Transforming Fluid Power

DN Staff

April 15, 2010

3 Min Read
Transforming Fluid Power

TheNational Science Foundation (NSF) announced it will award the EngineeringResearch Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) a four-year, $16million grant, enabling the Center to continue its efforts in transforming howfluid power is researched and taught.

"The CCEFP has already made landmarkbreakthroughs," says Dr. Kim Stelson, director of the Center. "The Center hastransformed hydraulic and pneumatic research in this country from isolatedefforts by a few to a cohesive, strategically directed collaborative teamlinking seven universities and many leaders in the fluid power industry."

As part of its systems vision, theCCEFP is strategically researching different powers and weights of fluid powersystems using four test beds ranging from mobile heavy equipment to human-assistdevices. Recently, a decision has been made to add two new projects, one largerin scale and the other smaller than any of the current test beds.

A focus on wind power will research use ofhydrostatic transmissions for wind power generators, a major new involvement inwind power led by Stelson at the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Dept. ofEnergy (DOE) recently had a competition to choose industry-universitycollaborative research centers to focus on wind power research, and the Centerwas one of the three centers that were awarded.

Vanderbilt University has also receivedfunding to investigate precision pneumatics and control used in surgery underMRI. MRI can be used for precise positioning during surgery but, because of itsmagnetic field, pneumatics provides a possible solution rather than motors forimplementing precision pneumatics within the body. Vanderbilt's Dr. Eric Barth isheading up this research initiative.

The NSF funding renewal is welcome news tothe more than 30 faculty, 300 undergraduate and graduate engineering students,and the 57 industry sponsors who have been involved in the CCEFP since itsfounding in 2006 through an initial NSF grant. Their work on four test beds and25-plus research projects focuses primarily on increasing the efficiency of existingfluid power applications, expanding use in transportation, creating portable,untethered human-scale fluid power applications and assuring that fluid poweris clean, quiet, safe and easy to use.

The Center's education and outreachprogram is equally ambitious with more than 20 projects designed to attract pre-collegestudents to science, engineering and to hydraulics and pneumatics in particular.The goal is to educate all mechanical engineering undergraduate students aboutfluid power, raise public awareness of fluid power, and establish forums whereindustry and academia can exchange ideas.

The CCEFP is headquartered at the Universityof Minnesota-Twin Cities. Other universities in its network include theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology,Purdue University and Vanderbilt University. Outreach universities include theMilwaukee School of Engineering and North Carolina A&T State University.Outreach institutions include the National Fluid Power Assn., Project Lead theWay and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

"Our future as an NSF Center isassured, but not our future after that," says Stelson. "What we are thinkingabout now is how to use the Center's funding to advance the research effortsand find other sources of private and government funding to keep the effortsgoing."

Clickhere for additional informationabout the Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power.

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