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The University of New Mexico - 2016

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Research Description

Research Description By Graduate Engineering Department

Chemical and Biological Engineering

Chemical Engineering: Synthesis, processing & characterization of nano- and biomaterials (catalysis & interfaces, porous materials, thin film deposition, sol-gel synthesis, aerosol materials synthesis, optoelectronic materials), inorganic membranes, etching and thin film deposition for microelectronics, fuel cell technology, bioanalytical micro- and nanosystems, tissue engineering, and biomedical sensors and separation processes.

Civil Engineering

Current research topics include: finite element analysis, structural reliability, smart structures, blast-effects analysis and testing, structural health monitoring, infrastructure resilience, nanocomposites, composite materials and structures, ultra-high performance concrete, uncertainty quantification, railroad engineering, geomechanics, pavement and materials testing, deep boreholes and CO2 sequestration, wellbore integrity, transportation systems safety and design, regional transportation planning, mobile source air quality, active transportation, environmental remediation, radioactive and hazardous waste management, waste water treatment, environmental microbiology, impact of climate change on water and the environment, water-reuse, decision support systems, groundwater remediation, open-channel hydraulics, arid regions hydrology, construction project management, construction risk analysis, wild fire modeling, building information management (BIM), design-build methods, and sustainability.

Computer Engineering

Biomedical imaging, hardware security, reconfigurable systems, computer graphics, virtual reality, image processing information systems, machine learning, neural networks, cognitive radios, cloud computing, data analytics, and cyber security.

Computer Science

Active research programs include: adaptive computation, computational biology, computer immunology, computational neuroscience, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automated reasoning, formal methods, symbolic and algebraic computation, data mining, run-time systems, memory management, scientific data mining, security, scalable systems, high performance networks, molecular computing, networks, network scaling theory, verification.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering: Adaptive and optimal control, nonlinear systems, robotics, distributed networks, control systems, hybrid systems, optical switching networks, optical communication systems, digital signal processing, photonics, nano technology, microelectronics fabrication, high speed semiconductor lasers, antennas, RF MEMS, wireless and multiuser communications systems design, pulsed power, high power microwaves, plasma science, power and renewable energy.


Biomedical Engineering
Current research projects include: Fundamentals and bioengineering of enzymatic fuel cells; Stimuli responsive surfaces; Smart mesoporous silica beads for biomedical applications; Nanofluidics for advanced biomolecular separations; Multi-analyte biosensors in packed microcolumns; Microchip countercurrent electroseparation

Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering (NSMS)
The University of New Mexico graduate program in Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering bridges the distinct properties of the nanoscale and microsystem functionality. The integrated academic and research activities highlight our capabilities and unique breadth in materials synthesis and self-assembly, nanolithography, interrogative platforms, and functional micro/macrosystems. The program has the following technical thrusts:

• Information Nanotechnology
• Nanoscience of Biosystems
• Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion

To illustrate as an example, Nanoscience of Biosystems places a special emphasis on translating these technologies to radical changes in the way we diagnose, treat and ultimately prevent cancer. UNM's interdisciplinary Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering degree program is offered jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering, evolving from the traditional disciplines of solid state physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and engineering. More than 70 faculty in nine academic departments participate in this program, providing an example of how our faculty's leading-edge research benefits graduate as well as undergraduate students in a formal curriculum. The program requires that graduate students complete a curriculum of integrated courses. Students also specialize in one of the technical thrusts or obtain a minor in a traditional department.

Optical science and Engineering
Active research areas in OSE include, advanced materials, biomedical optics, fiber optics, laser cooling, laser physics, semiconductor lasers, ultrafast lasers and phenomena, optical communication, microscopy, nano lithography, nanophotonics, nonlinear optics, optical imaging, photodetectors and IR/spectral focal "plane arrays, microresonators, quantum optics and quantum information, 2D materials, flexible electronics, inorganic nanomembranes, quantum and nonlinear behavior of optical waveguides, magnetomery, nano-scale magnetometry, molecular imaging with optically-pumped fluorophores, self-assembly, biological assembly and photophysical behavior of electronic and optical materials, plasmonics and metamaterials for sensing, and spectroscopy.

