Pitt | Swanson Engineering

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
  • Biomechanics and Medical Technologies
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Energy System Technologies
  • 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.


Alumni Focus

FSAE car rollout 2018

A passionate auto aficionado, David Kitch BSME '68 MSIE '81 is a long-time supporter of the Department and fan of Pitt's FSAE team, Panther Racing. Read more about Dave in this semester's Alumni Focus.





Apr
19
2019

Four Projects Receive Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation Seed Grants

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 19, 2019) — The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has announced its 2019-2020 seed grant recipients. The grants support graduate student and post-doctoral fellows on one-year research projects that are focused on sustainability. “All of the projects we have selected this year have the potential to make a lasting, positive impact on the environment,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of the Mascaro Center. “The Mascaro Center is excited to support these core teams of researchers who are passionate about sustainability.” This year’s recipients are: Towards Using Microbes for Sustainable Construction Materials:  Feasibility StudySarah Haig, civil & environmental engineeringSteven Sachs, civil & environmental engineeringMax Stephens, civil & environmental engineering*Jointly funded by MCSI and IRISE Chemical Recycling of Polyethylene to EthyleneEric Beckman, chemical & petroleum engineeringIoannis Bourmpakis, chemical & petroleum engineeringRobert Enick, chemical & petroleum engineeringGoetz Veser, chemical & petroleum engineering Investigating flexible piezoelectric materials with lower water pressuresKatherine Hornbostel, mechanical engineering & materials scienceMax Stephens, civil & environmental engineering Amplifying the efficiency of Tungsten Disulfide Thermoelectric DevicesFeng Xiong, electrical and computer engineering
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
19
2019

Freakonomics Spotlight

MEMS

Katherine Hornbostel, mechanical engineering assistant professor, was invited to be a guest on the popular podcast, Freakonomics Radio Live.  The offer came after a producer of the show came across an article published on the SSOE website last December.  The article described Hornbostel’s postdoctoral work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and her continued efforts at Pitt to find a safe, cheap and efficient method of carbon-capture. Hornbostel flew to New York City to be on the live show which was held at City Winery on March 9.  She was one of six guests on the episode called on stage to give a 15-minute interview with show creator Stephen Dubner and co-host Angela Duckworth (author of Grit, a NYT best seller). The show was recorded in front of a live audience of approximately 200 people. During her interview, which begins at 42:10, Hornbostel discusses using tiny capsules to capture carbon dioxide from the exhaust of a power plant. Hornbostel describes the method invented and studied by her team at LLNL: “…this particular combination — water and sodium carbonate — if you dissolve it in water, can react with carbon dioxide and extract it from a gas stream coming off a coal plant. And the really interesting thing that I’ve studied is that if you put these chemicals into little capsules that look like caviar, you can actually pack them into a reactor, attach it to a power plant, and selectively take out the carbon dioxide that’s being released from the exhaust.” Hornbostel and Dubner joked that the technology should be re-branded as “carbon capture caviar.” Hornbostel’s team at LLNL is currently working with small-scale partners, such as a biogas company and a microbrewery, to pilot this technology. Hornbostel’s group at Pitt is also researching how to use this “carbon capture caviar” to extract CO2 from the ocean to reverse acidification.
Meagan Lenze
Apr
17
2019

