Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 2020 Graduating Class! 


The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) is the largest in the Swanson School of Engineering in terms of students and faculty. All of our programs are ABET-accredited. The Department's core strengths include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Design
  • Materials for Extreme Conditions
  • Soft Matter Biomechanics
  • Computational and Data-Enabled Engineering
  • Cyber-Physical Systems and Security
  • Nuclear and other Sustainable Energies
  • Quantitative and In Situ Materials Characterization

MEMS faculty are not only world-renowned academicians, but accessible teachers who seek to inspire and encourage their students to succeed.  

The Department also has access to more than 20 laboratory facilities that enhance the learning process through first-rate technology and hands-on experience.

Each year, the Department graduates approximately 90 mechanical and materials science engineers, with nearly 100% placed in excellent careers with industry and research facilities around the globe.

Aug
5
2020

Katherine Hornbostel Selected as Fellow for RCSA’s Scialog: Negative Emissions Science

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 5, 2020) — The Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) has named Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, as a Fellow for Scialog: Negative Emissions Science. RCSA’s new initiative gathered more than 50 early-career scientists to tackle the issue of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere and oceans. Scialog: Negative Emissions Science will kick off with a virtual conference on Nov. 5-6, 2020. Hornbostel’s research focuses on carbon capture technology for both the air and the ocean. She recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Flexible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS) program to design a natural gas/direct air capture hybrid plant that will ideally be carbon negative. Hornbostel also recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL’s) University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research (UCFER) program to investigate novel solid sorbents for direct air capture. She is also pursuing research on direct ocean capture, an alternative to direct air capture that hasn’t been explored much to date. Hornbostel will be part of an interdisciplinary team from chemistry, engineering, materials science, physics, and other related disciplines. Together, they will explore methods for removing and utilizing or sequestering greenhouse gases in a way that is globally scalable. “I’m honored to be a part of this cohort of early-career engineers and scientists, and I’m looking forward to getting together to brainstorm potential solutions for climate change with people whose interests resemble my own,” said Hornbostel. “I hope that we will come together and foster ideas that will help to end and reverse carbon emissions.” Scialog, short for “science + dialog,” is a multi-year initiative with fellows from across the U.S. and Canada. The Scialog: Negative Emissions Science is sponsored by RCSA and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
29
2020

Engineering a Carbon-Negative Power Plant

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 29, 2020) — As renewable power generation increases, conventional energy sources like natural gas, coal, and nuclear power will still be required to balance the nation’s energy portfolio. Traditional power plants will not, however, need to produce as much energy as they do now, leaving them to sit idle some of the time. Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, and her team received $800,283 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Flexible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS) program to design a natural gas/direct air capture hybrid plant that will take advantage of those idle periods. The proposed design will not only eliminate carbon emissions from the power plant when it is producing electricity for the grid but will also capture carbon from the atmosphere during idle periods, ideally making the plant carbon negative. “We still have a large fleet of natural gas and coal plants in our country. As we add renewables, which provide intermittent energy, we’ll still need those fossil power sources to make sure the grid is consistently powered,” explained Hornbostel. “The FLECCS funding call asks how we can make those fossil sources cleaner and even use them to improve air quality.” For the project, Hornbostel will partner with Glenn Lipscomb, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Toledo; Debangsu Bhattacharyya, professor of chemical engineering at West Virginia University; and Michael Matuszewski, founder of Aristosys LLC in Venetia, PA. The team has proposed a system design that integrates natural gas with two carbon capture technologies: a membrane system that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from the plant’s exhaust, and a sorbent system that will absorb leftover CO2 from the exhaust and CO2 from the air outside. During normal operations, the hybrid plant will capture about 99 percent of the CO2 it generates; during off-peak hours, the plant will use its power to run the carbon capture systems to remove CO2 from the air. “This is a very exciting and important project, and I’m pleased – but not surprised – to see this innovative research is being undertaken in Pittsburgh,” said Congressman Mike Doyle. “The world must achieve net-zero carbon emissions in a few short decades, or the impact on the environment and our society will be devastating. It’s essential that, as we make the transition to carbon-free energy, we also make efforts like this to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants that use fossil fuels – and explore technology that could reduce the carbon already in our atmosphere. ARPA-E is playing a critical role in promoting groundbreaking research on all aspects of energy production and consumption, and I strongly support its important work.” The highly competitive ARPA-E FLECCS Program awarded $11.5 million in Phase 1 funding to 12 projects that develop carbon capture and storage processes. Hornbostel will be the second in the Swanson School to receive an ARPA-E award, following Assistant Chair of Research and Professor of Chemical Engineering Robert Enick. “ARPA-E grants are very prestigious and are only awarded to the most innovative applications that propose high impact projects,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. “Dr. Hornbostel and her team will use this FLECCS funding to address several important gaps in the field, and we could not be prouder of her for winning this award.”
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
29
2020

