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Iowa State University - 2016

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Research Description

Research Description By Graduate Engineering Department

Aerospace Engineering

Department research is proceeding in nondestructive evaluation including structure health monitoring, ultrasonics, x-ray, eddy current, terahertz and infrared imaging, thermography, life cycle and damage evolution, and NDE of composite structures; aviation biofuels including biofuel storage and structural degradation and biofuel combustion; complex systems and optimization including multidisciplinary design optimization, control optimization, and complex systems; advanced materials systems including composite materials and layered structures, multi-scale multi-physics computational and experimental mechanics, micro- and nano-mechanics and manufacturing, morphing structures, and soft and flexible materials; aerodynamics and aero-structural interaction including wind engineering and wind energy, aircraft icing, aerodynamic efficiency, turbomachinery and rotorcraft, and computational and experimental fluid dynamics, turbulence simulation on high performance computing platforms, turbulence modeling, laminar-to-turbulent transition, large eddy simulation/detached eddy simulation; and guidance, navigation, controls, and astrodynamics including asteroid deflection, trajectory optimization, and aerospace guidance, controls, and navigation.

Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

The department's research efforts are focused on the current and near future sustainability issues facing our nation and rest of the world in the 21st century related to natural resources (air, soil, and water), food supply (both safety and security), and energy security (biorenewables, biofuels, bioplastic, and bioproducts). Engineering science and technological solutions are being developed to manage crop and animal production systems that include areas such as water quality and air quality management, controlled environments for animals, animal manure/nutrient management, bioconversion of agricultural and industrial waste materials, grain quality and food processing, advanced agricultural machinery and manufacturing systems, machine automation and intelligence for precision agriculture, agricultural and food safety, and modeling of hydrologic systems. New research efforts are being directed increasingly towards biosystems engineering through invention and/or application of biosensors, biofuels and bioenergy, biomass harvest, storage, conversion, and bioplastics. Our mission-oriented research is driven by the ever expanding need for a safe food supply and for long-term sustainability of water, energy, and food systems in the world today.

Chemical & Biological Engineering

Research is proceeding in diverse areas and across multiple scales ranging in size from chemical plants down to the nanoscale. Topics include nanostructured advanced materials for fuel cells; new biomaterials for tissue engineering, drug/gene delivery systems, vaccines and biomedical imaging; development of new catalysts for value added products and fuels from biorenewable resources; improved separation techniques for biological products; analysis of plant metabolism; new enzymes for food processing; engineering of new polymeric materials and sensors; process control strategies; analysis and design of novel chemical reactors and energy conversion systems; fluid dynamics investigations of flow in chemical reactors; and analysis of microscopic-scale corrosion, etching and crystallization phenomena with the goal of improved control over these processes.

Civil, Construction, & Environmental Engineering

Research conducted within the CCEE department focuses on an overarching theme of sustainable infrastructure design, construction, monitoring, and rehabilitation. Transportation research addresses safety, efficiency and management of various transportation modes, with emphasis on remote sensing and GIS applications. Structures research has a long tradition of emphasis on bridge engineering issues, including applied health-monitoring technologies and strategies. Seismic and soil-structure interactions are also emphasized. New processes and systems for construction design-build and integrated delivery are also under investigation, covering enhanced scheduling for highway renewal, accelerated construction/reconstruction, as well as exploring high-performance, extended-durability innovations. Advanced foundation systems are being studied in the geotechnical/materials area for bridges, pavements, and buildings, coupling cutting-edge geo-construction systems with intelligent construction methods. Portland cement and asphalt concrete research areas include methods to improve the quality, performance, durability, and environmental suitability of pavements and runways. Environmental research focuses on water, waste, and residuals management, recovery of beneficial byproducts, anaerobic biological process, optimized nutrient removal methods, and watershed modeling.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Department research is broadly categorized into five areas.

