|In the News
Engineering Medical Technologies
The field of cell and tissue engineering technologies has seen tremendous growth in the past two decades. But practical applications of the technologies have lagged. Now, University of Michigan-Dearborn professors Nilay Chakraborty and Gargi Ghosh are collaborating with industry partners to use the technologies to advance medical applications.
Chakraborty's research with Somnio Global L3C's Maridass Balasubramanian will look into developing scaffoldsartificial structures that support tissue formationthat can be injected with living cells and then preserved for future application as a single unit.
Traditionally, freshly collected or previously preserved cells are seeded onto the scaffold. Preserving the whole assembly as a single unit simplifies the process.
The simplified preservation could aid in medical applications like skin replacement in burn patients.
"It has been demonstrated that the healing process can be accelerated if the scaffolds are seeded with skin cells," Chakraborty said. "Using the technology we are using, we can create skin scaffolds with skin cells already seeded and in that way will reduce the procedural complexity of treating burn patients."
Ghosh's research will focus on making bioactive scaffolds, which could aid in bone tissue regeneration. Engineered bone tissue is a promising technique for repairing bone defects.
"Diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis affect tens of millions of people worldwide every year. And those numbers are expected to increase with the aging Baby Boomer population," Ghosh said.
Bone cells need minerals to grow, but simply adding minerals to the scaffold often leads to uneven distribution of the materials. Advanced Technologies of Michigan (ATOM), under the guidance of Swaminathan Ramesh, has developed a tool to improve distribution. Ghosh will use the tool to disperse minerals into the scaffold and then investigate their physical, mechanical and biological properties.
Chakraborty's and Ghosh's collaborations are two of eight research projects chosen to receive a Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP) grant through the Michigan Corporate Relations Network (MCRN).
"The partnership benefits us both, and we are looking forward to working on this highly synergistic project," Chakraborty said. "We are excited about its potential."
The potential of the project is what drew the interest of SCIP. SCIP awards matching funds to small and mid-sized companies to help stretch business funds during early stages of product development.
"Not having access to resources can be a serious barrier to innovation for small businesses," said Amy Skehan, director of UM-Dearborn's Business Engagement Center. "MCRN universities like UM-Dearborn are working to provide research support, expertise and facilities to these businesses to help get to commercialization faster."
The Car of the FutureToday
Wouldn't it be nice to have a car that essentially drove itself? You could sit back, relax, and forget about the stop-and-go traffic. Thanks in part to the work of Steve Underwood and his colleagues at the Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems (IAVS), self-driving automobiles that handle routine maneuvers and tasks may be available in the near future.
Underwood is the principal investigator of an IAVS study involving a Ford Escape hybrid with self-driving (autonomous) capabilities. The institute is partnering with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren on a project called the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS), which seeks to better define an effective network system for fully functional autonomous vehicle behavior.
TORC Robotics, a mobile robotics system manufacturer based in Blacksburg, Virginia, developed the autonomous vehicle kits for the Escape. The U.S. Army TARDEC purchased the vehicle, then lent it to IAVS for the study in early 2013.
"The Department of Defense is developing by-wire kits and autonomous kits that can be incorporated into vehicles to help them perform driving functions and increase driver safety," says Underwood, who is director of IAVS Technology Forecasting and Planning. "The by-wire kit does the steering, braking and acceleration. The vehicle sensors in the autonomy kit allow it to become self-driving. In order for the autonomy kit to make the proper vehicle maneuvers, it needs to have an efficient and fault-tolerant relationship with the by-wire capabilities. In the AMAS project, we're addressing the connection between the two kits. Our study is one of the first real tests for advanced autonomy, which will help define networking capabilities for maximum effectiveness."
Underwood and his team, which includes Paul Richardson, professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE); Mark Crawford, automotive systems engineering doctoral student; and Yi Lu Murphy, professor and chair of ECE, seek to create a system that enables fully functional autonomous vehicle behavior via a wireless link. The system would have military and civilian applications, Underwood says.
"Soldiers wouldn't have to attend to driving functions during situations when their attention would be better spent elsewhere," he says. "In consumer vehicles, the system would help make them safer to drive and allow drivers to engage in other activities, just as if they were a passenger."
Underwood points out that automated capabilities such as cruise control, assisted parking, lane-keeping technologies and others are already present in many of today's consumer vehicles.
"When an automated system allows the driver to take his hands off the steering wheel and his foot off the accelerator, you're pretty close to a self-driving car," he says. "As vehicles are able to have a better sense of their 360-degree environment, cars will be able to drive efficiently in stop-and-go traffic, essentially allowing the driver to relax. We're moving into the potential for lane-changing and highway passing systems. Researchers are currently testing platoon systems that allow commercial vehicles to travel closely in groups to improve safety and fuel efficiency.