Uncovering the Nitty-Gritty Details of Surface Tension and Flow Behavior

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 29, 2020) — Dry sand can be poured out of a bucket almost like a liquid; if you try to build a sandcastle with dry sand, you won’t have much luck. However, if you add just a little bit of water, everything about the sand’s behavior changes: It cannot be poured like a liquid and, instead, holds together well enough to build something. That difference is an example of how surface tension affects flow behavior, an element that is crucial in a variety of physical processes that involve mixing together liquid and solid particles. Sachin Velankar, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, received $291,968 from the National Science Foundation for his collaborative research that seeks to better understand these phenomena. Velankar holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “Dry sand is really a mix of sand particles and air. The reason wet sand behaves so differently from dry sand is that water wants to wet the sand particles more than air does,” explained Velankar. “If you take the wet sand and look under microscope, you’ll see that between each pair of sand particles is a ring of water – a meniscus –sticking them together. That’s why the wet sand can’t be poured: the granules just won’t separate easily. We want to understand how such wet particles separate under flow.” Velankar will partner with Charles Schroeder, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, on the project. The two will not be looking at sand, however. Instead, they will use state-of-the-art technology to manipulate microscopic particles suspended in fluid to study their behavior, the conditions that bind them together and the force necessary to break them apart. “I’ve been working in this area for more than 10 years and thought about questions of micromechanics for a long time but didn’t know how to approach it,” said Velankar. “It’s hard to manipulate particles precisely at this scale. That’s where the collaboration comes in.” Schroeder’s method involves a small microfluidic device, called a Stokes trap, with strategically placed channels for incoming and outgoing liquid streams. The particles, suspended in the chamber, are manipulated as liquid flows through the different channels. The research will provide a fundamental understanding of the dynamics and rupture of particle clusters in well-defined flows. Understanding the micromechanics of this phenomenon will inform the way materials are mixed and separated in many industries that rely on the mixing of solids and liquids, from oil drilling to 3D printing to the food industry. The project, titled “Collaborative Research: Micromechanics of Meniscus-bound Particle Clusters,” received a total of $510,000 with $291,968 assigned to Pitt. It begins Sept. 1, 2020, and is expected to last 3 years.
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
20
2020

In Memoriam: John C. "Jack" Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, 1944-2020

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

From James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering: It is with great sadness to inform you that Jack Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, one of our outstanding alumni, volunteers, advocates, and benefactors, passed away this weekend after a hard-fought battle with illness. On behalf of our Swanson School community, I extend our deep condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.Jack was a creative, caring juggernaut of ideas and inspiration, and his passing leaves an emptiness in our hearts and minds. It was an incredible honor and privilege to work with him during my short tenure as dean thus far, but I know those of you who have a long history with Jack and his family experienced a deep connection and now share a tremendous loss. I hope your memories of his lighthearted spirit, curious intellect, and enthusiasm for our students and programs provide solace and smiles.As one of our Distinguished Alumni, Jack was lauded by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School for his contributions to Pitt, the region, and the profession, and was also honored by the University with the Chancellor’s Medallion. Thanks to his beneficence, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and our focus on sustainability will continue his legacy for generations. Most importantly, it was his passion for sustainability, and what he saw as its inexorable link to engineering, that will forever inform our mission to create new knowledge for the benefit of the human condition. He truly was an engineer’s engineer, and we can never thank him and his family enough for his generosity of mind and spirit. Please join me in expressing our sympathies to the Mascaro Family, and to thank them for Jack’s impact on our students, alumni, and entire Swanson School community. Visitation will be held this Thursday in McMurray and you may leave thoughts for the family at his obituary page. Sincerely,Jimmy Other Remembrances Some Random and Personal Observations. Jeffrey Burd, Tall Timber Group & Breaking Ground Magazine (7-21-20). Jack Mascaro, founder of one of Pittsburgh's largest construction firms, dies at 76. Tim Schooley, Pittsburgh Business Times (7-22-20). Pittsburgh builder and sustainability pioneer Jack Mascaro dies after long illness. Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (7-23-20). John C. 'Jack' Mascaro / Builder of Heinz Field, science center embraced 'green' construction. Janice Crompton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7-27-20). Founder of Mascaro Construction, Heinz Field builder, dies at age 75. Harry Funk, Washington Observer-Reporter (8-1-20).

Jul
7
2020

Two Pitt Researchers Receive Manufacturing Innovation Challenge Funding for COVID-19 Response

Covid-19, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 7, 2020) — COVID-19 has spurred research partnerships across sectors and industries. Two University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering faculty members, who are partnering with Pennsylvania companies, have recently each received $25,000 in funding from Pennsylvania’s Manufacturing PA Innovation Program COVID-19 Challenge to continue addressing the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic spread, the N95 masks—which include respirator filters that block out contaminants like the virus that causes COVID-19—were increasingly difficult to find. Xiayun Zhao and Markus Chmielus, assistant professors of mechanical engineering and materials science (MEMS) at Pitt, both received funding for their projects developing alternative, reusable filters for N95 masks. “The response by the MEMS Department in aiding to address needs during this COVID-19 pandemic has been impressive, and I particularly applaud the efforts of Professors Zhao and Chmielus who are applying their expertise in advanced manufacturing in this response," said Brian Gleeson, Harry S. Tack Chair Professor of MEMS. Zhao is partnering with Du-Co Ceramics Company on a project entitled “Rapid Manufacturing of Polymer-Derived Ceramic Films for Respirators.” This partnership will use polymer-derived ceramics (PDCs) to create ceramic filter films for N95 masks. The project will take advantage of photopolymerization-based additive manufacturing to rapidly create reusable and sterilizable ceramic filters. Chmielus is working with the ExOne Company on a reusable N95 filters that uses metal binder-jet 3D printing. ExOne’s binder jetting technology is a high-speed form of 3D printing that can produce metal parts with specific porosity levels that can effectively filter out contaminants while allowing airflow. The reusable copper and stainless-steel filters are being designed to fit into a respirator cartridge for sustainable, long-term protection. Zhao and Chmielus are part of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Advanced Manufacturing (UPCAM) Materials Engineering and Processing group, which “supports fundamental research addressing the interrelationship of materials processing, structure, properties and/or life-cycle performance for targeted applications,” according to the website.
Maggie Pavlick
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