Innovation for all: Cagan makes classic book public
Integrated Innovation Institute

Jonathan Cagan made his book Creating Breakthrough Products open to download to share vital principles of integrated innovation. “We aim to inspire innovators across the world to make an impact,” Cagan said. His inspiration for the book came from teaching the Integrated Product Development capstone course, which connected engineers, designers, and business professionals to collaborate on projects. In the 17 years since the book’s publication, companies such as Boeing have applied the book’s concepts to their own productions methods. Navistar’s design of the long-haul truck even merited the 2009 American Truck Drivers Truck of the Year Award. Cagan himself has continued to share his innovation strategies since co-founding the Integrated Innovation Institute.

Viswanathan discusses feasibility of electric trucks, planes
Inside Science

MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan delivered a presentation on the feasibility of electric long-haul trucks and airplanes at the American Physical Society’s March meeting, reports Inside Science. Heavier battery packs allow for greater travel distance in electric trucks, but they cut into maximum payload, Viswanathan shared. In the future, batteries with higher energy density—storing more energy per weight—could increase travel distance. Viswanathan also explained how vital increased energy density is for the feasibility of electric airplanes. One option is lithium-air batteries. These batteries could potentially hold the same amount of energy as jet fuel in planes uniquely designed to use electric power.

Su receives award from American Vacuum Society

MechE’s Laisuo Su received an award for Best Poster Presentation at a meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Vacuum Society (AVS). Created in 1953, AVS is a multidisciplinary professional society established to connect and acknowledge the achievements of academic, industrial, government, and consulting professionals from a variety of scientific backgrounds. Su received the award for his efforts in engineering nanoscale materials to enhance interfaces within lithium-ion batteries.


Robinson comments on EDF report about methane pollution in PA
State Impact

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recently discovered that companies in Pennsylvania’s gas drilling industry are emitting nearly twice as much methane into the atmosphere than they’re reporting to the Department of Environmental Protection, mainly because it’s difficult to measure the emissions from abnormally leaky wells called super-emitters, which are responsible for most of the industry’s methane emissions. Scientists who reviewed the EDF’s report—which was heavily based on a CMU study—say that it’s consistent with previous findings about methane pollution. “There’s a lot of variability when you go from site to site—but despite that there’s a strong trend,” says MechE Head Allen Robinson, a co-author of the CMU study. “There’s a lot of methane being leaked into the atmosphere, there’s a lot of wasted product. And certainly conventional wells are a pretty big source.”

Presto quoted on pollution from household products

NPR spoke with MechE’s Albert Presto regrading a recent study that found everyday household products—soap, paint, perfume—cause as much air pollution as industry and cars combined. Lots of consumer and chemical products come from oil and natural gas, the extraction, refining, and use of which is the cause of most air pollutants. While regulations continue to bring down the amount of pollution emitted by automobiles, the same cannot be said for sources that exist inside our own homes. “We’re all conditioned to think about traffic and industry as the big drivers for air pollution and pollutants,” Presto told NPR. “And this study says, ‘wait a minute, a lot of it is really stuff we’re using inside our homes.’”

Zhang to speak at 13th World Conference in Computational Mechanics

Projecting the CMU standard of excellence far and wide, MechE’s Jessica Zhang is blazing trails in her field. She has been elected to give a semi-plenary talk to academics from across the globe at the 13th World Conference in Computational Mechanics (WCCM2018) in New York City. Additionally, she will be serving as the keynote speaker at the 3rd Conference on Isogeometric Analysis and Applications at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Zhang has also been hard at work behind the scenes of the academic conference landscape, serving on the steering committee for IGA2018: Integrating Design and Analysis in Austin, Texas.


Viswanathan quoted on electric motor innovation
The Drive

When it comes to electric vehicles, many critics focus on the battery: how big it is, what it’s made of, how much range it gets, and how long it takes to charge. But what about the motor? Although electric motors don’t attract much attention, they’re still a crucial part of the puzzle. According to MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan in an article for The Drive, there are many ways car companies can revamp their electric motors. “The motor efficiency map—that is, its efficiency as a function of torque and speed—determines the energy consumption for consumer vehicles, and the peak power characteristics are an important factor for high-performance demands,” Viswanathan said. “In addition, the heating of the motors in-use—at high speeds—is another area with room for innovation and development.”