"UM-Dearborn is very involved with advanced communications and automated systems research that will lead to new mobility developments and advanced communication technologies. We're essentially providing robotics to vehicles so they can become self-driving. That's the car of the future."
An Electric Performance
In a culmination of several monthsand even yearsof hard work and dedication, UM-Dearborn's Formula electric vehicle made its debut in the USA's first Formula SAE Electric competition, held June 19-22 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Twenty teams from around the world were registered for the competition, organized by SAE International.
Building an electric Formula car wasn't a simple proposition, but longtime Formula SAE team member and founder of the Formula electric team, Roland Dibra, was determined to see the project through. "It wasn't easy to get this project goingfrom designing the vehicle, to hunting down parts and distributors, to obtaining major sponsors, and coordinating other logistics."
In preparing for the competition, his focus turned to recruiting and training additional team members along with fellow powertrain captain Joe Confer. "In working with a new team, we had to slow down slightly so they could all be involved and have a personal interest in the team's mission and its success."
Dibra praised the students who worked on the vehicle and traveled to the event. "Most of them were new to the process of building a car and competing with it. I applaud their dedication to stick around with this first vehicle," he says. "I also want to acknowledge CECS alumni members who were part of the UM-Dearborn team for many years and the college's faculty and staff. We couldn't have gotten this far without them. Our current technical team leaders, David Tokarz, Dejvis Seitllari, and Scott Sprau are committed to continuing a successful program."
UM-Dearborn's car was designed with a modular aluminum sub-frame, allowing for continuous powertrain improvements during future research and development phases. Overall, the team finished in fifth position out of the twenty registered teams. "Being there was a great experience for our team. Obviously fifth is a few positions away from first, but we are proud to add a top five to our history. And with the new, motivated, and highly engaged talent, I have a feeling that it will only get better," says Dibra.
The Benefits of Membership
Looking back on his years as a student, CECS graduate Joshua Morrison wishes he would have done a few things differently.
"I wasn't interested in joining an engineering student organization during my freshman and sophomore years," says Morrison, who received his degree in computer and information science in May. "Then I joined the Association for Computing Machinery as a junior and realized what I had been missing. They had recruiters from companies like Google, Compuware, and Ford come to campus to talk with their members. Many of my friends got internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs through those meetings. I wish I had joined a student org sooner."
The college's eighteen student engineering organizations offer abundant learning and networking opportunities. Yet, many freshmen and sophomores are unaware of them. To help rectify this problem, Morrison and some of his peers created the Engineering Organization Council (EOC).
The council, formed during the winter 2013 semester, brings together representatives from each UM-Dearborn student engineering organization. The goal is to increase student organization recruitment of freshmen and sophomores, create an alliance among the individual student organizations, and help those organizations forge a stronger connection with CECS.
"Because UM-Dearborn is a commuter campus, many incoming students don't know how to become more involved," Morrison says. "The EOC will help show freshmen and sophomores the benefits of joining a student organization."
The EOC officially launched in March when it met with CECS Dean Tony England. The meeting organizers formalized the council and discussed ways to increase awareness of individual organizations on campus.
"We'd like to have an EOC representative to talk about engineering student organizations during freshman orientation," Morrison says. "We'd also like to distribute flyers to professors, the advising department and anyone else who could direct students to us. Dean England has been very supportive and has helped connect us with the CECS alumni affiliate board, which will help the student orgs maintain relationships with industry."
Other EOC organizers include Molly Pohutski, president of Dearborn Campus Engineers, and Derelle Redmond, a 2013 computer engineering graduate.
"Once we got the student org representatives together for the meeting and began sharing our experiences, it became evident that the EOC will benefit everyone," says Redmond, who belonged to several student organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery. "Dean England was especially excited about helping the student organizations connect with alumni affiliate members. This will be much easier to do using the EOC as a central body."
EOC organizers created a succession plan so the council can continue moving forward, now that its organizers have graduated. Morrison is working as an associate developer at Urban Science, a software solutions company in Detroit. Redmond is a mobile application developer at TT Media Services in Novi.
"It's very important for students to join an engineering organization," Redmond says. "In our competitive job market, a 4.0 grade-point average alone isn't enough to land a good job. Participating in student organizations shows a potential employer that you're passionate about engineering beyond the classroom."
Pravansu Mohanty, Paul K. Trojan Professor of Engineering, recently received a contract of nearly $460,000 from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Michigan, to develop a new technology that can quickly and affordably repair military components in the field.
The technology Mohanty invented, known as "Laser-Assisted Cold Spray Process," can help military personnel make more suitable repairs than those that are currently possible even in depot facilities.
