Panat creates 3D printed batteries with increased efficiency

MechE’s Rahul Panat and his team were recently featured on for their work in creating more efficient lithium-ion batteries using 3D printing. Working with researchers from the Missouri State University of Science and Technology, the team was able to use 3D printing to create an “interdigitated geometry” that utilizes the 30 to 50 percent of electrode volume left unutilized by conventional batteries. Panat says the technology will take two to three years to reach the commercial market, and his team’s next goal is to create batteries that can serve structural or functional roles, in addition to energy storage.


Engineering students participate in Speak Up! program
Carnegie Mellon News

Two College of Engineering students placed in this year’s Speak Up! Program, which concluded on July 13 when the participants made presentations discussing their research. Junior MechE student Kehui (Rosie) Zhang placed second, while junior MSE/BME student Dominique Petach was a finalist. The five-part interdisciplinary communications skills seminar is tailored for undergraduate summer researchers and is hosted by the Undergraduate Research Office. 

Sullivan named Emerging Investigator by Royal Society of Chemistry
Royal Society of Chemistry

MechE’s Ryan Sullivan was named an Emerging Investigator by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The Society interviewed him about his research in atmospheric chemistry and his advice to young scientists. The interview goes in-depth about his study of aerosol optical tweezers, atmospheric particle morphology and interaction, and using algorithms for data analysis. Sullivan discussed the challenges and rewards of studying recalcitrant aerosol particles, how he would advocate for environmental issues if he were not a scientist, and that early career scientists should find research questions they find deep value in.

Pawar accepted into MIT’s Rising Stars Workshop

MechE Ph.D. candidate Aishwarya Pawar was accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Risings Stars in Mechanical Engineering Workshop. The workshop is aimed at women graduate students and postdoctoral researchers considering future careers in academia and hopes to provide a space to grow the next generation of women engineers. The workshop will take place October 25 - 26, 2018.

Majidi discusses electronic tattoos
The Economic Times

MechE’s Carmel Majidi spoke with The Economic Times about the electronic tattoos he has developed in his lab that could power the future’s wearable devices. The ultrathin tattoo-like circuits can be easily applied to skin and easily removed, similar to children’s temporary tattoos. Unlike other tattoo-like electronics, these circuits have stretchable functionalities. “We…coat the particles with a thin layer of gallium indium alloy that increases the electrical conductivity and allows the printed circuit to be more mechanically robust. The tattoos are ultrathin, very stretchable, and inexpensive to produce,” said Majidi.

Majidi’s self-healing circuitry could shape next generation of humanoid robots
Interesting Engineering

MechE’s Carmel Majidi and his lab’s newest innovation, self-healing circuitry, were featured in a list of the “15 Most Forward-Thinking Projects That Could Build the Next Humanoids” in Interesting Engineering. The circuitry material is comprised of droplets of liquid metal enclosed in an elastomer. When damaged, the metal allows the circuit to reconnect and function uninterrupted, creating a new electrical pathway around the damaged area.

Viswanathan skeptical of supposed solid-state battery breakthrough

John Goodenough, widely credited as the father of the lithium-ion battery, recently co-authored a paper in which the authors claim to have created an efficient solid-state battery with high energy density. While this would represent a major breakthrough in battery technology, claims by the authors, such as that battery capacity actually increased with repeated charges, have raised doubts from experts. “The way to think about it is that you have a car that can travel 200 miles, and after five years it can go 800 miles,” says MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan.


Robinson says new studies are good news for PA groundwater
The Washington Post

MechE Head Allen Robinson spoke with The Washington Post on several recent studies that have found that oil and natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania have had little impact on the state’s groundwater supplies. “Overall the data demonstrates that there is certainly not a crisis around ground water contamination and unconventional oil and gas activity. That is good news,” says Robinson. “However, it does document some contamination. Is ‘rare’ contamination around a few percent of wells acceptable? That is a policy question.”

Robinson discovers huge methane emitters
Mechanical Engineering

MechE’s Head Allen Robinson was part of a team that discovered that the EPA underestimated US oil and natural gas supply chain methane emissions by an alarming 60%. They found that a minority of anomalies cause a majority of methane emissions in energy transport. The findings confirm EPA methane reporting, but more importantly provide insights into reducing emissions and wasted resources.

Majidi interviewed about self-repairing circuits
Design News

Design News interviewed MechE’s Carmel Majidi about his research in self-repairing electronics. Majidi’s team created electronics that maintain circuit function despite damage. These electronics are composed of liquid gallium metal suspended in flexible rubber. When the rubber is punctured, the liquid metal inside ruptures to form new circuits, diverting current around the damaged area. Majidi imagines that his technology could be integrated into textiles for wearable electronics and could also forward biomimetic robotics.

Zhang and colleagues receive Best Paper award
Solid and Physical Modeling

MechE’s Jessica Zhang and her collaborators Zhonggui Chen and Juan Cao received a Best Paper award at the 2018 Solid and Physical Modeling Conference. The conference provides a platform to present all aspects of virtual modeling.