Mechanical Engineering

Active research programs are offered in the areas of thermal science, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, materials science, dynamic systems and controls, robotics, space systems, material characterization, nanomechanics, nanomaterials synthesis and processing, nanoindentation, micro-fabrication, building energy systems and control, energy conversion, energy grid system and control, manufacturing, and computational mechanics. The department houses laboratories in the areas of controls, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, materials science, materials test, robotics, vibrations and multiphase flows. The department collaborates with the UNM School of Medicine, Los Alamos and Sandia Laboratories, and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear Engineering: nuclear reactor engineering (reactor thermal-hydraulics, reactor safety, reactor physics), criticality, fusion and plasma technology, space nuclear power systems and advanced static energy conversion, theoretical and computational methods in radiation transport, Monte Carlo methods, finite element methods, uncertainty quantification, medical physics, nuclear nonproliferation, radiation detection.

Research Description By Engineering Research Center

Center for Advanced Research Computing

The Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC) is the UNM campus supercomputing Center and is currently the largest academic computing center in the State of New Mexico. Following the deployment this year of several new NSF-funded systems, and supported by a $.3M infrastructure upgrade, the Center has more than 3500 CPU cores and 92k NVIDA Tesla K40M CUDA cores available for production research use, as well as 1 PB managed nearline and mass storage. CARC's resources are available without charge to all faculty, student, and staff researchers at the University, through support from the UNM Office of the Vice President for Research. The Center serves more than 150 faculty and student researchers, spanning 20 departments and seven Colleges, and representing diverse programs and Centers, including the Nanoscience and Microsystems graduate program, UNM Cancer Center, Center for Emerging Energy Technologies, Center for High Technology Materials, DataONE, Long Term Ecological Research Network, Earth Data Analysis Center, and Center for Spatiotemporal Modeling. CARC also serves as the academic unit in charge of the Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) Certificate Program, a graduate degree certificate, and provides computational science training workshops throughout the year.

Center for Biomedical Engineering

The UNM Center for Biomedical Engineering is an interdisciplinary center that coordinates research activities in biomedical engineering among engineers, biologists and clinicians. Research foci include biomaterials, nanobiotechnology, bioanalytical microsystems and molecular and cellular systems engineering.
The center has been instrumental in fostering research among disciplines and with the high-tech industry, hiring key biomedical engineering-engaged faculty, and launching a highly successful outreach program for K-12 students. It has also been heavily involved with outreach to university-level females and under-represented minorities.

Center for Emerging Energy Technology

University of New Mexico has formed the Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET) in 2008 as a research organization with a mission to foster interdisciplinary research in this strategic area of science and engineering. It is a goal of this center to provide for the economic growth of the State in the area of energy technology and to participate in the training and preparation of the labor force through providing an environment of research excellence as a component of the college and advance degree pursuit. This center is also charted to provide services to the state of New Mexico as place to foster and grow multi-institutional initiatives.
CEET has its headquarters at the Aperture Center, a commercial complex located in Mesa del Sol, which is a master-plan community designed using new urbanism principles adapted to the desert Southwest. The infrastructure installed close to the Aperture Center includes the NEDO microgrid demonstration project, a small-scale grid with generation resources and loads. It is designed to experiment with solar generation and storage , demand response and smart HVAC and building control. The equipment includes an OPAL real time simulator that allows researchers to fully test advanced control schemes before they are deployed in real-life situations.

CEET is also an organization that brings together the faculty across New Mexico and nationwide to collaborate under the framework of joint research programs after the award. The Center enjoys the support of EPRI, NSF, Mitsubishi Research Institute and DTRA.

