, we explore the design and manufacture of tiny grips, related to some already used in middle ear bone (ossicular) replacement surgery, like Grace Medical’s Megerian Nitinol SRP, are contemplated; however, our needs are different and a modified approach is indicated.  We have already begun this redesign phase, creating CAD drawings and ideation of the design, and look to continue this process.  Interaction with engineering and medical school faculty is planned.

Research Mode: In-Lab