Viswanathan says Cadenza has yet to prove claims

Cadenza, a battery company specializing in the peripheral technology necessary for largescale battery applications, claims that it can both reduce costs and increase safety with its battery technology. The company recently partnered with the energy research body of the state of New York to build a demonstration storage unit using their technology in White Plains, New York. However, according to MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan in Quartz, the company will have to be able to replicate this project on a much larger scale to truly prove its claims of reduced costs and increased safety.

Rubin cited on drawbacks of carbon capture and utilization
Spectrum IEEE

An Icelandic firm, Carbon Recycling International, has created a process that can turn waste from renewable energy sources into a low-carbon methanol fuel. While some hope this technology could provide an alternative to fossil fuels in the move toward a decarbonized energy grid, the article cites a recent paper by EPP/MechE’s Edward Rubin that casts doubt on this. In their research, Rubin and his colleagues concluded that carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS) combined with carbon-free electricity would be much more effective than carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies.

Majidi quoted on self-repairing circuits quoted MechE’s Carmel Majidi about creating circuits that self-repair. Majidi created liquid gallium and rubber-based electronics in response to the need “to build machines that are more compatible with the human body and the natural environment.” The circuits are gallium suspended in rubber. When the rubber ruptures, the gallium fills in the tears to preserve the circuits. This technology could help to create robotics that could easily withstand damage and harsh conditions.

CMU Racing team wins Formula North 2018

The Carnegie Mellon Racing Team won first place overall at the Formula North 2018 race. The team performed highly in both the static and dynamic events, which tested the car’s design, cost, handling, and efficiency. CMU won over Rochester Institute of Technology and Purdue University. Formula North hosted teams in Ontario, Canada.


Majidi quoted on self-repairing material
Futurism and Physics World

Futurism featured a story on MechE’s Carmel Majidi’s work on flexible, self-repairing electronic material. Majidi created circuitry encased in a rubbery material. When this material is damaged, it releases droplets that create new circuits and maintain electric currents. Majidi and his team demonstrated this by cutting their circuits as they powered a clock. Majidi foresees that machines should become “more compatible with the human body and natural environment,” and resist wear and tear. The work was also covered in Physics World

The College of Engineering faculty award winners announced

The College of Engineering has named this year’s faculty award winners, selected by the College of Engineering Faculty Awards Committee. Congratulations to the following: 

  • Distinguished Professor of Engineering Award:  M. Granger Morgan (EPP)
  • Philip L. Dowd Fellowship:  Neil Donahue (ChemE/EPP/Chemistry)
  • Steven J. Fenves Award for Systems Research: Jeremy Michalek (EPP/MechE)
  • George Tallman Ladd Research Award: Kathryn Whitehead (ChemE) and Venkat Viswanathan (MechE)
  • Outstanding Mentoring Award: Philip LeDuc (MechE)
  • David P. Casasent Outstanding Research Award: Anupam Datta (ECE)
  • Benjamin Richard Teare Teaching Award: Phil Campbell (Accelerator, BME)

Kazem interviewed about his co-creation, “Thubber”

CEE’s Navid Kazem spoke with WESA’s Pittsburgh Tech Report about Thubber, which he co-created with his advisor, MechE’s Carmel Majidi. Thubber, or “thermally conductive rubber,” is a combination of silicone rubber and a gallium alloy, a metal which is liquid at room temperature. These properties allow Thubber to conduct heat and electricity as a soft and stretchy material. Kazem explains how Thubber can replace thermal pastes, which are used as cooling interfaces in hot computer processors. Kazem also discussed how Thubber could be used to create “soft” robots. “In order to have robots which are safe…we really need to start…adapting some softer materials,” says Kazem.

Jayan lauded as pioneer in 3D printed ceramics

MechE’s B. Reeja Jayan was recognized as an innovator in 3D printing by for her work in creating more efficient ceramic 3D printing techniques. The article, which highlighted Jayan’s recent receipt of a $500,000 NSF CAREER Award, focused on her research in using electromagnetic waves to manipulate ceramic structures. Her method could provide major energy savings in comparison to traditional heat firing, enabling the 3D printing of industrial-grade ceramics and greatly expanding their range of practical applications.

College of Engineering teams place in Siemens FutureMakers Challenge

Teams formed with students from MechE and ECE took 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, in Siemens FutureMakers Hack-a-thon Challenge. Students had 24 hours to create and present innovative developments for Siemens MindSphere cloud-based OS. The event was part of a larger program hosted by Siemens in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

2nd Place:

  • Angran Li (MechE)
  • Yuxuan Yu (MechE)
  • Jianzhe Gu (CS)
  • Humphrey Yang (CS)

3rd Place:

  • Zhuo Chen (ECE)
  • Ermao Cai (ECE)
  • Ting-Wu Chin (ECE)
  • Ruizhou Ding (ECE)


Stentz and Roy to receive Student Engagement Awards

Congratulations to Tara Stentz and Olivia Roy for receiving the Carnegie Mellon Student Engagement Awards! Stentz is an ECE graduating senior, and Roy is a MechE 2017 alumna and Integrated Innovation Institute graduating student. Stentz and Roy will be honored at a luncheon Friday, May 18 at the Alumni Awards Ceremony hosted by the CMU Alumni Association Board.