Cyber Infrastructure research interests include multi-core architectures; embedded systems; high-speed processors and memory systems; optical networking; wireless, sensor, and ad-hoc networks; and reconfigurable computing. Additionally, this area involves research on intrusion detection, denial of service attacks, network forensics, reliable networking, attack-tolerant networks, and fault-tolerant systems, parallel and distributed computing, real-time and embedded systems, scientific computing, software engineering, and software security. Iowa State is a nationally recognized “Center of Excellence” in information assurance.

Energy Infrastructure research focuses on power system dynamics and control, voltage security, distribution systems, power economics, power electronics, and emerging “smart grid” and renewable energy applications, including wind energy and solar energy.
Bioengineering involves research in optical nanostructures for bioengineering, bioMEMS, biophotonics, biological image processing, bioinformatics, microfluidics, lab on a chip, and ultrasound technologies.

Materials, Devices and Circuits includes more specific research groups in the areas of microelectronics and photonics; electromagnetics, microwave, and nondestructive evaluation; and VLSI (both analog and digital). Researchers in these areas focus on biosensing, microwave remote sensing, optical communications, thin-film semiconductor and photonic bandgap devices, solar energy conversion, mixed signal VLSI design, and circuit testing.

Distributed Sensing and Decision Making research encompasses biomedical imaging, computer vision, control of complex dynamic systems, information and control theory, nanotechnology, wireless communications, and statistical signal processing.

The department plays an active role in various research centers and institutes including the Ames Laboratory, Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI Design Center, Center for Nondestructive Evaluation, CyberInnovation Institute, Electric Power Research Center, Information Assurance Center, Information Infrastructure Institute, Power Systems Engineering Research Center, Microelectronics Research Center, and Virtual Reality Applications Center.

Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering

The Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering has four major areas of concentration: operations research, information engineering, advanced manufacturing systems and ergonomics. Operations research is concerned with the development of quantitative models that can provide new insights into the behavior of complex systems, identify areas where significant improvements can be made in system performance, and provide a basis for effective decision making. Quantitative models include mathematical and computer models based on principles of simulation, optimization, probability, and statistics. Information engineering research is focused on enhancing the decision making process through knowledge discovery methods and information modeling that helps us understand how information is used within an enterprise. Faculty working in this area conduct research related to data mining, experimental design, decision theory, and statistical analysis. Advanced manufacturing systems research includes the investigation of new production methods for advanced products, studying process parameters of new processes, and understanding the interaction of processes in advanced manufacturing systems. Current IMSE efforts in this area include rapid manufacturing systems, advanced metrology and inspection, control and automation systems, and industrial energy efficiency. Ergonomics is the application of our understanding of the capabilities and limitations of human beings in the design of the workplace and consumer items. Current emphasis areas in IMSE include 1) physical ergonomics with a particular focus on spine biomechanics, prevention of low back injury and hand/wrist disorders such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome and 2) cognitive engineering with a focus on augmented human performance and human computer interaction. Systems Engineering as well as Engineering Management are interdisciplinary programs that are led and managed by IMSE. Systems Engineering enables engineers, regardless of undergraduate discipline, to develop the analytical abilities needed to design, evaluate, and build complex systems involving many components and demanding specifications, work across disciplinary boundaries as needed, and develops the management capabilities needed into today’s working environment. Engineering Management offers engineering perspectives to management in areas such as project management, production systems management, and technology management.