Center for High Technology Materials

CHTM is an international leader in the development of materials, devices, and systems for photonics, optoelectronics , microelectronics, nanoscience, nanotechnology and their application. Research areas include light matter interaction at extremely small length scales and ultrafast time intervals. Specific research topics include the epitaxial growth of compound semiconductor materials and devices, self-assembled quantum dots, quantum wells, nanowires, superlattices and lithographically-defined nanostructures, nanophotonics, doped and poled optical fibers, microring resonators and ultrafast optics, 2D materials and their structural, mechanical and electronic properties, application of 2D materials to flexible electronics, optoelectronics and photonics, rolled-up nanotech, bio-devices integration, materials for THz radiation, nano-scale magnetometry and MRI with nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond, and nanoscale thermal energy conversion. Device studies include near infrared, detectors and sources for datacomm and telecomm, avalanche photodiodes, semiconductor lasers, longer wavelength infrared sources and detectors, photovoltaics, nanofluidics, GaN-based visible and UV sources, solid-state lighting and high-efficiency LEDs, visible edge-emitting and vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, applications of group III-nitrides to energy efficiency and renewable energy, and novel readout-circuit concepts for smart-pixel imagers. Systems related research includes advanced optical lithography, interferometric lithography, spectral sensing and imaging, molecular imaging with optically-pumped fluorophores, vibrometry using synthetic-aperture radar, ultrafast optical receivers, and microsopy. Emerging areas of research include, Anderson localization and wave propagation in random media, plasmonics, metamaterials and metasystems in the broader context of classical, quantum and computational imaging. Approximately 18 faculty, 19 research faculty, 25 staff and 100 students work at CHTM.

Center for Micro-Engineered Materials

CMEM Goals: The CMEM serves as the focal point for materials research on campus. The Center's current research program focuses on the following areas: Catalysts and Porous Materials; Powder Synthesis and Processing: Sol-gel synthesis; Self assembly of materials; Nano-bio interfaces; Materials for Energy Conversion; Nanomaterials Particulate Synthesis and Processing, Cancer Nanotechnology. CMEM serves the needs of researchers at UNM, as well as external users and collaborators. by acquiring and maintaining key materials characterization facilities. CMEM helps to enhance networking among faculty to build major centers of excellence in the area of nanomaterials. CMEM enhances the education of undergraduate students, graduate students and K-12 teachers by exposing them to research problems of significance to industry, and through the graduate interdisciplinary degree program in Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering. The NSME degree program involves 9 participating departments from the School of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences and the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program in the School of Medicine.

Center for Water and the Environment (CWE)

The Center for Water and the Environment was created in the School of Engineering at UNM in 2013 to foster interdisciplinary research in the areas of environmental and water resources engineering. The mission of the Center is to conduct cutting-edge research into technological and engineering-based solutions to problems with water, energy, and the environment, in a framework that considers the social, economic, policy, and legal implications. Practical solutions to problems related to water availability in arid environments and in times of drought, and problems associated with energy development and consumption are particularly relevant to the Center’s mission, in light of the criticality of these issues to the state of New Mexico, the southwestern United States, and their global importance. Solutions to water issues developed by the Center will permit economic development and protect human health, our water resources, and the environment. Major funding for the Center’s activities is being provided by the Environment Protection Agency and by the National Science Foundation, Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program.

Configurable Space Microsystems Innovations & Applications Center (COSMIAC)

COSMIAC proudly serves as a Tier-2 Research Center under the School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico. COSMIAC’s role is to promote aerospace innovation through the use of configurable and other technologies in aerospace systems and through its support of directed energy science and technology. Its current research facility of nearly 14,000 square feet includes four dedicated laboratories: a Satellite Design Lab, an Embedded Systems Lab, a Chip Design Lab, and a 3D Printing Lab. COSMIAC is active in the following research areas: Space Plug-and-Play Architecture (SPA) design, radiation testing and analysis, satellite design and development, cyber security and information/mission assurance, space weather modeling, millimeter-wave propagation, software-defined and cognitive radio, satellite antenna research and design, and direct energy science and technology. COSMIAC was responsible for the design and delivery to NASA of UNM’s first satellite, known as Trailblazer, which was launched in November of 2013. COSMIAC’s (UNM’s) second 6U Satellite is SORTIE (Scintillation Observations and Response of The Ionosphere to Electrodynamics) and the team comprises ASTRA, COSMIAC, AFRL, University of Texas at Dallas, and Boston College. Its mission is to construct an atlas of ionospheric variability and is funded by NASA for its Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development or H-TIDeS program.

