Archive for the ‘Engineering’ Category

Advanced Structures and Composites Center Testing Largest Structure Yet, BDN Reports

Friday, August 29th, 2014

The Bangor Daily News reported engineers at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are evaluating a 180-foot wind turbine blade for strength testing. Habib Dagher, director of the center, said the blade is the largest structure ever to be tested at the facility, which is one of two sites in the nation capable of handling the blade. He told the BDN there is a growing interest across the nation in using fewer but larger turbines because they are more cost-effective in energy production.

Evelyn Fairman: At the Nano Scale

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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Evelyn Fairman of Bangor graduated from the University of Maine in May with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, and minors in renewable energy engineering and mathematics. This fall, she has begun graduate work in energy science, technology and policy, with a disciplinary concentration in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Upon graduation in May 2015, she plans to work with alternative liquid fuels in an industrial setting.

For two years while at UMaine, Fairman was involved in nanocellulose research. Her work, which applied cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) in order to dry and rehydrate nanocellulose for easier transport, was recognized with a 2013 UMaine Center for Undergraduate Research Fellowship. This spring, her work was featured in the Maine Journal, and Fairman was recognized by UMaine with the Edith M. Patch Award. Most recently, the poster from her Honors thesis, “Avoiding Aggregation During the Drying and Rehydration Phases of Nanocellulose Production,” was a finalist in the Society of Women Engineers Collegiate Technical Poster Competition.

Earlier this year, Fairman presented her research findings at the 2014 National Collegiate Research Conference at Harvard University. This summer, she also spoke at the 2014 TAPPI International Conference on Nanotechnology for Renewable Materials in Vancouver, B.C.

In her research, Fairman was mentored by engineering faculty members David Neivandt, James Beaupre and Karen Horton; Honors College Dean Francois Amar; and forest operations professor Douglas Gardner.

Why did you decide to major in chemical engineering?
I chose to major in chemical engineering because I wanted to change the way energy is manufactured and distributed. I felt obligated as an educated citizen to reverse the effects of climate change by reducing our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. As a junior in high school, I hoped to one day design an alternative liquid fuel for the transportation sector. I was especially interested in the potential of fuel cells. I knew I wanted to major in engineering, but it was the University of Maine’s Consider Engineering summer program that convinced me to choose chemical.

How did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I contacted David Neivandt after I graduated high school. I had met him at the Consider Engineering program the previous summer, so I felt comfortable reaching out to him via email. He knew I was an incoming first-year chemical engineering major, and he was more than happy to assign me a student research assistantship under the guidance of one of his Ph.D, students, James Beaupre. The three of us continued to work on various research projects throughout my undergraduate career at the University of Maine.

What difference did the research make in your overall academic experience?
My classroom experience was richer because I was able to reinforce academic topics with hands-on experimental testing. I always loved math and science in high school, but I chose engineering because it was an applied field. It’s not often that an undergraduate has the opportunity to collect and analyze data for an independent research project, while getting paid. I was extremely lucky to have Dave and James as mentors. The research experience gave me the confidence to speak up in class, to ask questions if I didn’t understand the material, to present my results in weekly meetings, and to never hesitate to use upperclassmen and graduate students as resources. Indeed, my research experience convinced me by the end of the summer before my freshman year at UMaine that chemical engineering was the right field for me.

How do you describe your research to lay people?
That is a very good question. It is very important for scientists to be able to translate their research to layman’s terms, not just to fuel curiosity in those who work outside the field, but also for funding purposes. Here is what I usually say: The state of Maine has a strong pulp and paper industry. I am sure you know that we use trees to make paper. Well, trees — and all plant matter — are composed of cellulose. Cellulose is a useful material, but if you break it down into smaller pieces until it reaches nano-scale dimensions, we call that nanocellulose. Nanocellulose has very unique properties that allow it to be applied in a wide variety of fields. There is, however, a problem with the way nanocellulose is being produced industrially. Currently, nanocellulose is produced in an aqueous slurry. The water in this slurry eventually needs to be removed. However, when we remove the water, the nanocellulose clumps together and loses its nanoscale dimensions. Thus, its desirable properties are lost and it is no longer nanocellulose. My research project has a patented solution to this problem: We use the chemical additive CTAB to effectively dry and rehydrate nanocellulose.

Which faculty mentor did you work with most and what did you learn most from him or her?
I worked most closely with James Beaupre. James encouraged me to think outside the box and to consider all possibilities before drawing a conclusion. His guidance taught me to pay close attention to detail both during experiments and during data analysis. Outside the laboratory, his positive attitude reminded me not to forget the big picture.