Interdisciplinary research and graduate study programs include bioinformatics and computational biology, biorenewable resources and technology, environmental science, human-computer interaction, information assurance, sustainable agriculture, systems engineering, toxicology, transportation, and wind energy. Bioinformatics and computational biology includes research in all major areas of computational molecular biology including genomics, structural genomics, functional genomics, and computational systems biology. Research in biorenewable resources and technology focuses on developing methods for converting renewable resources like corn, soybeans, switchgrass and poplars into biobased products of value. Environmental science includes research in the biological, chemical, and physical aspects of environmental systems and integrated analysis of these systems. Human computer interaction includes a variety of topics on how computers and their users are becoming better connected as a combined resource. In information assurance research projects are focused on intrusion detection, forensic analysis, applied cryptography, innovative methodologies for building secure systems, and policy and privacy issues in an electronic democracy. Sustainable agriculture is focused on the agroecological principles and social relations underlying sustainable farming and food systems. In systems engineering, some example research projects are decision-based system design via life-cycle modeling and simulation and risk reduction in complex system development. Toxicology includes a wide range of research areas including analytical chemistry, animal and avian protection, bioremediation, biotransformation of toxicants, cancer research, groundwater and aquatic risk, parasitology, and plant pathology. Research in transportation emphasizes the complex questions facing transportation systems today and interdisciplinary approaches to planning, operating, managing, and maintaining the next generation of transportation systems. Research in wind energy is focused on advances to make wind energy competitive with other energy sources by reducing capital costs, minimizing operation and maintenance costs, increasing output through efficiency and system design, and improving grid operation for wind energy.

Materials Science and Engineering

Current research in the department emphasizes a range of topics in processing-structure-property-performance relationships in materials for a variety of applications. Topics include ceramic powder synthesis and processing, glass synthesis and processing, metal powder production and consolidation, mechanical behavior of metals, ceramics and composites, magnetic materials, electronic materials, photonic materials, biomaterials, superconductors, nondestructive techniques for evaluating structure and properties of materials as well as corrosion, computational modeling of materials, solidification processing of metals, nanoscale characterization of polymers and hybrid materials, and rare earth metallurgy. Many of these projects are administered through various research centers on campus such as the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation, Ames Laboratory, the Institute for Combinatorial Discovery, and the Microelectronics Research Center.

Mechanical Engineering

The research and graduate programs of the mechanical engineering department produce graduates who are technical leaders and innovators. They make lasting and important discoveries that improve lives and livelihoods. Our programs are built on strong foundations in the fundamentals of thermal-fluid sciences, design and manufacturing, materials and mechanics, dynamic systems, and control. Our students, researchers and educators focus on important societal needs " energy, environment, national security, health care, and cyber infrastructure " in an interdisciplinary research climate. We collaborate with two dozen departments situated in all colleges on campus, 20 interdisciplinary research institutes and centers, and more than 150 organizations outside of Iowa State. Mechanical engineering faculty members lead major research enterprises such as the Bioeconomy Institute and the Virtual Reality Applications Center. With research supported by industry and governmental agencies, the department boasts internationally acclaimed programs in biological and nanoscale sciences, clean energy technologies, complex fluid systems, design and manufacturing innovation, and simulation and visualization. By any measure"patents, textbooks, awards, start-up companies, publications"the excellence of the department’s faculty and students is widely recognized throughout the national and international mechanical engineering community. Our programs are an important resource for the state and the nation. They are critical for the economic health, vitality and wellbeing of the State, the people of Iowa and beyond.

Research Description By Engineering Research Center

Ames Laboratory of the U.S. Dept. of Energy

The Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory devoted to "creating materials and energy solutions". Established in the 1940s with the successful development of the most efficient process to produce high-purity uranium metal for atomic energy, the Ames Lab now pursues a much broader portfolio that has given it international credibility and stature, notably in the area of rare earth science and technology. Responding to issues of national concern, the Lab’s scientists bring together expertise in chemistry, engineering, materials, mathematics and physics to solve large, challenging and complex problems. They are actively involved in innovative research, science education programs, the development of applied technologies, and the quick transfer of those technologies to industry. Uniquely integrated within a university environment, this national lab stimulates creative thought and encourages scientific discovery, providing solutions to critical problems and helping to inspire tomorrow’s scientific talent.

Analog & Mixed-Signal VLSI Design Center

Faculty members in the center focus on analog and mixed-signal VLSI design for biomedical, RF, microwave, fiber-optics, data conversion, testing layout, and other applications. The center's faculty bring extensive academic experience, broad industrial experience, and continued professional interactions into a center that relies heavily on industrial direction, interaction, and support.