Majidi and Wissman featured on liquid metals research
Advanced Science News

MechE’s Carmel Majidi and James Wissman are revolutionizing circuitry, making the first electrical switch using liquid metal. In their experiments, Majidi and Wissman deposited paired droplets of a liquid alloy into a lye bath. The pairs could drain an electric charge from an electrode and themselves act as a switch. Astoundingly, the pairs operated at 1-10 volts, lower than previous liquid circuit examples and closer to the voltage used by conventional transistors. Majidi and Wissman have opened the chance to create the “first soft matter electrical switch” on par with conventional switches.

Kapoor No. 37 on The Recode 100

Recode named MechE alumnus (BS ’92) and current Lyft Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor the 37th most influential person in tech, business, and media in 2017. Since joining Lyft at the end of 2016, Kapoor has been integral in the ridesharing company’s expansion, which included raising $1.5 billion at an $11 billion valuation.


Michalek, Samaras discuss potential loss of EV tax credit

EPP/MechE’s Jeremy Michalek and CEE’s Costa Samaras spoke recently on Wharton Business Radio about the potential loss of the $7500 electric vehicle (EV) federal tax credit and its impact on the future of electric cars. Part of the proposed GOP tax plan, eliminating the credit would impact how car buyers view the financial sense of purchasing electric vehicles, which still sport a higher sticker price than their fuel-powered siblings. But it’s not only buyers who will be impacted. Manufacturers, partly under the pressure of minimum EV sales mandates from certain states, have put lots of time and money into developing EV technology. “Doing away with this credit is not just going to hurt Tesla; it’s going to hurt other manufacturers that have made big investments in this space,” Samaras said.

Cagan, McComb receive DARPA funding for problem-solving platform
Penn State News

MechE professor and associate dean Jonathan Cagan and MechE alumnus Christopher McComb have received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to aid in their design and creation of a computer platform that uses a two-tiered problem-solving language. The platform will simulate and enhance human problem-solving capabilities, with practical applications in creative design and military problem-solving situations. With a two-tiered platform, computers will be able to understand and solve problems on one tier and smoothly interact with human team members on the other. Traditional problem-solving research is time-consuming, but Cagan and McComb’s computational model will allow for real-time changes, closely resembling real-world problem-solving scenarios.

Michalek quoted on threats to electric car tax credit

A recent story in Wired shared that part of the House of Representatives tax reform bill would eliminate the up to $7500 federal tax credit for anyone who buys an electric car. While electric cars are getting cheaper, research shows they won’t be price-comparable with their gas-fueled counterparts until sometime between 2025 and 2030. Still, electric vehicles (EV) are knocking on the door of the mass market. Eliminating the tax credit would pose a significant challenge for auto manufacturers aiming to maintain, if not increase, EV sales. “Mainstream consumers are much more sensitive to cost than early adopters,” said EPP/MechE’s Jeremy Michalek, director of CMU’s Vehicle Electrification Group. “As automakers try to move into that market, if the cost differences aren’t mitigated somehow, then it’s going to be difficult to push these vehicles into the mainstream.”

MechE paper quoted in article about electric cars
SF Chronicle

Despite the growing popularity of electric vehicles, the lack of sufficient charging stations keeps gasoline-powered vehicles in the market. Drivers without garages are struggling to make the switch, given that they don’t have a consistent charging spot. A 2013 research paper by MechE’s Elizabeth J. Traut, TsuWei Charlie Cherng, Chris Hendrickson, and Jeremy J. Michalek estimated that just 56 percent of vehicles in the US have a dedicated parking spot off the street. But steps are being taken to solve this issue: PG&E proposed spending 22$ million for more charging stations near multifamily buildings, and San Francisco legislators plan to introduce a bill that bans new gasoline and diesel cars after 2040. 

Michalek comments on California’s potential ban of gas cars
Scientific American

Can California ban the sale of gas cars? To combat the effects of climate change and protect the health of their citizens, many state leaders have been discussing this option. But many challenges exist. Electric vehicles can only travel so far (roughly 300 miles) before they need recharged, which could take up to two hours compared to the five minutes it usually takes to fill up a gas tank. According to EPP/MechE’s Jeremy Michalek, director of CMU’s Vehicle Electrification Group, whether it can work—in other words, whether California can eliminate gas cars— “depends on what you’re willing to give up.” “Right now,” he says, “we don’t have good, affordable alternative solutions for all uses of automobiles.”