Why did you choose UMaine?
I chose UMaine for the strong engineering program. Employers all over the U.S. recognize UMaine graduates as hardworking, genuine people. Having worked as an R&D intern for a chemical distribution company based in Delaware, I can say with confidence that UMaine engineers have a very good reputation outside of the state.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you took at UMaine?
I really enjoyed being in the Honors College. I know that’s not a specific class, but it allowed me to think about problems from alternative perspectives and to interact with students with different majors than my own. Also, my research project ultimately served as my undergraduate thesis for the Honors College. I cannot reflect on my academic experience at UMaine without thinking of the Honors College.

What was your favorite place on campus?
My favorite place on campus was the studio in 1944 Hall because I was actually really involved in the dance department at UMaine.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
Learn to manage your time and to study effectively. Never hesitate to reach out to upperclassmen in your major or faculty in your department. Once you’ve mastered the classroom environment, get involved in extracurricular activities, student clubs and/or Greek life. Join a professional organization (SWE, AIChE, etc.). Make a five-year plan. You’ll be surprised at graduation when you’ve achieved your original collegiate goals. Always push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Take a summer internship or study abroad if your program allows. Attend a hockey game and learn the Stein Song.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?
I was a member of Sophomore Eagles, one of the four traditions groups on campus. The Sophomore Eagles is composed of 12 second-year female undergraduate students who exemplify five personality traits: scholarship, leadership, friendship, dignity and character. I cannot speak more highly of the other 11 young women who were Eagles along with me.

Ten years from now, what do you hope to be doing?
I would love to use my engineering background to eventually move into a policymaking role, perhaps at the EPA or at the state level. If that doesn’t happen, then I can see myself working as an investment banker in the energy sector.

BDN Article Cites UMaine Electrical Engineering, MDOT Moose Illuminator Project

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Bangor Daily News reported on efforts the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is taking to reduce the number of moose-vehicle accidents. The article states the MDOT has several plans in the works, including a “moose illuminator project,” that calls for the installation of LED lights along sections of Route 161 with a high moose concentration. The lights would turn on after dark when a vehicle approaches, with the intent of lighting the roadway to reveal moose, the article states. The project was designed in cooperation with students in the University of Maine’s Electrical Engineering Department as part of their senior project this past spring, according to Andrew Sheaff, a lecturer in the department. “This was a really cool project,” he said. “And we hope it will help out motorists avoid moose.”

Pulse Morning Show Interviews Davids about HIAD

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Bill Davids, chair of the University of Maine Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the John C. Bridge Professor, was a Tuesday morning guest of host Don Cookson on The Pulse Morning Show on AM 620. Davids talked about how UMaine engineers and students are helping NASA test Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology. HIAD — a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy — slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The technology may make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars — 34,092,627 miles from Earth — and beyond. Davids said the minimum three-year project is a wonderful opportunity for the university, as well as the two full-time doctoral candidates and six undergraduate students taking part in the testing.

BDN, WABI Report on UMaine Testing of Materials for Possible Mars Mission

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The Bangor Daily News and WABI (Channel 5) reported engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are working with NASA to perfect the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD). The HIAD is a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy that slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The HIAD could make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars and beyond. “There aren’t that many people in the U.S., or around the world, working on these sorts of things,” said Bill Davids, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department and the John C. Bridge Professor at UMaine who is working on the project. “It really helps support education as well,” he added. The Sun Journal also carried the BDN report.

UMaine Piloting Interdisciplinary Renewable Energy Course

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

The University of Maine is piloting an interdisciplinary course based on Maine tidal power development research that aims to better understand the process of applying a comprehensive approach to renewable energy projects.

The course, Marine Renewable Energy: Engineering, Oceanography, Biology and Human Dimensions, is coordinated by Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor of marine biology, and is offered as an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course.

The course examines the basic science and field methods of understanding power generation, potential changes to the marine environment and effects on other users of marine resources, and how these disciplines intersect to provide a comprehensive understanding of coastal ecosystems.

Teaching is shared between Zydlewski; Michael Peterson and Raul Urbina from the Mechanical Engineering Department; Huijie Xue, an expert on physical oceanography; and Jessica Jansujwicz and Teresa Johnson, experts on human dimensions and sustainability science.

The last two weeks of the course are devoted to field work and final projects, where students are given the framework to apply concepts and “put it all together,” Zydlewski says.

Fieldwork is conducted on the Penobscot River, where students use acoustics, or sounds in water, to research and collect data about fish and water currents for their final project, which ties together what they learned in the field and in the classroom.

As part of the human dimensions aspect of the course, students visit Cianbro’s manufacturing facility in Brewer to learn about the company’s use of the river and the protocols it follows for development projects.

