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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Innovation 2013 – Aerospace Edition

WSU Flies High at JCATI Symposium

In 2012, Washington established the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation (JCATI) to support the aerospace industry. The center encourages collaboration between universities and industry to conduct research, provide hands-on student opportunities in aerospace, and to identify future research and technology needs.

Dean Candis Claiborn is on the JCATI board, and joined the University of Washington’s College of Engineering dean, Michael Bragg, and MIT professor emeritus, Earll Murman, on a panel at JCATI’s inaugural symposium earlier this summer.

Six projects from Voiland College were featured. Below are descriptions of each project; for full articles, view the Aerospace Innovation PDF.

Researchers help launch 3-D printing into space

Susmita Bose and Amit Bandyopadhyay with 3-D printerResearchers at Washington State University are working with Aerojet Corporation on an exploratory project to make custom satellite parts using 3-D printing. Lower costs, less waste, quicker turnaround and easier modification are some potential benefits. Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, professors in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, will work on printing metal and ceramic components for low-volume manufacturing of a miniature research satellite. About the size of a coffee cup, it holds the world’s smallest liquid rocket engine.

Using a cool instrument to take a new look at rocket fuels

Jake Leachman (center back) with engineering studentsWith the hope of developing better rocket fuels, a group of researchers is developing instrumentation to test super cold fuel mixtures. Led by Jake Leachman, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers are working with Aerojet Corporation to develop the instrumentation, which will be able to look at gelled mixtures of new kinds of high energy density fuels, like hydrogen and methane mixtures.

Improving aviation communications

WSU Voiland College Researcher Deukhyoun HeoDeukhyoun Heo, associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is developing technology that can improve the quality and speed of aviation communications while also saving energy. Heo is working on ‘beamforming’ chips with The Boeing Company and the Center for the Design of Analog-Digital Integrated Circuits (CDADIC). His aim is to reduce the size and volume of the receivers that generate communication signals on planes while increasing transmitted data and transmission speed.

New power for next-generation commercial airplanes

Professor Su Ha and student Byeong Wan Kwon holding fuel cellA group of researchers is collaborating with the Boeing Company to provide more efficient electric power on next-generation commercial airplanes. Led by Chen-Ching Liu, Boeing Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Energy Systems Innovation (ESI) Center, the multidisciplinary team is working with Boeing to develop a battery extender auxiliary power unit (APU). Replacing gas turbine with fuel-cell powered APUs on future airplanes would mean a significant improvement in efficiency when the airplane is on the ground and would reduce the load on the main engines during flight. APUs provide electrical power for lights, navigation systems and other systems.

New technology for lithium ion batteries

Professor Katie Zhong’s graduate student, Tracy Ji, working on developing solid lithium battery electrolytes at WSU.WSU researchers are developing a new type of battery that would be lighter, safer, and more environmentally friendly than current lithium ion batteries. Led by Katie Zhong, Westinghouse Distinguished Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers are working to develop solid lithium battery electrolytes, including bio-based solid electrolytes that are made out of an environmentally friendly soy protein, and a second, gum-like electrolyte with thermal protection capabilities. The solid electrolytes are lighter than traditional electrolyte materials and don’t present a leaking hazard. Pictured is Zhong’s graduate student, Tracy Ji.

A magic formula for shape memory alloys

Marc Weber, staff scientist, and Professor Kelvin LynnKelvin Lynn’s research group is working to investigate the mystery of shape memory alloys at the nanoscale. These alloys change shape when heated up and can be “trained” to remember specific shapes. So, for instance, a shape memory alloy within a jet engine can be one shape on the ground to reduce noise and then can instantly change shape once it is cooled in flight to maximize engine operation. However, manufacturing the alloys is a ten day process and when the process is completed, the alloys only work about half the time. Lynn and his research group believe that the problem with the manufacturing process comes down to tiny, nanoscale defects in the material or “misplaced atoms,” says Lynn.