COSMIAC has a close relationship with Air Force Research Laboratory and is expanding its customer base to build partnerships with other Department of Defense Service Laboratories, National Laboratories, NASA, and Federal activities based on Kirtland Air Force Base. COSMIAC is also building a Space and Innovative Technology Consortium to unite industry, government, and academia on a common path to establish New Mexico as a high technology hub.

Dean's Office Programs

Undergraduate and graduate minority engineering, mathematics and science student support programs; Native American student support programs; women's engineering and science support programs; undergraduate research programs.

Institute for Space Nuclear Power Studies

Ongoing research on the Generation "IV Very High Temperature gas cooled nuclear Reactors (VHTRs) being considered both for electricity generation and the production of hydrogen fuel. For safety considerations, the VHTR needs to be located 100 m " 150 m away from the chemical plant for the thermo-chemical production of hydrogen. This presents a thermal coupling challenge, which is currently being addressed at the UNM-ISNPS using a hybrid coupling of liquid metals heat pipes and gravity-assisted thermosyphons. This hybrid device operates fully passive, offers high redundancy, has no single-point failures, and experiences low heat losses. The following two patents have already been issued, one in 2009 and the other in 2011:
1. Patent No. US 2009/0323886 A1, Methods and apparatuses for Removal and Transport of Thermal Energy El-Genk, M. S., and Tournier, J.-M. , December 31, 2009.
2. Patent No. US 8073096 B2, Methods and apparatuses for Removal and Transport of Thermal Energy El-Genk, M. S., and Tournier, J.-M. , December 6, 2011.

Research on VHTR UNM-ISNPS includes two additional focus areas:
(a) The development and validation of a chemical oxidation kinetics model of nuclear graphite in the unlikely event of a massive air ingress, following a break in the piping to the energy conversion subsystem. The values of the chemical kinetics parameters for different grades of nuclear graphite, including the Gaussian-like distributions for the specific energies of adsorption of oxygen and desorption of the CO and CO2 reaction products, are determined from the reported experimental measurements of the total gasification rate and the weight loss at different temperatures. This determination accomplished using a multi-parameters optimization methodology. The model calculations are in good agreement with reported experimental measurements by various research group around the world (South Korea, Japan, China, US, and Germany)

(b) Perform multi-physics simulation of VHTR core, during normal operation and in the unlikely event of massive air ingress accident. This effort develops a detailed 3-D thermal-hydraulics model of the whole VHTR core. It will be coupled to the developed oxidation kinetics model of nuclear graphite for performing safety analysis of VHTRs. This computational intensive research is optimized for shorter computational time and modest hardware requirements


On the topic of immersion cooling of high power computer chips using nucleate boiling of dielectric liquids on porous micro-porous surfaces, we have developed micro-porous cooper surfaces using electrochemical deposition on Copper substrates. We are performing extensive material synthesis of the deposited micro-porous surfaces and pool boiling experiments to assess the cooling potential of the different surfaces. The results are very encouraging with demonstrated performance that surpasses any other surfaces reported in the literature to date. These surfaces has potential application in the various areas of renewable energy, including solar thermal power systems, and advanced steam/vapor generators for both nuclear and fossil fuel electrical plants, chemical plants, oil refineries, etc.
A patent application on the development of the micro-porous surfaces for enhancing nucleate boiling has submitted with a decision pending.

Research further the performance of deposited micro-porous Cu surface with emphasis on the mitigation of hot spots, typically develop at the surface of high power computer chips, and on the effect of surface inclination of the heat removal capability with nucleate boiling. The results of this research is being used to engineer, design and evaluate the performance of composite spreaders for cooling high power computer chips with hot spots having a local heat flux 3- 5 times that of the surface average heat flux. The composite spreaders are comprised of a Cu substrate of different thicknesses and Cu micro-porous surfaces of different thicknesses. This effort is based on advanced, 3-D thermal analysis using a number of commercial software packages.

This research has been expanded to include testing rough Cu surface and Cu surfaces with micro-dimples for enhancing nucleate boiling and the Critical Heat Flux of dielectric liquids and other planned in the near future. These surfaces lend themselves to large scale industrial applications.