Asteroid Deflection Research Center

The ADRC was established at Iowa State University in the Spring 2008 to coordinate and lead a research effort to address the complex engineering and science issues for mitigating the impact threats from hazardous asteroids or comets. It's specific mission goal is to develop the science, engineering, and technology needed to reliably deflect or disrupt those large asteroids or comets that could collide with Earth and cause a global climate change or the end of civilization.

Biobased Industry Center

Launched in 2008, the Biobased Industry Center (BIC) leverages the intellectual resources of interdisciplinary research and education programs to address critical business, infrastructure, supply chain, and policy issues facing the growing biobased economy.

To facilitate expansion of the biobased products industry, new investment, training, and analytical effort is needed. With the committed partnership of industry leaders, BIC has the depth and breadth of academic scholarship as well as the resources necessary to address these efforts thoroughly and successfully.

BioCentury Research Farm

The BioCentury Research Farm is the first-in-the-nation integrated research and demonstration facility dedicated to biomass production and processing. Biomass includes both lignocellulosic crops and grain. This facility presents a unique opportunity for industry collaboration. It will accelerate innovation and production capacity associated with biobased fuels, chemicals, and products. Collaborations for developing sustainable technologies will provide solutions that pave the way to meet national energy, economic, and environmental directives.

Bioeconomy Institute

The Bioeconomy Institute (BEI) is an outgrowth of the Bioeconomy Initiative -- a campuswide effort, launched in 2002, to investigate the use of biorenewable resources as sustainable feedstocks for producing chemicals, fuels, materials, and energy. Today, the BEI has over 160 faculty affiliated members who contribute to the Bioeconomy Initiative with over $60 million in cumulative sponsored research funding from industry and federal agencies ranging from the Department of Agriculture to the National Science Foundation.

Biopolymers & Biocomposites Research Team

The Biopolymers & Biocomposites Research Team (BBRT), established in 1995, promotes research in the development of biorenewable polymers from Midwest crops, encourages bioplastics in industry, and works towards new formulations and processing techniques. We work with plant-based oils, proteins, adhesives, and composites.

Our team is focused on four major research areas: biobased polymers, protein-based plastics, cellulosic-based composites, and design, characterization, and use of biopolymers and biocomposites. The team consists of world leaders in research and teaching in these areas.

Bridge Engineering Center

The Bridge Engineering Center at Iowa State University was established in 1988. The center’s mission is to conduct research on bridge technologies to help bridge designers/owners, particularly the Iowa Department of Transportation Office of Bridges and Structures, design, build, and maintain long-lasting bridges.

Center for e-Design

The Center for e-Design is a cooperative research center combining industry needs with academic resources to produce more efficient, effective, and collaborative electronic design processes and tools. Many high-tech companies and agencies face engineering challenges that limit the evolution of systems and products. The Center is committed to resolving these challenges through creative and innovative research. Center activities focus on fundamental research, research test beds, engineering education, and technology transfer. The Center for e-Design is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

Center for Industrial Research & Service

The Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is a part of Iowa State University Extension and the College of Engineering. Outreach activities include university-industry educational seminars, industrial research, and one-on-one technical assistance for Iowa's businesses. CIRAS staff provide assistance in the areas of engineering, biobased products, management practices, government contracting, productivity, and quality systems.

