National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it will award the Engineering
Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) a four-year, $16
million grant, enabling the Center to continue its efforts in transforming how
fluid power is researched and taught.
"The CCEFP has already made landmark
breakthroughs," says Dr. Kim Stelson, director of the Center. "The Center has
transformed hydraulic and pneumatic research in this country from isolated
efforts by a few to a cohesive, strategically directed collaborative team
linking seven universities and many leaders in the fluid power industry."
As part of its systems vision, the
CCEFP is strategically researching different powers and weights of fluid power
systems using four test beds ranging from mobile heavy equipment to human-assist
devices. Recently, a decision has been made to add two new projects, one larger
in scale and the other smaller than any of the current test beds.
A focus on wind power will research use of
hydrostatic transmissions for wind power generators, a major new involvement in
wind power led by Stelson at the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Dept. of
Energy (DOE) recently had a competition to choose industry-university
collaborative research centers to focus on wind power research, and the Center
was one of the three centers that were awarded.
Vanderbilt University has also received
funding to investigate precision pneumatics and control used in surgery under
MRI. MRI can be used for precise positioning during surgery but, because of its
magnetic field, pneumatics provides a possible solution rather than motors for
implementing precision pneumatics within the body. Vanderbilt's Dr. Eric Barth is
heading up this research initiative.
The NSF funding renewal is welcome news to
the more than 30 faculty, 300 undergraduate and graduate engineering students,
and the 57 industry sponsors who have been involved in the CCEFP since its
founding in 2006 through an initial NSF grant. Their work on four test beds and
25-plus research projects focuses primarily on increasing the efficiency of existing
fluid power applications, expanding use in transportation, creating portable,
untethered human-scale fluid power applications and assuring that fluid power
is clean, quiet, safe and easy to use.
The Center's education and outreach
program is equally ambitious with more than 20 projects designed to attract pre-college
students to science, engineering and to hydraulics and pneumatics in particular.
The goal is to educate all mechanical engineering undergraduate students about
fluid power, raise public awareness of fluid power, and establish forums where
industry and academia can exchange ideas.
The CCEFP is headquartered at the University
of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Other universities in its network include the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology,
Purdue University and Vanderbilt University. Outreach universities include the
Milwaukee School of Engineering and North Carolina A&T State University.
Outreach institutions include the National Fluid Power Assn., Project Lead the
Way and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
"Our future as an NSF Center is
assured, but not our future after that," says Stelson. "What we are thinking
about now is how to use the Center's funding to advance the research efforts
and find other sources of private and government funding to keep the efforts
here for additional information
about the Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power.
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