New industry cooperative research center at MechSE awarded NSF funding


MechSE professors Iwona Jasiuk and Martin Ostoja-Starzewski
MechSE professors Iwona Jasiuk and Martin Ostoja-Starzewski
The Center for Novel High Voltage/Temperature Materials and Structures (HV/TMS), proposed by MechSE professors Iwona Jasiuk and Martin Ostoja-Starzewski, has received an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) award from the National Science Foundation. This award makes HV/TMS an official NSF I/UCRC center. The other two universities participating in this center are the University of Denver and Michigan Technological University.

The principal goal of the center, a cooperative center between companies in industry and researchers in academia, is to conduct precompetitive research in materials and methods that can improve the efficiency of the United States’ system of electrical power lines.

"Electricity is transported by wires because nobody has a better idea right now," Ostoja-Starzewski said. "Sometimes it has to be transported very long distances. Over those long distances and in all different kinds of weather, a large amount of it is wasted as heat."

"There is definitely a need for research in this area," Jasiuk said, "because if we can transfer more energy more effectively, more efficiently, there will be huge energy savings. And if we can make the wires more conductive, stronger, and with minimal thermal expansion, we can also prevent outages due to ice or wind or other external factors."

The Center will utilize the most advanced aerospace technologies to design novel materials and structures for the next generation electrical grid. The aggressive environment of the high voltage grid will drive innovations that will benefit other industries such as aerospace, oil, manufacturing, transportation, and others.

The center will work directly with partners in the power, aerospace, and other industries to address these problems. As members of the center, companies will gain full access to its research and will be able to help decide which research projects should be pursued; and the center is actively seeking companies to join their effort.

The wire strands inside power cables are some of the HV/TMS Center's primary research concerns.
The wire strands inside power cables are some of the HV/TMS Center's primary research concerns.
"Having more companies will make the center much more diverse," Jasiuk said. "The whole idea of the center is to bring companies, university professors, and different universities together to work on problems important to this industry. We all have a lot to gain from working together."

The center will have two meetings every year to go over findings and evaluate new project proposals. The first of these will be in late May or early June of this year in Denver; potential new members of the center are invited as well, so they can gain an idea of what the center is and what direction it will go in for the first year.

"Our vision five years from now is to become a focal research point," Ostoja-Starzewski said, "where the electrical power industry comes with its problems to academia, and we all work together to solve them."

Interested companies, faculty, and students may contact Iwona Jasiuk at ijasiukatillinois [dot] edu or Martin Ostoja-Starzewski at martinosatillinois [dot] edu for more information.