Another research effort at the UNM-ISNPS is modeling and simulation of space and solar energetic radiation with energies in excess of 1 GEV and investigating the interaction with different potential shielding materials and human body. This research uses state-of-the art computational codes for calculating the energy deposition and effective radiation dose on board the international Space Station. The results are being compared with reported measurement on board the International space Station using Phantoms to simulate human body. This effort also includes the development and design of a shelter on the lunar surface for protection of inhabitant of an outpost from the solar energetic particles during the periods of solar flares or high solar activities. The design of the lunar shelter relies on using lunar regolith for shielding, thus minimizing the need for launching structures and materials from Earth to the moon, thus reducing the total cost of a mission.

A recent research on the development, design and analysis of small modular nuclear reactors for future uses by nuclear utilities and in remote regions of the world, where access to alternative fuel and an electrical grid is limited. The reactor concept being developed is fully passive, as it relies on natural convection for cooling the nuclear reactor during nominal operation and for the removal of decay heat after reactor shutdown. The liquid sodium cooled reactor operates slightly below atmospheric pressures and is designed with relatively long operation life of 5 " 60 years, depending on the reactor thermal power. This power varies from 50 " 150 MW.

A patent has been filled for the “SLIMM” small modular reactor design. Natural circulation of liquid sodium cools this reactor during nominal operation at 10 " 100 MWth and after shutdown with the aid of in-vessel helically coiled tubes sodium/sodium heat exchanger. The SLIMM reactor is to be fabricated at the factory, shipped to the construction site on trucks or barges or by rail and brought on line in short period of < 24 months. The SLIMM plant has total energy utilization in excess of 60%, including electricity generations, co-production of high temperature process heat for a multitude of industrial uses, and heat for space heating and seawater desalination.

The SLIMM plant is most suited for utilities with limited financial resources or operating in regions with low to medium growth in electricity demand, small countries or island nations with no or small electrical grid capacity and remote communities with limited access to fossil fuel or renewable energy generation. With the same basic reactor core design, the nominal power of “SLIMM” reactor increases simply by increasing the height of in-vessel chimney for enhancing the natural circulation of liquid sodium cooling the core.

The SLIMM reactor with two independent shutdown systems and a negative temperature reactivity feedback is cooled after shutdown by natural circulation of ambient air that is capable of removing the decay heat safely in the unlikely event of a malfunction of the in-vessel Na/Na heat exchanger. Variable conductance heat pipes laid a long the reactor vessel wall cools the vessel wall and transport heat to a multitude of passive and redundant modules of thermoelectric units for generating electricity as an auxiliary power source. This auxiliary electrical power, generated both during reactor operation and after shutdown maintains vital function of the plant operating in case of a loss of off-site and onsite power for an extended periods.

A recent research at UNM-ISNPS focuses on fluid flow and heat transfer in micro-channels and the simulation and modeling of emulsions of micro-droplets of disperse liquid in a co-flowing immiscible liquid, for energy and medical applications. This computation intensive effort focuses on the dripping flow regime for generating mono-disperse droplets and the development of predictive correlations of the average diameter and formation frequency of the disperse micro-droplets as functions of the prevailing dimensionless parameters such are Reynolds numbers, capillary numbers and Weber numbers of the disperse and /or the continuous liquid. Modeling and simulation results are in good agreement with published experimental measurements.

Manufacturing Engineering Program

The Manufacturing Engineering Program (MEP) supports the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Engineering (MEME) and MEME/MBA degree plans. The MEP is housed in the 57,000 square-foot Manufacturing Training and Technology Center (MTTC), which supports training, research, academic and business functions.
The MTTC has a class 100/1000 cleanroom for semiconductor and microsystems training, research and commercialization functions. The MEP develops training materials, including hands-on kits, to facilitate training of technicians and high-school students for the semiconductor and MEMS manufacturing sectors. The MEP, utilizing the MTTC Cleanroom, hosts hands-on MEMS workshops and courses for college students and faculty members. The MEP also supports robotics research that covers vision systems, adaptive grasp algorithms, learning algorithms, system integration, haptic and coordinated control of a dual-arm workcell, and swarms of aerial and ground robots for imaging and mapping.