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.


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

The Department of Energy Awards $1.9M to Swanson School Faculty and Students for Nuclear Energy Research

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles, Nuclear

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2020) … Humankind is consuming more energy than ever before, and with this growth in consumption, researchers must develop new power technologies that will address these needs. Nuclear power remains a fast-growing and reliable sector of clean, carbon-free energy, and four researchers at the University of Pittsburgh received awards to further their work in this area. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invested more than $65 million to advance nuclear technology, announced June 16, 2020. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering received a total of $1,868,500 in faculty and student awards from the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). According to the DOE, “NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.” “Historically, our region has been a leader in the nuclear energy industry, and we are trying to keep that tradition alive at the Swanson School by being at the forefront of this field,” said Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Swanson School’s Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program. “I’m thrilled that the Department of Energy has recognized the innovative work from our faculty, and I look forward to seeing the advancements that arise from this research.” The DOE supported three projects from the Swanson School. High Temperature Thermophysical Property of Nuclear Fuels and MaterialsPI: Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program$300,000 Ban, a leading expert in nuclear material thermal properties and reactor instrumentation and measurements, will use this award to enhance research at Pitt by filling an infrastructure gap.  He will purchase key equipment to strengthen core nuclear capability in the strategic thrust area of instrumentation and measurements. A laser flash analyzer and a thermal mechanical analyzer (thermal expansion) will be purchased as a tool suite for complete thermophysical property information. Fiber Sensor Fused Additive Manufacturing for Smart Component Fabrication for Nuclear Energy PI: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer EngineeringCo-PI: Albert To, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science$1,000,000 The Pitt research team will utilize unique technical capabilities developed in the SSoE to lead efforts in sensor-fused additive manufacturing for future nuclear energy systems. Through integrated research efforts in radiation-harden distributed fiber sensor fabrication, design and optimization algorithm developments, and additive manufacturing innovation, the team will deliver smart components to nuclear energy systems to harness high spatial resolution data. This will enable artificial intelligence based data analytics for operation optimization and condition-based maintenance for nuclear power systems. Multicomponent Thermochemistry of Complex Chloride Salts for Sustainable Fuel Cycle TechnologiesPI: Wei Xiong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceCo-PIs: Prof. Elizabeth Sooby Wood (University of Texas at San Antonio), Dr. Toni Karlsson (Idaho National Laboratory), and Dr. Guy Fredrickson (Idaho National Laboratory)$400,000 Nuclear reactors help bring clean water and reliable energy to communities across the world. Next-generation reactor design, especially small modular reactors, will be smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, but they will require high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) as fuel. As the demand for HALEU is expected to grow significantly, Xiong’s project seeks to improve the process of recovering uranium from spent nuclear fuels to produce HALEU ingots. Part of the process involves pyrochemical reprocessing based on molten salt electrolysis. Hence, developing a thermodynamic database using the CALPHAD (Calculation of Phase Diagrams) approach to estimate the solubilities of fission product chloride salts into the molten electrolyte is essential for improving the process efficiency. The results will help in estimating the properties that are essential for improving the HALEU production and further support the development of chloride molten salt reactors. Two Swanson School students also received awards from NEUP. Jerry Potts, a senior mechanical engineering student, received a $7,500 nuclear energy scholarship, one of 42 students in the nation. Iza Lantgios (BS ME ‘20), a matriculating mechanical engineering graduate student, was one of 34 students nationwide to be awarded a $161,000 fellowship. Swanson School students have secured 20 NEUP scholarships and fellowships since 2009. # # #


Is Remote Work Helping to Keep Air Pollution at Bay?