Center for Nondestructive Evaluation

The Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE) develops noninvasive methods and instruments for assessing the integrity of structures and materials. The Center's mission is to pursue research that defines underlying principles of nondestructive evaluation technologies and to transfer those technologies to industry, promoting the integration of nondestructive evaluation with other disciplines so that a product's lifetime reliability is enhanced. Research areas include ultrasonic techniques, electromagnetic techniques (including microwave and terahertz), thermal techniques (including vibrothermography), radiographic techniques, magnetic techniques, dye penetrant techniques, signal processing, embedded sensors, probability of detection, and integration with structural health monitoring. NDE techniques are developed for flaw detection and characterization as well as material property characterization. Applications to all materials systems, metals, ceramics and composites are under investigation. This work is performed in collaboration with a large number of industrial and academic partners in the U.S. and, increasingly, abroad. CNDE's outputs include improved understanding of inspection physics, new inspection concepts, prototype instrumentation, simulation software and a variety of educational offerings. Among the latter are an emerging program in NDE distance education and the development of a web-based focal point for technical education in NDE under the support of NSF. The Center seeks other areas that can benefit from NDE applications, such as agricultural, animal science, and biomedical areas. CNDE is the site of one of NSF’S Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers, which conducts generic, pre-competitive research for about 20 industrial and government sponsors. The work of CNDE also includes major programs sponsored by AFRL (Quantitative Inspection Technology), and ARL (NDE of Multi-Utility Materials) and is closely coupled to that of the FAA sponsored Airworthiness Assurance Center of Excellence. CNDE is a center of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of research and technology-transfer centers and industrial-outreach programs at Iowa State University.

Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies

Through its research, education and outreach programs, the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies (CSET) seeks to promote, develop, and demonstrate sustainable energy and environmental technologies, particularly those that address environmentally driven problems in energy utilization. The center especially concentrates on thermochemical technologies that convert carbonaceous solid fuels into heat, power, and liquid fuels. CSET organizes multidisciplinary teams of ISU faculty, staff, and students, as well as researchers from industry, national laboratories, and other universities to address problems in sustainable energy development. CSET is a center of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of research and technology transfer centers and industrial outreach programs at Iowa State University.

Critical Materials Institute

What is the Energy Innovation Hub for Critical Materials?
Created by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Energy Innovation Hub will operate under the name, the Critical Materials Institute (CMI). The CMI will be led by the DOE’s Ames Laboratory and bring together the expertise of four DOE national laboratories, seven universities and seven industry partners to eliminate materials criticality as an impediment to the commercialization of clean energy technologies for today and tomorrow.

What are “critical” and “near critical” materials?
Certain substances provide essential capabilities, such as light emission, magnetism or others, and when the supply of one of these substances is at risk, it becomes a “critical” material. The Department of Energy has identified five rare-earth materials " neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium"as critical materials, materials essential for America’s transition to clean-energy technologies. The DOE has identified two additional elements, lithium and tellurium, as “near-critical” materials. These non-rare-earth materials play an indispensable role in emerging energy storage and battery technologies, such as hybrid and electric vehicles, wind turbines, and photovoltaic thin films.

Electric Power Research Center

This center promotes and expands research in electric power and energy-related fields of particular interest to faculty and to the twelve electric utilities who support EPRC through their membership fees. Primary goals include the maintenance of a strong electric power and energy program and the education of students at the BS, MS and Ph.D. levels to prepare them for employment in many different engineering roles in electric utilities and in supporting industries. Faculty must be aware of current issues of concern and identify topics for research that their students can pursue for their advanced degrees. The results influence the quality of teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They also provide a stronger link between basic theory and its application to engineering challenges in industry.

Industrial Assessment Center

This center provides energy audits to small and medium-sized manufacturing companies and recommends ways to reduce their energy consumption and become more profitable. ISU teams that include faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students visit the site, collect data, conduct analyses, and write reports for each company.

Information Assurance Center

In response to the growing concern about computer security, faculty from several departments created the Information Assurance Center (IAC) as a structure to provide a focal point for research and teaching in computer security. Through the leadership of the faculty, the IAC has grown into a national leader in computer security education and has one of the largest programs in the country. These achievements led to the designation of the IAC as a charter Center of Excellence in Information Assurance (COE) by the National Security Agency. The goal of the NSA COE initiative is "to reduce vulnerability in our National Information Infrastructure by promoting higher education in information assurance, and producing a growing number of professionals with IA expertise in various disciplines." The IAC is also home to the NSF I/U CRC Center for Information Protection, which has 2 other universities and over a dozen companies as members.
The center is an interdisciplinary activity, drawing faculty from both technology-based disciplines and from the liberal arts and sciences. Many of the security problems and solutions have social implications that require experience from political science, sociology, history, law, and business and rhetoric and professional communication. By bringing faculty members from these disciplines together, ISU will be able to respond to the needs of students and the priorities of funding agencies.