CMU engineers develop fully functional liquid transistor

MechE’s James Wissman and Carmel Majidi, along with their colleague, Michael D. Dickey from NC State University, recently developed a fully functional liquid transistor, otherwise known as the electrical ‘switch’ that dictates the flow of current in electronic devices. Their research was published in Advanced Science. After creating flexible circuits using a mixture of indium and gallium metals, the team realized they could use similar techniques to create a liquid transistor, which they ultimately developed by creating an opening and then closing a connection between two liquid metal droplets. When a voltage was applied to those droplets, the team found that the ‘connection’ quickly alternated between an opened and closed state, mimicking the behavior of a conventional transistor. This research is significant because liquid transistors could potentially help materials reconfigure themselves and change shape to avoid damaging conditions in extreme environments.

Sripad and Viswanathan's study says Tesla Semi might need beyond Li-ion batteries for longer range

On November 16, Tesla officially unveiled its ‘Tesla Semi,’ the nation’s first heavy-duty, all-electric truck. According to Tesla’s website, their electric semi features enhanced Autopilot to help avoid collisions, a centered driver position to maximize visibility and control, and a low center of gravity to offer rollover protection. Plus, it provides $200,000+ in fuel savings. In terms of mile range, the semi would most likely travel between 300 and 500 miles because, according to a study conducted by MechE’s Shashank Sripad and Venkat Viswanathan, “[e]nabling a longer driving range of 600 miles needed by the current standards of the trucking industry might require a transition to beyond Li-ion batteries.”

CMU team named finalist in 2018 Mars Ice Challenge
Pittsburgh Business Times

The CMU Tartan Ice Drilling System has been named one of 10 finalists in the NASA and National Institute of Aeronautics’ 2018 Mars Ice Challenge. The team, under the guidance of MechE’s Aaron Johnson, will design, construct, and test a prototype system aimed at extracting water buried in the Martian surface. The final competition will be held at the beginning of June at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.


Presto quoted on Beaver County air quality
Pittsburgh Business Times

Pittsburgh Business Times quoted MechE’s Albert Presto on the air quality impact of a planned ethane cracker plant in Beaver County. At a conference discussing the impact of the new plant, Presto said that the infrastructure to monitor air quality around the plant “mostly doesn’t exist.” Ethane crackers emit volatile organic compounds, which react with sunlight to create smog. Presto and others at the conference discussed methods by which to estimate the plant’s environmental impact and to negotiate policy solutions.

Soft Machines Lab research from Majidi, Dickey, and Wissman referenced in article on programmable liquid metals
Interesting Engineering

Flexible circuitry is becoming increasingly desirable as wearable tech, movable computer displays, and soft robotics become larger parts of everyday life. Researchers in CMU's Soft Machines Lab, Carmel Majidi, Michael Dickey, and James Wissman, have developed a low-voltage metal alloy that is liquid at room temperature. This technology can be programmed to capacitate transistors in flexible circuitry and self-repairing circuits.

Viswanathan quoted in wake of Tesla Semi release

MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan was quoted in a recent Forbes article detailing Elon Musk’s unveiling of the Tesla Semi, the electric automaker’s foray into the world of heavy-duty trucks. Although a number of questions still surround the feasibility of the truck, Tesla plans to start production and sales in 2019. “There’s a great deal of weight involved with this type of vehicle so there’s a durability challenge,” said Viswanathan, “but I don’t think it’s going to be a showstopper.”

Assaad part of team awarded Start-Up of the Year by PTC
Pittsburgh Technology Council

MechE alumnus Alec Assaad is part of a team that recently received the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s (PTC) Tech 50 Start-Up of the Year Award as co-founder and lead engineer of Skycision. Offering decision-support technology to farmers, Skycision uses drone and satellite imagery to help identify threats to crops before they negatively impact a farmer’s bottom line. PTC’s annual Tech 50 awards recognize southwest Pennsylvania’s most successful, innovative, and thought-leading tech companies. Assaad developed Skycision along with fellow CMU alumni Brendan Carroll (HC) and Jiazi Flora Wu (SCS).  

