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.

Read our latest newsletter below


Pitt Engineering faculty and graduate students receive $150K in total funding from PA Manufacturing Fellow Initiative


PITTSBURGH (January 28, 2019) … Four faculty and six graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (UPCAM) and the Swanson School of Engineering will benefit from the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Innovation Program (PAMIP), a university-industry collaboration supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).Funding recipients include: Markus Chmielus, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with graduate student Katerina Kimes and undergraduate student Pierangeli Rodriguez De Vecchis, and industry partner General Carbide. Research proposal: “Enabling highly complex tungsten carbide parts via binder jet 3D printing.” Funding: $64,858. C. Isaac Garcia, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with undergraduate Yasmin Daukoru and postdoctoral student Gregorio Solis, and industry partner US Steel Corporation. Research proposal: “A new approach to optimize the performance of X80 Nb-bearing linepipe steels using IRCR high temperature processing.” Funding: $28,812. Jorg M. Wiezorek, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science; and M. Ravi Shankar, Professor of Industrial Engineering, with graduate students Jaehyuk Jo and Zhijie Wang, and industry partner AMETEK, Inc. Research proposal: “Hydride-dehydride powder manufacturing intensification by up-cycling of machining chips.” Funding: $56,543. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has embraced the potential of additive manufacturing as the forfront of our next industrial revolution, and we’re excited to partner with them to advance this new research,” noted David Vorp, the Swanson School’s associate dean for research and professor of bioengineering. “Most importantly, the PAMIP program recognizes the importance of engaging the next generation of engineering researchers through funded fellowships. Our undergraduate and graduate students contribute greatly to this research, and the fellowships support their education here at Pitt.” PAMIP was established to leverage the science and engineering talent and discovery capacity of Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher education to ensure that Pennsylvania remains a national and international leader in manufacturing and achieves the full economic potential for high-paying manufacturing jobs. A main component of the PA Manufacturing Innovation Program is the Manufacturing Fellows Initiative (PMFI), a $2 million initiative to support manufacturing research collaborations between Pennsylvania colleges/universities and manufacturers. The goal of the program is to enable these institutions to seamlessly bring their capabilities to bear to support industrial innovation and position the Commonwealth at the forefront of the next wave of manufacturing. ###


Pitt and General Carbide partner to improve tungsten carbide parts via additive manufacturing


PITTSBURGH (December 20, 2018) … Tungsten carbide is one of the most versatile metal compounds and is renowned for its durability and strength, making it perfect for cutting tools, boring machines, and surgical instruments. Although its use in additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, would seem ideal, tungsten carbide is susceptible to fractures and breakage when exposed to the extreme laser melting process used in printing metals. However, a recent award to the University of Pittsburgh and General Carbide Corporation in Greensburg, Pa. will enable research into better base powders and 3D printing methods for more effective and economical use of tungsten carbide in additive manufacturing. The project was financed in part by a $57,529 grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the first round of the PA Manufacturing Innovation Program (PAMIP). Cost share from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and General Carbide will provide a total funding of $145,000. Principal investigator is Markus Chmielus, assistant professor and the student fellows are from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The award will also fund two women materials science and engineering students Katerina Kimes (graduate) and Pierangeli Rodriguez De Vecchis (undergraduate) as fellows in fundamental and applied research. “Additive manufacturing is increasingly adopted by industry to build highly complex metal parts, but the rapid local heating and cooling during energy beam-based 3D metal printing produces large thermal gradients which causes tungsten carbide to crack,” Dr. Chmielus explained. “Binder jet 3D printing is more effective because it selectively joins powder particles with a binder, one microscopic layer on top of another and without any temperature fluctuations during printing.”Still key to utilizing tungsten carbide, however, is that after a part is printed, it needs to withstand a process called “sintering” and potentially “hipping” that will densify and harden it for use. To achieve that goal, Dr. Chmielus and General Carbide will investigate various tungsten carbide base powders that can be utilized in a binder jet 3D printer, as well as optimize the printing process and subsequent sintering and hipping. “This research will enable General Carbide to expand our portfolio with more complex and versatile parts at a lower cost by partnering with the Swanson School and leveraging its expertise in binder jet 3D printing and additive manufacturing process optimization,” noted Drew Elhassid, Chief Metallurgist and Manager of Lab, Pressing and Powder Production at General Carbide. “Additive manufacturing is especially useful when needed to create the most demanding but low-count parts that we wouldn’t necessarily build on a consistent basis.”“With the Manufacturing Innovation Program, the Wolf Administration aims to connect our best and brightest students with manufacturers to drive new technology and innovation in the manufacturing sector,” said Sheri Collins, deputy secretary for technology and innovation at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. “As manufacturing processes become more and more complex, these projects will keep Pennsylvania at the forefront of manufacturing innovation.” ### Image below: Carbide part samples from General Carbide Corporation.