Whitefoot referenced in The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe utilized MechE/EPP’s Katie Whitefoot’s recommendation for lower acceleration rates in consumer cars as supporting evidence in a story advocating for greater fuel efficiency in the American auto industry. The piece argued that measures aimed at curbing American consumers’ desire for more powerful cars could create significant improvements in fuel efficiency, and by extension, reduce emissions. Whitefoot’s research has shown that even modestly slower acceleration times could sizably reduce the amount of fuel used by American cars.

Whitefoot and Michalek comment on consequences of EPA lowering fuel economy standards

Earther spoke to MechE/EPP’s Katie Whitefoot and Jeremy Michalek on the potentially far-reaching effects of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent announcement that he intends to weaken fuel economy standards. “Currently, a number of countries, including Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico base their standards off of the U.S.,” said Whitefoot. “So, if the U.S. weakens the regulations, these other countries may follow suit.” Michalek added, “The benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are shared globally, whereas the costs of regulation are local, so it’s important that countries cooperate to reduce emissions together.”

Viswanathan quoted about lithium-air batteries
Chemistry World

Chemistry World quoted MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan on the cycle life of lithium-air batteries. These batteries hold a charge greater by a factor of nine compared to lithium-ion. In interpreting the batteries’ cycle life, Viswanathan expresses a distanced view. A traditional lithium-ion battery’s life is measured by its electrical discharge. In a lithium-air battery, discharge from the reaction of lithium and oxygen determines cycle life. But because air comprises more elements than just oxygen, Viswanathan wonders how many side reactions in the electricity delivery artificially boost the cycle life. Mitigating these side reactions should pave the way to developing long-lasting lithium-air batteries.

Energy Week poster and multimedia competition
Scott Institute for Energy Innovation

The Scott Institute awarded $2,500 in student prizes in the annual CMU Energy Week Poster and Multimedia Competition. Among the winners were a large number of engineering students from a variety of disciplines:

  • 1st Place: Gurjyot Sing Sethi, Ph.D. student in MechE
  • Tie for 2nd Place: Yian Wang, master’s student in EST&P
  • Tie for 2nd Place: Jacob Ward, Ph.D. student in EPP
  • Best Undergraduate Student Poster: Rhiannon Farney, senior in MechE and EPP; Velisa Li, senior in ChemE and EPP; and Ana Cedillo, senior in MechE and EPP

Rethink the Rink Make-A-Thon featured in Boston Globe
Boston Globe

MechE’s Diana Haidar and students participating in the Rethink the Rink Make-A-Thon were featured in the Boston Globe for the students’ efforts to create safer boards for hockey rinks. Partnering with Covestro, the students split into groups and utilized the College’s makerspace to prototype and design different solutions for reducing the risk of player injuries when contacting the boards. At the end of the project students headed over to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice arena, the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, to pitch their ideas to representatives of the team. “They did in one week what I’ve seen some students do in an entire semester with a design project,” said Haidar. “It really tells you about the power of focus, information, and space for creativity.”

Whitefoot cited in The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal

MechE/EPP’s Kate Whitefoot was recently cited in The Wall Street Journal regarding recent changes to the legislation of vehicles footprints. The story discusses the ease on vehicle-emissions. Whitefoot’s predictions from a research paper she co-authored in 2011 were extremely accurate in what the strategy of car manufacturers would be. “Auto makers have an incentive to make more SUVs and light trucks with less stringent standards than high-performance sedans,” said Whitefoot on car manufacturers creating larger vehicles. 


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 regarding 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.’”

Webster-Wood featured on podcast panel
Science Friday

MechE’s Vickie Webster-Wood, who will be joining the department in the fall of 2018, was interviewed for her work on biohybrid robotics on WNYC’s Science Friday podcast. She joined a panel of leading experts to discuss the future of the field and answer questions from listeners. Her work with biohybrid robots created from sea slug muscles has promising applications, especially in underwater environments already possessing an ideal aqueous environment for the robots to function.

Webster-Wood quoted on future direction of biohybrid robotics

MechE’s Vickie Webster-Wood’s was included in create’s list of “10 big robotics challenges that need to be solved in the next 10 years.” Says Webster-Wood, “By combining robotics with tissue engineering, we’re starting to build robots powered by living muscle tissue or cells. These devices can be stimulated electrically or with light to make the cells contract to bend their skeletons, causing the robot to swim or crawl.” The piece went on to note that major innovations are still necessary across a range of component technologies to enable further advancement in biohybrid robotics.

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.