Rabin elected to Board of Governors of International Society of Cryosurgery

MechE's Yoed Rabin has been elected to the 20th Board of Governors of the International Society of Cryosurgery (ISC). The ISC is a professional society aimed at advancing research, technology development, and medical applications in the general areas of cryosurgery, cryomedicine, and cryobiology. It was founded in 1974 in Torino, Italy, has gained international recognition over the past 43 years, and is currently based at the Brain & Mind Research Center, Nagoya University, Japan.

Panat talks stainless steel 3-D printing

Due to the tightly-packed alloy grains that comprise its microscopic structure, stainless steel is a simultaneously flexible and tough material. Coveting materials more sturdy than the currently-available plastic and porous steel, 3D printing researchers have long tried to reproduce stainless steel to little success. Recently, however, material scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California came up with a successful approach by designing a computer-controlled process to tightly control the microscopic structure. “What they have done is really exciting,” says MechE’s Rahul Panat. Panat is particularly intrigued by the scientists’ use of a commercially available 3D printer and laser, making it easier for others to follow their lead and further stretch the boundaries of 3D printed stainless steel.

Viswanathan, Sripad, and Guttenberg analyze “platooning” of electric trucks
MIT Technology Review

In August, a report revealed Tesla’s plans to test its electric semiautomatic trucks by having them drive in a platoon formation, relying on autonomous-driving technology that would reduce their aerodynamic drag and boost the overall energy efficiency of the fleet. MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan, Shashank Sripad, and Matthew Guttenberg took a closer look at this possibility, researching the economic feasibility of such an operation. According to their study published in ACS Energy Letters, the sweet spot would be seven vehicles driving on trips shorter than 300 miles—any longer, and the costs would soar.


MechE alum recognized as a 2017 Ashoka Fellow
Ashoka Spain

MechE alum Pablo Sanchez Santaeufemia was recently named a 2017 Ashoka Fellow, chosen amongst 700 applicants in social entrepreneurship. Santaeufemia is the co-founder and CEO of Bridge for Billions, an online incubation platform that democratizes access to entrepreneurship resources by connecting early-stage startups with training and mentors. The company was founded on the statement, “Enablers of progress and agents for change.” Santaeufemina also made the Forbes’ 2017 30 under 30 Europe Social Entrepreneurs list.

Viswanathan quoted on low cost air-breathing battery

Researchers at MIT have developed a new “air-breathing” battery that can store electricity for long periods of time at one-fifth of the cost of current battery technologies. MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan believes that this could be an important development for future energy storage innovation, stating, “It’s a creative and interesting new concept that could potentially be an ultra-low-cost solution for grid storage.” Energy storage is vital for renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power; however, current systems cost around $100 per kilowatt-hour to function. The researchers have developed a rechargeable battery that costs just $20 to $30 per kilowatt-hour, and releases only oxygen as a byproduct.

2017-2018 Dowd Fellowship recipients announced

Four doctoral students have been named Dowd Fellows for the 2017-2018 academic year. They include: Rashad Eletreby (ECE), S. Rose Eilenberg (MechE), Susu Xu (CEE), and Saigopalakrishna Yerneni (BME). Research from the new fellows, last year’s fellows, and the 2015-2016 Dowd Teaching Fellows, was presented at the Dowd Fellowship Seminar on Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

Beuth and NextManufacturing Center featured on future of additive manufacturing

MechE’s Jack Beuth and the NextManufacturing Center were featured in an article on the future of additive manufacturing. The article addresses 10 questions that manufacturers should ask themselves before diving into metal manufacturing. “The analogy I make is that, with respect to metals AM, we are where personal computing was back in the 1980s. It is just getting started,” says Beuth.

Minecraft in the classroom gets media attention
EdTech Magazine

MechE’s Reeja Jayan has introduced Minecraft to her classes to help students visualize complex ideas, like structures they would construct in the real world and materials science principles. She was featured in Ed Tech Magazine for her novel use of the game as a teaching tool. “I was trying to use this culture of building to help students visualize ideas and think about what it was that they were building and how they would do it in a real-world scenario,” says Jayan. 

Study by Viswanathan and Sripad cited

The study on electric semi-trucks by MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan and Shashank Sripad was cited in a Forbes article on Tesla’s new electric semi-truck. Some people showed skepticism at the trade-offs between price, range, and weight. Viswanathan and Sripads study showed, “that an electric truck with a range of 600 miles would require a 14-ton battery, which could cost as much as $290k for the battery pack—which alone is more than double the price of a Class 8 truck.” 