The Promise of Nuclear Engineering at Pitt

MEMS, Nuclear

The nuclear industry in the U.S. is at a crossroads, as several plants are scheduled for permanent shutdown, including three in Pennsylvania, the second-largest nuclear energy-producing state. However, in his brief tenure at Pitt, Professor Heng Ban, director of the Swanson School’s Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program, sees opportunity ahead for students, alumni and faculty researchers. Dr. Ban joined Pitt in 2017 from Utah State University (USU), where he served as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and founding Director of the Center for Thermohydraulics and Material Properties. In addition to continuing to serve as principal investigator on a fuel safety research program at USU, he holds a research portfolio of nearly $1 million per year in nuclear-related research. He believes that Pittsburgh’s nuclear history – and Pitt’s distinctive program – allow the Swanson School to better compete in a global energy industry. “Nuclear energy is one of the cleanest power resources and is a vital component not only of our nation’s energy portfolio, but also the U.S. naval nuclear fleet and several countries around the world. Research is ongoing into additive manufacturing of nuclear components, smaller reactor systems as well as sensors and controls for reactor safety and machine learning for facility maintenance,” Dr. Ban says. “The Swanson School has assembled diverse faculty expertise in these areas, and so we can offer technological breakthroughs and outstanding graduates in field.” Pitt currently offers an undergraduate certificate and graduate certificate and master of science in nuclear engineering through the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Dr. Ban says that what sets the Swanson School program apart is the ability to draw upon adjunct faculty in the area who have direct ties to the nuclear industry. “Pittsburgh was the birthplace of the nuclear energy industry,” Dr. Ban notes. “The first peacetime nuclear reactor was built near here in Shippingport, and the first nuclear submarine engine was developed at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin. Those current and former employees have such a combined wealth of knowledge about the industry, and are a unique feature of our curriculum. Dr. Ban adds that since many of those engineers are nearing retirement, there is a great need for a new generation of nuclear employees. “From Bettis, Westinghouse, Bechtel Marine and so many other in the supply chain, employers are telling us not only that they need engineers, but are helping us structure the curriculum so that we educate the best engineer for the field.” And the research that students engage in spans the nuclear industry. For example, Dr. Ban’s research includes a large project with participation of Westinghouse, GE, Framatome, several universities and the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory on fuel safety and advanced sensor systems for a next-generation sodium-cooled test reactor in Idaho; Professors Albert To and Wei Xiong are working industry to optimize designs of 3-D printing of nuclear parts, Professor Jeffrey Vipperman is studying vibration detection while Kevin Chen is developing optical fiber sensors for reactor environments; Sangyeop Lee is focused on molecular dynamics computational studies for molten salt reactors, Daniel Cole is working with Rolls-Royce on nuclear plant operation using machine learning; and Katherine Hornbostel is developing system analysis tools. “As long as nuclear energy remains a reliable, clean, efficient and safe energy resource, we will have a greater need for the engineers who can be competitive in the global nuclear energy marketplace, as well as who can develop the next ground-breaking technologies,” Dr. Ban says. “And the Swanson School is at the nexus of this industry that is a critical part of our national safety, from power generation to defense, and a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions worldwide.” ### Associated Awards in Nuclear Engineering Predictive Solutions for Prevention and Mitigation of Corrosion in Support of Next Generation Logistics PI/Co-PI: Brian Gleeson (PI), Heng Ban (Co-PI), Qing-Ming Wang (Co-PI)Grant Source: Battelle Memorial InstituteGrant Amount: $1,145,931Grant Period: 04/20/2018 – 05/30/2018Preparatory Out-of-pile Lead Loop Experiments to Support Design of Irradiation Test Loop in VTR PI: Heng BanGrant Source: University of New Mexico/DOE Grant Amount: $150,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018 – 09/30/2019Transient Reactor (TREAT) Experiments to Validate MDM Fuel Performance Simulations PI: Heng BanGrant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $1,000,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018– 08/31/2020Preparatory Out-of-pile Lead Loop Experiments to Support Design of Irradiation Test Loop in VTR PI: Heng BanGrant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $450,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018 – 09/30/2019Integrating Dissolvable Supports, Topology Optimization, and Microstructure Design to Drastically Reduce Costs in Developing and Post-Processing Nuclear Plan Components by Laser-Based Powder Bed Additive Manufacturing PI: Albert To Grant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $1,000,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018 – 09/30/2021Advanced Manufacturing of Embedded Heat Pipe Nuclear Hybrid Reactor PI: Kevin Chen Grant Source: ARPA-E through Los Alamos national LabGrant Amount: $200,000Grant Period: 2018-2021Self-regulating, Solid Core Block “SCB” for an Inherently Safe Heat Pipe Reactor PI: Kevin Chen Grant Source: ARPA-E through Westinghouse Grant Amount: $670,000Grant Period: Oct. 2018 – Sept. 2021.Radiation Effects on Optical Fiber Sensor Fused Smart Alloy Parts with Graded Alloy Composition Manufactured by Additive Manufacturing Processes PI: Kevin Chen Grant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $1,250,000Grant Period: Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2020Nuclear Regulatory Commission Graduate Fellowship Award PI/Co-PI: Dan Cole (PI), Heng Ban (Co-PI)Grant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $450,000Grant Period: 2017-2020Nuclear Regulatory Commission Faculty Development Award PI: Dan ColeGrant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $300,000Grant Period: 2016-2019

Apr
15
2019

Happy Retirement for Two MEMS Faculty Members

MEMS

The Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science department celebrated the retirements of two full professors this year at the faculty meeting last Friday. • Anthony DeArdo: Deardo spent 43 years teaching at Pitt, plus one year as an emeritus professor. He served as director of Pitt’s Basic Metals Processing Research Institute (BAMPRI).  He has received numerous awards, included one at the Prof. A.J. DeArdo Symposium on Microalloyed Steels, International Conf. Thermec, Las Vegas, 2013. • Gerald Meier: Meier served 49 years at Pitt, plus one year as an emeritus professor.  He published two successful books, Introduction to the High-Temperature Oxidation of Metals in 2006 and Thermodynamics of Surfaces and Interfaces: Concepts in Inorganic Materials in 2014. The MEMS department would like to congratulate Tony and Jerry on successful careers!
Meagan Lenze
Apr
11
2019