Institute for Transportation

This Institute is a focal point at ISU for efforts to promote transportation education, research and extension activities. It includes 8 centers and 4 programs that address various aspects of transportation infrastructure . Programs and activities at In Trans address policy, planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance aspects of transportation systems with a focus on surface transportation elements. Topic areas include earthworks, materials, pavements, bridges, traffic engineering, safety, applications of information systems, asset management, weather implications for transportation, remote sensing, knowledge transfer, and outreach. Efforts by researchers at In Trans and their partners relate to developing innovative methods, materials, strategies and technologies as well as codes, specifications, and standards, for improving transportation system durability, efficiency, reliability, safety and sustainability. In addition, a key focus is to enhance the educational experience and training of students in transportation-related fields. As a dedicated, independent, and multidisciplinary home for about 200 students, professional staff, and faculty, all interested in the study of transportation, In Trans serves a transportation learning community. In Trans is also home to the interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Transportation, an interdisciplinary degree with supporting academic programs in the Colleges of Engineering, Design, and Business.

Iowa Space Grant Consortium

The ISGC is part of the NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, authorized by Congress in 1987. The ISGC was formed in 1990 by the three Regents’ universities (Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa) and now includes Drake University, as well as affiliates from government, industry and nonprofit organizations. The mission of the ISGC is to coordinate and improve Iowa’s future in aerospace science and technology and to stimulate aerospace research, education and outreach activities throughout the state. These goals are carried out through partnerships with the Consortium’s affiliates. The ISGC’s work is organized into the program categories of precollege, higher education, fellowships/scholarships, research infrastructure and informal education.

Microelectronics Research Center

The Microelectronics Research Center develops and characterizes advanced semiconductor materials devices and processing technology. The Center researches and develops new semiconducting materials and technology for the next generation of electronic and photonic devices, interacts with industry in the commercialization of these new technologies, and provides a state-of-the-art learning laboratory. The primary goal is to accomplish world-class research in a few carefully selected niche areas, including thin film electronic and optical devices. The primary emphasis is on electronic and optical materials and devices for photovoltaic conversion, photonic bandgap devices and sensors. These include fundamental studies of high-efficiency photovoltaic solar energy conversion materials, research on nanostructured electronic devices, intelligent plasma processing for advanced semiconductor manufacturing, and organic semiconductors and sensors. MRC is a center of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of research and technology-transfer centers and industrial-outreach programs at Iowa State University.

NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals

The NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) will develop the fundamental knowledge and technology and the academic and industrial partnerships needed to provide a foundation for U.S. industrial chemical production to be transformed from a petroleum-based industry to a renewable resource-based industry. It will educate a workforce capable of enabling this transformation.

Power Systems Engineering Research Center

The Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) draws on university capabilities to creatively address challenges related to the production, transportation, delivery, and end-use of electric energy. Under the banner of PSERC, multiple U.S. universities, including Iowa State University, are working collaboratively to investigate these topics. PSERC, originally an NSF sponsored Industry University Cooperative Research Center, has now "graduated" and is self-supporting through the membership fees of almost 40 companies. Key to the PSERC�s success is its collaborative nature, reflecting collaboration between and among researchers of different disciplines, researchers of different universities, and researchers and practitioners within industry. A number of faculty members at Iowa State University are involved in several research projects sponsored by PSERC.

Virtual Reality Applications Center

The Virtual Reality Application Center (VRAC) is an interdisciplinary research center focused on the rapidly expanding interface between humans and computers. The VRAC is administered by the Institute for Physical Research and Technology at Iowa State University. Our research centers around computer interfaces that integrate virtual environments, wireless networking, pervasive computing, and emerging user interface technologies to amplify the creativity and productivity of people. The VRAC is home of the C6, the world's highest resolution, completely immersive six-sided virtual reality room.