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
  • 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.


Breathing Easier with a Better Tracheal Stent

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 13, 2021) — Pediatric laryngotracheal stenosis (LTS), a narrowing of the airway in children, is a complex medical condition. While it can be something a child is born with or caused by injury, the condition can result in a life-threatening emergency if untreated. Treatment, however, is challenging. Depending on the severity, doctors will use a combination of endoscopic techniques, surgical repair, tracheostomy, or deployment of stents to hold the airway open and enable breathing. While stents are great at holding the airway open and simultaneously allowing the trachea to continue growing, they can move around, or cause damage when they’re eventually removed. New research published in Communications Biology and led by the University of Pittsburgh is poised to drastically improve the use of stents, demonstrating for the first time the successful use of a completely biodegradable magnesium-alloy tracheal stent that avoids some of these risks. “Using commercial non-biodegradable metal or silicone based tracheal stents has a risk of severe complications and doesn't achieve optimal clinical outcomes, even in adults,” said Prashant N. Kumta, Edward R. Weidlein Chair Professor of bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering. “Using advanced biomaterials could offer a less invasive, and more successful, treatment option.” In the study, the balloon-expandable ultra-high ductility (UHD) biodegradable magnesium stent was shown to perform better than current metallic non-biodegradable stents in use in both in lab testing and in rabbit models. The stent was shown to keep the airway open over time and have low degradation rates, displaying normal healing and no adverse problems. “Our results are very promising for the use of this novel biodegradable, high ductility metal stent, particularly for pediatric patients,” said Kumta, who also holds appointments in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “We hope this new approach leads to new and improved treatments for patients with this complex condition as well as other tracheal obstruction conditions including tracheal cancer.” The paper, “In-vivo efficacy of biodegradable ultrahigh ductility Mg-Li-Zn alloy tracheal stents for pediatric airway obstruction,” (DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-01400-7), was authored by the Swanson School’s Jingyao Wu, Abhijit Roy, Bouen Lee, Youngjae Chun, William R. Wagner, and Prashant N. Kumta; UPMC’s Leila Mady, Ali Mübin Aral, Toma Catalin, Humberto E. Trejo Bittar, and David Chi; and Feng Zheng and Ke Yang from The Institute of Metal Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Maggie Pavlick

MEMS Team Takes Home First Place at SSoE Design Expo

Covid-19, MEMS, Student Profiles

The team and Dr. Chmielus celebrate their win which comes with a $500 prize A pandemic-inspired project received first place from judges at the schoolwide – and virtual – Fall 2020 Engineering Design Expo. The winning project was titled “Enhancement of Metal 3D Printed Respiratory Filter Design” and was conducted by MEMS students Nathan Knueppel, Fred Wohlers, Jared Melnik, Andrew Harman and Zach Ostrander. The team was sponsored by MEMS professor, Markus Chmielus in collaboration with industry partner, ExOne. The project originated in the summer of 2020 when ExOne approached Chmielus with the idea of designing a reusable metal N95 filter. N95 respirator masks are recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for healthcare professionals who are likely to come into contact with patients infected with COVID-19. They are more effective than the cloth masks recommended for public use.  The current design of N95 masks is such that they are generally unable to be sanitized and are considered disposable. The extent of the pandemic has stressed supply chains globally and led to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirators. The aim of the team’s design project was twofold. First, to alleviate shortages of N95 masks by designing a new mask that can be 3D printed with metal and can be cleaned and reused.  The second objective was to develop a testing method to determine if the design observed the necessary N95 filter standards. This required the design and manufacture of a test apparatus capable of measuring pressure drop and filtration efficiency for prototype designs. Team member Zach Ostrander models the N95 mask This project is a continuance of the work started over the summer with Chmielus’ research group. Likewise, this team’s test stand and associated developments will be used to guide future groups in the continuation of mask design and test-stand improvements. While more work needs to be completed before manufacturing a functioning N95 masks, the team made tremendous progress this semester, enough to earn them the first-place prize. The team partnered with the Swanson Center for Product Innovation (SCPI) to help with the creation of the test stand. Time constraints limited the team from exploring filtration, so this test stand currently only tests pressure drop, but has been designed to easily adapt to future modifications/additions. In fact, Chmielus has already received several requests from faculty to use the test stand for other research purposes. Therefore, the stand will serve as a permeant addition to the testing equipment available to students and faculty at Pitt. Looking ahead, once the silicone mask design is complete, a single ExOne printer will be capable of producing 90,000 masks per month, which would displace 1.5 million cloth N95 masks. Chmielus notes that the group was excited about their project and inspired by being able to see how their design and progress were directly implemented into the project for use in both the short-term and long-term. According to Chmielus, despite the challenges they faced, the team was well prepared and communicated effectively. Pressure drop test apparatus With COVID restrictions, the team was challenged with video chats instead of in-person meetings and adhering to social distancing guidelines while working on the construction of their designs. Another novelty last semester was that the Design Expo was held virtually via Zoom.  Each team was assigned a breakout room where judges and other Expo attendees were invited to visit the various rooms to learn about each project. Team Coordinator, Nathan Knueppel, said, “This project provided an amazing opportunity for our group to apply our diverse talents to a problem with very real consequences. The news every day provided a poignant reminder of why we were working and the impact we could have on a global scale if we were ultimately successful. I am excited for the progress we made and the work still to come and proud we could contribute to the battle against the current pandemic and to the preparation against the diseases of the future.”