New Research Adds to Work of Prandtl, Father of Modern Aerodynamics

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... In 1942, Ludwig Prandtl—considered the father of modern aerodynamics—published “Führer durch die Strömungslehre,” the first book of its time on fluid mechanics and translated to English from the German language in 1952 as “Essentials of Fluid Dynamics.” The book was uniquely successful such that Prandtl’s students continued to maintain and develop the book with new findings after his death. Today, the work is available under the revised title “Prandtl—Essentials of Fluid Mechanics,” as an expanded and revised version of the original book with contributions by leading researchers in the field of fluid mechanics. Over the years, the last three pages of Prandtl’s original book, focusing on mountain and valley winds, have received some attention from the meteorology research community, but the specific pages have been largely overlooked by the fluid mechanics community to the point that the content and the exact mathematical solutions have disappeared in the current expanded version of the book. But today in the age of supercomputers, Inanc Senocak, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is finding new insights in Prandtl’s original work, with important implications for nighttime weather prediction in mountainous terrain.Drs. Senocak and Cheng-Nian Xiao, a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Senocak’s lab, recently authored a paper titled “Stability of the Prandtl Model for Katabatic Slope Flows,” published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2019.132). The researchers used both linear stability theory and direct numerical simulations to uncover, for the first time, fluid instabilities in the Prandtl model for katabatic slope flows. Katabatic slope flows are gravity-driven winds common over large ice sheets or during nighttime on mountain slopes, where cool air flows downhill. Understanding those winds are vital for reliable weather predictions, which are important for air quality, aviation and agriculture. But the complexity of the terrain, the stratification of the atmosphere and fluid turbulence make computer modeling of winds around mountains difficult. Since Prandtl’s model does not set the conditions for when a slope flow would become turbulent, that deficiency makes it difficult, for example, to predict weather for the area around Salt Lake City in Utah, where the area’s prolonged inversions create a challenging environment for air quality.“Now that we have more powerful supercomputers, we can improve upon the complexity of the terrain with better spatial resolutions in the mathematical model,” says Dr. Senocak. “However, numerical weather prediction models still make use of simplified models that have originated during a time when computing power was insufficient.”The researchers found that while Prandtl’s model is prone to unique fluid instabilities, which emerge as a function of the slope angle and a new dimensionless number, they have named the stratification perturbation parameter as a measure of the disturbance to the background stratification of the atmosphere due to cooling at the surface. The concept of dimensionless numbers, for example the Reynolds number, plays an important role in thermal and fluid sciences in general as they capture the essence of competing processes in a problem.An important implication of their finding is that, for a given fluid such as air, dynamic stability of katabatic slope flows cannot simply be determined by a single dimensionless parameter alone, such as the Richardson number, as is practiced currently in the meteorology and fluids dynamics community. The Richardson number expresses a ratio of buoyancy to the wind shear and is commonly used in weather prediction, investigating currents in oceans, lakes and reservoirs, and measuring expected air turbulence in aviation.“An overarching concept was missing, and the Richardson number was the fallback,” says Dr. Senocak. “We’re not saying the Richardson number is irrelevant, but when a mountain or valley is shielded from larger scale weather motions, it doesn’t enter into the picture. Now we have a better way of explaining the theory of these down-slope and down-valley flows.”Not only will this discovery be important for agriculture, aviation and weather prediction, according to Dr. Senocak, but it will also be vital for climate change research and associated sea-level rise, as accurate prediction of katabatic surface wind profiles over large ice sheets and glaciers is critical in energy balance of melting ice. He notes that even in the fluids dynamics community, the discovery of this new surprising type of instability is expected to arouse a lot of research interest.Next, Dr. Senocak is advising and sponsoring a senior design team to see if researchers can actually observe these fluid instabilities in the lab at a scale much smaller than a mountain. ### The paper was published online in February and will appear in print April 25, 2019. Acknowledgements Research was sponsored by the Army Research Office and was accomplished under Grant no. W911NF-17-1-0564 with Dr J. G. Baryzk as the program manager. This research was supported in part by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research Computing through the resources provided.
Maggie Pavlick, Senior Communications Writer
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