Pitt professor models a system that can capture carbon dioxide from coal plants using capsules filled with baking soda and water


PITTSBURGH (December 12, 2018) … Although the use of renewable energy is on the rise, coal and natural gas still represent the majority of the United States energy supply. Even with pollution controls, burning these fossil fuels for energy releases a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - in the U.S. alone, coal and natural gas contributed 1,713 million metric tons of CO2, or 98 percent of all CO2 emissions from the electric power sector in 2017.1  In an effort to mitigate these effects, researchers are looking for affordable ways to capture carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust. Research led by the University of Pittsburgh and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) uses microcapsule technology that may make post-combustion carbon capture cheaper, safer, and more efficient. Model results for carbon capture system for a 500 MW coal power plant. The sizes (top row) and energy penalty (bottom row) are compared between the baking soda capsule design (left) and the traditional amine solvent design (right). The baking soda capsule reactor is smaller and requires a lot less energy than the traditional reactor design. "Our approach is very different than the traditional method of capturing carbon dioxide at a power plant,” said Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Instead of flowing a chemical solvent down a tower (like water down a waterfall), we are putting the solvent into tiny microcapsules.” Similar to containing liquid medicine in a pill, microencapsulation is a process in which liquids are surrounded by a solid coating. “In our proposed design of a carbon capture reactor, we pack a bunch of microcapsules into a container and flow the power plant exhaust gas through that,” said Hornbostel. “The heat required for conventional reactors is high, which translates to higher plant  operating costs. Our design will be a smaller structure and require less electricity to operate, thereby lowering costs.” Conventional designs also use a harsh amine solvent that is expensive and can be dangerous to the environment. The microcapsule design created by Hornbostel and her collaborators at LLNL uses a solution that is made from a common household item. “We’re using baking soda dissolved in water as our solvent,” said Hornbostel. “It’s cheaper, better for the environment, and more abundant than conventional solvents.  Cost and abundance are critical factors when you’re talking about 20 or more meter-wide reactors installed at hundreds of power plants.” Hornbostel explained that the small size of the microcapsule gives the solvent a large surface area for a given volume. This high surface area makes the solvent absorb carbon dioxide faster, which means that slower absorbing solvents can be used. “This is good news,” says Hornbostel, “because it gives cheaper solvents like baking soda solution a fighting chance to compete with more expensive and corrosive solvents.” Proposed design of a carbon capture reactor filled with baking soda capsules for a 500 MW coal power plant. Power plant exhaust is sent to hundreds of cylinders packed together (shown on right). Each cylinder (shown on left) is a hollow cylinder that lets exhaust gas flow through the core, then out through a packed bed of capsules. Hornbostel detailed her model in a recent paper in Applied Energy, “Packed and fluidized bed absorber modeling for carbon capture with micro-encapsulated sodium carbonate solution” (DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.11.027). “Our proposed microcapsule technology and design are promising for post-combustion carbon capture because they help make slow-reacting solvents more efficient,” said Hornbostel. “We believe that the decreased solvent cost combined with a smaller structure and lower operating cost may help coal and natural gas power plants maintain profits long-term without harming the environment.” ### 1U.S. Energy Information Administration.