Sripad and Viswanathan’s electric semi-truck battery research covered across the media

In anticipation of Tesla’s unveiling of an electric semi-truck prototype next month, media outlets covering Tesla have also cited MechE’s  Shashank Sripad and Professor Venkat Viswanathan. Sripad and Viswanathan found that an electric semi-truck battery capable of traveling 200 to 400 miles would cost over $120,000, the current price for an average diesel cab. They have been cited in over 45 media outlets including Reuters, The Washington Postthe New York Times, Yahoo!, and the Indian Express.

Vehicle Electrification Group mentioned in Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Vehicle Electrification Group, founded by EPP/MechE’s Jeremy Michalek and EPP/MSE’s Jay Whitacre, was cited in an article about electric vehicles for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Soon, the PA Department of Environmental Protection will recommend projects to receive funding from the nearly $120 million Pennsylvania received from the Volkswagen legal settlement, a settlement that occurred after it came to light that Volkswagen had developed vehicles capable of undermining U.S. emissions tests. Some experts believe that the state should fund projects that would advance electric vehicle technology because these vehicles would help lower fuel costs and mitigate vehicle emissions. With the help of researchers from Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh has already begun to shift toward an electric future. Thanks to Michalek, Whitacre, and other researchers from the Vehicle Gentrification Group who study systems-level issues of hybrid and plug-in vehicles, Pittsburgh now serves as a model for other PA cities striving to achieve a clean-energy future.


Viswanathan remains skeptical of Tesla’s self-driving trucks
New York Times

When will we see electric trucks appear on major roadways? Potentially in September. Tesla is currently developing driverless, long-haul electric semi-trucks that can move in “platoons,” or closely knit packs. But some scientists, like MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan, doubt that Tesla can fulfill its promises. According to Viswanathan, electric trucks are not economically feasible yet because they would require massive batteries to power their long distance road-trips across the country. “Your cargo [would] essentially become the battery,” he says in an article for the New York Times. And because of that, there would be little room to carry goods.

Jayan’s Minecraft teaching method featured in Firstpost

MechEs B. Reeja Jayan uses Minecraft, a virtual building-block game, to help teach her students the fundamental principles of materials science. Her teaching method was recently featured in an article for Firstpost.

Rabin receives funding from NIH for nanowarming research

Recently, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the Biothermal Technology Lab at CMU, headed by MechEs Yoed Rabin, a grant for nearly $500,000. This grant will help fund a research project on nanowarming technology for cryopreservation approaches. Rabin will serve as the subcontract principal investigator at Carnegie Mellon, working in conjunction with University of Minnesota's Dr. John Bischof, the project's principal investigator, and other experts and collaborators from UMN.

Sullivan’s paper included in AST list of notable research
Taylor & Francis Online

A research paper written by MechE’s Ryan Sullivan was selected to be listed as a notable 2016/2017 Aerosol Science and Technology paper. Sullivan’s paper, titled “Advanced aerosol optical tweezers chamber design to facilitate phase-separation and equilibration timescale experiments on complex droplets,” was one of ten papers selected by the AST Editorial Advisory Board. The complete list of notable AST papers can be found here.

Faculty participate at Atmospheric Chemistry Gordon Research Conference
Gordon Research Conferences

In August MechE’s Ryan Sullivan was invited to speak at the Atmospheric Chemistry Gordon Research Conference in Newry, Maine. This conference provides scientists with a platform to discuss the major gaps within the field of atmospheric chemistry. At the conference, Sullivan led a discussion on interfacial composition and the impact it has on heterogeneous chemistry and ice nucleation. ChemE/EPP’s Neil Donahue served as co-vice chair of the conference.


Engineering ranks high in 2017 QS World University Rankings 
Top Universities

The College of Engineering has some of the best engineering programs in the world, according to the 2017 QS World University Rankings. The College of Engineering ranked 31st overall in Engineering and Technology, and below are rankings based on subject:

  • Chemical Engineering: 51-100
  • Civil & Structural Engineering: 51-100
  • Electrical & Electronic Engineering: 23
  • Materials Science: 31
  • Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering: 46