Since 2009, a group of UMaine researchers have been studying tidal power development independently while coming together to discuss their research, according to Zydlewski. The collaborative effort has resulted in integrated research approaches to better understand the marine environment and contribute to sustainable development through data-driven science with stakeholder input, Zydlewski says.

The focus of the class, she says, is to pass on the collective knowledge and information to the students, whose generation will be faced with all aspects of renewable energy development in coastal systems.

The majority of the 10 students in the course’s pilot year are engineers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Two students are marine science majors. Hometowns vary from York, Maine, to towns in Canada, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with half of the students coming from Brazil.

Even though the course is framed around what is happening with renewable energy in Maine, Zydlewski says, various forms of renewable energy development are also being considered in Brazil, and the students would like to be able to transfer and apply what they learn back home.

Maine Reaps Benefits of 50-Year-Old Water Resources Research Act

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The Maine Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI), a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, joins the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), stakeholders and academic partners in recognizing the importance of the pivotal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) on it’s 50th anniversary.

Signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, WRRA established a research institute or WRRI in each state and Puerto Rico. In his official statement, President Johnson said the WRRA “will enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit. The new centers will be concerned with municipal and regional, as well as with national water problems. Their ready accessibility to state and local officials will permit each problem to be attacked on an individual basis, the only way in which the complex characteristics of each water deficiency can be resolved… The Congress has found that we have entered a period in which acute water shortages are hampering our industries, our agriculture, our recreation, and our individual health and happiness.”

Maine’s WRRI “provides leadership and support to help solve Maine’s water problems by supporting researchers and educating tomorrow’s water scientists. Our goal is to generate new knowledge that can help us maintain important water resources,” said John Peckenham, Director of the institute and Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Mitchell Center.

The Maine WRRI has supported the study of problems such as harmful algae blooms in Maine’s rivers and lakes, arsenic in drinking water, stormwater management, lake acidification and water pollution control techniques. The institute also sponsors the annual Maine Water Conference, bringing together people from across Maine who are connected with water resources to share experiences and make new alliances.

Mitchell Center scientists say WRRI grants have facilitated valuable research over the years.

“The grants help faculty and students conduct meaningful research that aids in the management of streams, rivers, and lakes in Maine,” said Sean Smith, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. “It is difficult or impossible to manage and rehabilitate Maine’s freshwater resources effectively without knowledge of how the freshwater systems work and an understanding of how humans affect them. The WRRI grants provide a mechanism for advancing this knowledge and understanding in Maine.”

In 2014, the Maine WRRI is supporting research at Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland metropolitan area. Led by Smith, the project seeks to quantify connections between geography, land cover, climate and hydraulic conditions within tributaries draining to the lake. The connections between these factors are at the heart of major pollution concerns throughout the Northeast. The research seeks to help guide land use planning, pollution management, aquatic habitat conservation, and public water supply protection.

Another WRRI project in Lake Auburn, a source of drinking water for the Lewiston/Auburn area, is focused on increased levels of phosphorus in the lake. This could compromise public health and eventually result in a water treatment filtration requirement that could result in a greater cost to the community. The work supplements the existing knowledge of the lake and its results will enhance lake and water supply management strategies. The research team is led by Aria Amirbahman, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Stephen Norton, Distinguished Maine Professor, professor emeritus, Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Linda Bacon, Lakes Program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755

Media Report on UMaine Inflatable Technology Used by NASA

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

CompositesWorld and The Maine Edge reported engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are working with NASA to perfect the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) using UMaine’s inflatable technology expertise. The HIAD is described as a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy and is intended to slow a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere, making it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars and beyond. UMaine Composites Center engineers used the same inflatable technology for their groundbreaking Bridge-in-a-Backpack.

Erb, Ward Named to Maine Technology Institute’s Executive Committee, BDN Reports

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

David Erb, senior R&D program manager at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, were selected as members of the Maine Technology Institute’s executive committee by the institute’s board, according to a Bangor Daily News article about MTI’s interim leader. The executive committee will advise Brian Whitney, director of business development and innovation for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, as he takes over as the acting director of MTI, the article states. The executive committee also will review applicants for the permanent post as president of MTI.

Biddeford Company Proud of UMaine Grads it Hires as Engineers, Mainebiz Reports

Monday, August 11th, 2014

David Loper, director of operations at Fiber Materials Inc. in Biddeford, told Mainebiz the company has a strong engineering department with a fairly large population of Maine-based professionals, including University of Maine graduates. “We’re trying to create an environment to grow engineering resources, and over the last 10 years we’ve done a good job to hold talent,” he said. The company also gives young engineers the opportunity to step into a leadership role earlier in their careers, according to the article.