"There are a lot of welding and/or cladding technologies currently available for component repairs, which generally work through some type of melting process," Mohanty says. "Any time that process is performed, the repaired area becomes very different from the surrounding materialit's usually inferior and doesn't perform as well."
Instead of welding or cladding, Mohanty's system repairs damaged areas like cracks, bullet holes, and worn out parts in a solid state, but with a metallurgical bonding usually achieved in a melting process. The cold spray system couples a laser beam with a spray nozzle. Simultaneous laser irradiation of a fast-moving powder quickly fuses the damaged area to create a joint similar to its base level. The result is a more compatible repair that adds a protective layer for greater functionality.
"The entire repair process can be performed in the field using a hand-held apparatus," says Mohanty, who has licensed the university-developed technology to CSquared Innovations, Inc., in which both the university and Mohanty are partners. "In addition, this process is an enabling technology in a variety of emerging applications. Several companies such as Ford Motor Company and Hyundai are exploring the laser-assisted cold spray process for different applications."
Mohanty has collaborated with TARDEC on several projects since 2004. TARDEC has awarded over million in contracts to Mohanty's laboratory for several high-risk and high-payoff projects over the past 10 years. Another notable technology that was developed through past collaboration is the plasma/laser hybrid scheme, which is being deployed to manufacture spray-on lithium-ion batteries. Mohanty and three CECS graduate students are also researching next-generation battery manufacturing technologies.
"The college has a very collaborative research relationship with outside industry, including TARDEC," Mohanty says. Although Mohanty has worked with several federal agencies, including the Navy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy, the collaboration with TARDEC bears much greater practical significance. The close proximity to the campus is an added advantage. "It's important to understand the needs of partners like the military and automotive companies. We develop solutions to complex problems, as well as methods of commercializing the end product, to meet a need in the marketplace."
For more information, contact Pravansu Mohanty at email@example.com.
Revving Its Research Engine
In June, the Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems (IAVS) implemented a new organizational structure and underwent a retooling that will help foster greater multidisciplinary research experiences for CECS faculty, students, and industry and government partners.
Since 1997, IAVS has supported advanced research related to the design, development and manufacturing of complex vehicles. Specifically, that research has involved body and chassis systems, manufacturing processes, and integration with powertrain systems.
Now, IAVS is expanding its vision to include mobility-related research and development, says Roger Shulze, who served as IAVS director until June 1.
"We want to increase the institute's impact on the college, the university, and our partners," he says. "One of our past achievements was the design of a low-mass vehicle with 30 percent less mass than the Toyota Echo with the size and performance of the Ford Focus. The project involved faculty researchers from four universities, industry professionals from 17 companies, 5 post-doctoral researchers, and more than 140 students. The project was important and prominent, but it was also the only one we were able to work on at that time. Now, we're taking our mission beyond vehicle systems to include mobility-related innovation. Our overall mission stays the same, but we're broadening our horizons."
The Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems also has a new leadership structure, featuring two co-directors: one staff member and one faculty member. John Cristiano, director of the Henry W. Patton Center for Engineering Education and Practice, is now IAVS co-director, replacing Shulze, who announced his retirement in June. (Shulze will remain active with IAVS through the end of 2013.) Associate Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Ghassan Kridli is the other IAVS co-director.
"Past achievements, such as the driving projects and the Summer Automotive Engineering Program, provide the necessary foundation for us to broaden the institute's scope of research activities and participation," Cristiano says. "Successful projects like these from the institute's formative years will serve as a springboard for future achievements."
Kridli addressed future goals and positioning for IAVS.
"With the IAVS reorganization, we aim to be recognized by local industry as leaders in providing future mobility solutions in select areas for which we have the expertise and facilities," he says.
Cristiano and Kridli will create a strategic roadmap for IAVS that identifies and addresses faculty skill set needs and shared research facility needs; a sustainability model and a catalog of potential high-profile, highly industry-relevant projects to pursue; and a plan to identify and pursue large-scale funding sources for IAVS projects and other activities.
Among the institute's other achievements during Shulze's 11 years as director are the student-built Formula electric race car, which will compete this year in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the 2006 opening of the IAVS building, which features shared as well as dedicated lab space, conference rooms, study areas, and offices.
"I've really enjoyed working with the CECS faculty, staff, and students," Shulze says. "I also learned a lot of things I didn't know in my previous career [as a Chrysler executive]. I had the chance to go into new areas of automotive design and got to know the industry better. It's been fun, but now it's time to turn IAVS over to new people with different ideas. IAVS is becoming a bigger and better machine."
To learn more about the Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems and its goals, visit www.engin.umd.umich.edu/IAVS.