MEMS, Open Positions

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) invites applications for tenure ­track positions in the areas of Cyber-Physical Systems and Data-Driven Modeling. We are seeking to fill a position in each of these areas. Successful applicants should have the ability to build an externally funded research program, as well as contribute to the teaching mission of the MEMS Department. Applicants should have a PhD or ScD in Mechanical Engineering or a related field. Applicants with outstanding track records at the associate professor and full professor levels are also encouraged to apply, but the focus will be at the assistant professor level. Cyber-Physical Systems Position:  Expertise is particularly sought in one or more of the following areas: dynamic systems and control, modeling and simulation, networked control systems, algorithm and system design, sensors and actuators, signal processing, big data and analysis, the Internet of Things, and the Industrial Internet. We are seeking candidates who have strong interdisciplinary interests and who can collaborate across engineering disciplines; although, a primary focus on mechanical engineering is essential. Candidates should clearly explain how their research fits with CPS and how it spans the physical and cyber domains. Data-Driven Modeling Position: Expertise is particularly sought in one or more of the following areas: data-driven discovery of dynamical systems; physics-informed machine learning; data-driven predictive modeling; and multi-fidelity analysis. Candidates with research applications in the areas of data assimilation and forecast, PDE-constrained optimization, control and reinforcement learning and modern computational methodologies are especially encouraged.  We are seeking candidates who have strong interdisciplinary interests and who can collaborate across engineering disciplines, but have a primary focus on mechanical engineering. The MEMS Department currently has 30 tenured or tenure-track faculty members who generate over $8 million in annual research expenditures. The Department maintains cutting-edge experimental and computational facilities in its five core research competencies: advanced manufacturing and design; materials for extreme conditions, biomechanics and medical technologies; modeling and simulation; energy system technologies; and quantitative and in situ materials characterization. The successful candidate for this position will benefit from the resources, support, and a multidisciplinary research environment fostered by many interdisciplinary centers including the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research Computing (http://www.crc.pitt.edu). Qualified applicants should submit their applications through Interfolio at the following link:  https://apply.interfolio.com/57686. The application should include the following materials in pdf form: a curriculum vitae, a statement of research and teaching plans, and name and contact information of at least three references. Review of applications will begin on January 1, 2019, and continue until the position is filled. Candidates from groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering are strongly encouraged to apply. The candidate should be committed to high-quality teaching for a diverse student body and to assisting our Department in enhancing diversity. The University of Pittsburgh is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.


Pitt Researchers Discover Surface of “Ultra-smooth” Nanomaterial Steeper than Austrian Alps


PITTSBURGH (November 29, 2018) … People can usually tell if something is rough or smooth by running their fingers along its surface. But what about things that are too small or too big to run a finger over? The earth looks smooth from space, but someone standing at the foot of the Himalayas would disagree. Scientists measure surfaces at different scales to account for different sizes, but these scales don’t always agree.New research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering measured an ultrananocrystalline diamond coating, prized for its hard yet smooth properties, and showed that it is far rougher than previously believed. Their findings could help researchers better predict how surface topography affects surface properties for materials used in diverse environments from microsurgery and engines to satellite housings or spacecraft.“One important measure of the ‘roughness’ of a surface is its average slope, that is, how steep it is,” says Tevis Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt. “We found that the surface of this nano-diamond film looks wildly different depending on the scale you’re using.” Dr. Jacobs and his team’s research appeared in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b09899). They took more than 100 measurements of the diamond film, combining conventional techniques with a novel approach based on transmission electron microscopy. The results spanned size scales from one centimeter down to the atomic scale. Dr. Jacobs explains, “The nanodiamond surface is smooth enough that you can see your reflection in it. Yet by combining all our measurements, including down to the smallest scales, we showed that this “smooth" material has an average slope of 50 degrees. This is steeper than the Austrian Alps when measured on the scale of a human footstep (39 degrees).”“By using electron microscopy, we were able to get the smallest end of the measurement range; we can’t even define topography below the atomic scale,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Then, by combining all the scales together, we were able to get rid of the problem of having roughness deviate between scales. We can calculate ‘true’ scale-invariant roughness parameters.”“We’ve known for one hundred years that surface roughness controls surface properties. The missing link is that we haven’t been able to quantify its effect. For example, in biomedical applications, different investigations have arrived at opposite conclusions about whether roughness promotes or degrades cell adhesion. We believe this new understanding of roughness across scales will open the door to finally solving this age-old puzzle in surface analysis.”The ultimate goal is to have predictive models of how roughness determines surface attributes such as adhesion, friction or the conduction of heat or electricity. Dr. Jacobs’ breakthrough is the first step in an uphill, and very steep, battle to create and validate these models.“We are currently making properties measurements of this nanodiamond material and many other surfaces to apply mechanics models to link topography and properties,” he says. “By finding the scales or the combination of scales that matter most for a given application, we can establish which surface finishing techniques will achieve the best results, reducing the need for a costly and time-consuming trial-and-error approach.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
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