Pitt Engineering Faculty Startup Receives First Place in WVU Transtech Conference


PITTSBURGH (Dec. 18, 2020) — CorePower Magnetics, represented by Chief Technology Officer Paul Ohodnicki, also associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh, received the top prize at West Virginia University’s Transtech Energy Business Development Program Conference. CorePower Magnetics company leadership also includes Michael Anness, Chief Executive Officer, and Michael McHenry, Chief Scientist and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Ohodnicki pitched the start-up company at the Virtual TransTech 2020 Conference, held on Nov. 5, 2020. The first place award includes $10,000 in funding, which will go toward establishing the company’s first manufacturing line and expenses associated with customer discovery. “Our company’s main mission is to build power-dense, efficient magnetic components for a range of applications, from powering the grid to powering electronics for hybrid electric vehicles and aircrafts,” said Ohodnicki, who also has an appointment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This Transtech funding will be used as critical resources that will help us to build our first manufacturing facility and pursue customer discovery. The objective is to enable production of custom pilot products and to establish a customer base for future growth.” CorePower Magnetics develops and manufactures high performance magnetic cores and leverages them in optimally designed inductors, transformers, and motors. Using advanced manufacturing processes and novel materials that were developed through prior and on-going research at Carnegie Mellon University, the resulting technology can be up to ten times lighter, five times smaller by volume, and can demonstrate up to a 50 percent reduction in losses. It can also eliminate the need for rare earth metals, a limiting factor in other established technologies for electric motor applications. CorePower Magnetics is partnering with Ohodnicki’s lab at Pitt and McHenry’s lab at CMU on projects further developing this technology to demonstrate new high frequency magnetic materials and component technologies for advanced applications of interest to both the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. Ohodnicki first became involved with this work when he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in the laboratory of Prof. Michael McHenry.  Since that time, his collaborative research with McHenry has resulted in a portfolio of 22 patents and patent applications, a new class of metal amorphous nanocrystalline iron cobalt and iron nickel alloys, and a new in-line process that ensures high magnetic core performance. These inventions have now been licensed by CorePower Magnetics from Carnegie Mellon University. “The next step in the company’s trajectory will help create manufacturing jobs in the region, and spark excitement about the potential of these new materials and advanced manufacturing processes,” said Ohodnicki. “Ultimately, it puts us one step closer to establishing new manufacturing capabilities in the region as a foundation for building more sustainable and efficient technologies that will benefit society for decades to come.”
Maggie Pavlick

Carbon Capture’s Next Top Model

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 16, 2020) — In the transition toward clean, renewable energy, there will still be a need for conventional power sources, like coal and natural gas, to ensure steady power to the grid. Researchers across the world are using unique materials and methods that will make those conventional power sources cleaner through carbon capture technology. Creating accurate, detailed models is key to scaling up this important work. A recent paper led by the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering examines and compares the various modeling approaches for hollow fiber membrane contactors (HFMCs), a type of carbon capture technology. The group analyzed over 150 cited studies of multiple modeling approaches to help researchers choose the technique best suited to their research. “HFMCs are one of the leading technologies for post-combustion carbon capture, but we need modeling to better understand them,” said Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, whose lab led the analysis. “Our analysis can guide researchers whose work is integral to meeting our climate goals and help them scale up the technology for commercial use.” A hollow fiber membrane contactor (HFMC) is a group of fibers in a bundle, with exhaust flowing on one side and a liquid solvent on the other to trap the carbon dioxide. The paper reviews state-of-the-art methods for modeling carbon capture HFMCs in one, two and three dimensions, comparing them in-depth and suggesting directions for future research. “The ideal modeling technique varies depending on the project, but we found that 3D models are qualitatively different in the nature of information they can reveal,” said Joanna Rivero, graduate student working in the Hornbostel Lab and lead author. “Though cost limits their wide use, we identify 3D modeling and scale-up modeling as areas that will greatly accelerate the progress of this technology.” Grigorios Panagakos, research engineer and teaching faculty in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, brought his expertise in analyzing the modeling of transport phenomena to the review paper, as well. The paper, “Hollow Fiber Membrane Contactors for Post-Combustion Carbon Capture: A Review of Modeling Approaches,” (DOI: 10.3390/membranes10120382) was published in the 10th anniversary special issue of the journal Membranes and was authored by Joanna Rivero, Grigorios Panagakos, Austin Lieber, and Katherine Hornbostel.
Maggie Pavlick

MEMS Research Makes Cover of MRS Bulletin


MEMS Professor Jorg Wiezorek and his group’s work is featured on the front cover of the November issue of the MRS Bulletin. The issue covers the developments in the field of processing metallic materials and includes Wiezorek’s article highlighting the in-situ TEM work Pitt does in collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The feature article is titled Imaging Transient Solidification Behavior and Wiezorek co-authored the work with Dr. Joseph McKeown, lead of the Metallurgy and Advanced Microscopy Group at LLNL, and Dr. Amy Clarke who is an associate professor in the George S. Ansell Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Wiezorek’s research involves state-of-the-art in-situ experiments that are performed with fast electrons, which allow the study of the dynamic processes of crystal growth and microstructure evolution under extreme conditions driven far from equilibrium. The research produces quantitative measurements and mechanistic insights that are uniquely suitable for comparison with and validation of computational modeling and advance the science and theory of the liquid-to-solid phase transformations in metallic materials.

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