Covid-19, MEMS

In March 2020, much of the country felt like it came to a standstill: People were not commuting to and from work or class, traveling to conferences, or going on vacations. All but the most essential businesses and manufacturers shut their doors, major events were canceled, and people stayed at home. There was one other big change: The air got better. Katherine Hornbostel (Credit: Ramon Cordero) In Pittsburgh, the Group Against Smog and Pollution reported particulate matter concentrations were 23 percent lower than expected since stay-at-home orders took effect. Nitrogen dioxide pollution over northern China, Western Europe and the U.S. decreased by as much as 60 percent in early 2020 compared to the previous year. Now, as businesses begin to reopen and life seeks a new normal, what will happen to those remarkable gains in air quality? And what can any of us do about it? Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has a few suggestions. Her research focuses on carbon capture technology: novel ways to remove carbon dioxide, one of the biggest drivers of air pollution and climate change, from the air and water. “The fact that our air has improved since the shutdown makes perfect sense. Some of the biggest contributors to air pollution—flying and driving—have declined dramatically,” said Hornbostel. “Companies shutting down also improved air quality because they stopped emitting carbon dioxide and other pollutants.” Though research suggests the air quality gains the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it are likely to dissipate as business resumes and factories work overtime to make up for lost time, Hornbostel notes that the air quality improvement proved that we can make a difference relatively quickly. As the economy reopens, Hornbostel recommends three changes to help keep our air clean: 1. Remote Work Global Workplace Analytics estimated that 56 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with remote work. One of the most obvious ways to protect our air long-term, Hornbostel suggests, is for employers to allow their employees to continue working from home in the future. “Remote work is an obvious way to cut emissions because people won’t have to drive so much. If companies adopt more flexible policies about employees working from home full- or part-time, it could make a big difference for the environment,” she said. Since the stay-at-home order took effect in Allegheny County, for example, traffic on the Parkway East was reduced so much that air particulates were 13 percent below normal. “Moving forward, I would love to see companies adopt a more flexible stance towards remote work. Not only will this help the environment, it will also prevent employee burnout and instill a culture of work-life balance.” 2. Find Ways Around Business Travel People whose jobs rely on frequent travel have found new ways of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is a good thing, Hornbostel said. The less flying we do, the better, as air travel is responsible for 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. “I think a lot of people are discovering that we don’t really need to travel as much as we do,” she said. “Virtual conferences and meetings are often perfectly adequate substitutes for traveling to a remote site. I’d love to see more conferences and workshops go virtual or at least offer a virtual option for participants who don’t wish to travel.” 3. Explore Your Own Backyard Cutting air travel’s large carbon footprint is a difficult task. However, this pandemic has proven that people are capable of getting by without getting on an airplane. Vacations to remote destinations used to be common for many Americans, but the pandemic forced us to make new plans and get creative with how we entertain ourselves and our children. Like many, Hornbostel found herself working from home while homeschooling small children. “I think we were all sort of living a frantic life before this pandemic hit, and after being forced to slow down, a lot of people are realizing how exhausting and unsustainable their previous lifestyle was,” she said. “As I’ve reflected on this change of pace and observed my children’s response to it, I’ve come to realize how much we all benefit from spending more time together at home. My kids don’t need to go to Disney World to be happy; they can still find joy by going to the park down the street. “Staying local can be fun. Staying home can be fun,” she said. “Do we really need to resume our frantic lives, or can we slow things down a bit?”
Maggie Pavlick

Making a Sustainable Impact Throughout Pitt and Our Communities

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

"MCSI remains committed to addressing global sustainability issues, connecting our domestic and international pursuits to create synergies locally, nationally, and internationally. We hope you enjoy this summary of the past year’s impacts, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the report's contents and MCSI's programs."


Five Pitt Researchers Receive PA Department of Community and Economic Development Grants

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (June 23, 2020) — Five researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have received grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Manufacturing PA initiative. The DCED has approved more than $2.8 million in grants to 43 projects that will “spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector,” according to their press release. “As engineers, we are applied scientists, and our singular goal in performing research is to produce public impact,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of bioengineering. “I am proud that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania saw the potential of these projects by our Swanson School faculty and their industrial partners to have benefit to their citizens.” The five researchers to receive funding at the Swanson School are: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering$67,991—Femtosecond Laser Manufacturing of 3D Photonics Components in Nonlinear Optical Substrates for Electro-Optic Applications Markus Chmielus, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Improving 3D Binder Jet Printed Tungsten-Carbide Parts via Strategies to Increase Green Density and Strength Jung-Kun Lee, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Smart Crucible: Monitoring Damage of Crucibles by Embedded Electric Resistance Sensor Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$69,450—A Computational Tool for Simulating the Sintering Behavior in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing Xiayun Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Pushing the Boundaries of Ceramic Additive Manufacturing (CAM) with Visible light initiated Polymerization (ViP)
Maggie Pavlick
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