Center for Manufacturing Research


New Research Projects 

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site: Cyber AI: Cybersecurity Solutions Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Smart Systems

Principal Investigators: Mohamed Mahmoud, Ph.D. and Syed Hasan Ph.D., Electrical and Computer Engineering

Funding Agency:  National Science Foundation

Award Total: $459,033

Motivated by the recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI), telecommunications, sensing, and computation, the concept of smart systems (such as smart power grid and smart healthcare) has emerged aiming to improve the quality of life by revolutionizing the services we use in our daily life.  However, security breaches can disrupt critical infrastructures and privacy breaches can reveal citizens' locations and activities.

The proposed REU site offers research and development activities to undergraduate students in the area of cybersecurity solutions leveraging AI for smart systems.  The students will learn diverse topics such as cryptography, deep-learning, federated- and reinforcement learning, graph-based anomaly detection, Blockchain, hardware attacks countermeasures, etc.  The students will learn from an expert group of faculty mentors how to formulate research problems, and develop, implement, and assess solutions.

Along with improving the research experience for undergraduates, the site aims to 1) contribute to the development of the cybersecurity workforce; 2) increase the percentage of female and minority students in cybersecurity; 3) encourage undergraduates to pursue graduate studies, 4) support TTU's focus on cybersecurity research, and 5) increase enrollment in STEM.


CarbonLess Electric AviatioN (CLEAN)

Principal Investigators: Rory Roberts, Ph.D., Bruce Jo, Ph.D., and Ahmad Vaselbehagh, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

Funding Agency:  NASA

Award Total: $8,670,014

Team members include Tennessee State University, The Ohio State University, University of Dayton, University of Washington - Bothell, Boeing Research & Technology, Raytheon Technologies Research Center, and Special Power Sources.  This project seeks to help solve one of aviation's key challenges for the future of commercial air travel: zero-emission aircraft by 2050.  The team of researchers, led by Dr. Rory Roberts, will explore a preliminary design for an electrified, 150-passenger aircraft that uses an ammonia-based integrated propulsion, power, and thermal management system.  The research focuses on investigating, designing, and testing several components and subsystems that are required for a zero-emissions commercial passenger aircraft. 

The research team has unique one-of-a-kind testing capabilities for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Combustor (SOFCC) with a turbogenerator (TB) power generation technologies under flight conditions including pressurized operation with rapid changes in load for emulated in-flight operation.  SOFC-TG technology is a unique and transformative concept addressing many of the challenges faced in all-electric propulsion-based aviation.  The power generation system has high part-load efficiency during cruise, high specific power density, load following capability, high-power capacity at high altitudes adapting to low temperatures and pressures, rapid startup time, and efficient thermal management.  The SOFCC-TG concept achieves the performance targets necessary for electrifying zero emissions 150-passenger aircraft by reducing the complexity of traditional fuel cell-gas turbine hybrid systems.


Spray Deposition of Coal-Derived Graphene-Copper Nanocomposites for Advanced Conductors

Principal Investigators:  Jiahong Zhu, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering and Ying Zhang, Ph.D., Center for Manufacturing Research

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Energy

Award Total:  $1,250,000

This project focuses on the optimization of the spray deposition parameters for the synthesis of high-performance copper-matrix nanocomposite with uniformly distributed graphene particulates.  The team will conduct a techno-economic analysis to demonstrate the viability and cost-effectiveness of the proposed nanocomposite manufacturing process.  The spray-deposited nanocomposites are expected to offer enhanced electrical/thermal conductivities, strength, and temperature capability over copper wires and cables currently used in clean energy applications.  This project will also provide workforce training and opportunities for underrepresented students to participate in clean energy research.  In addition, this project will enhance the research capability of a minority-serving university and help disadvantaged rural communities through technology innovation to promote economic inclusion.


Second-life Battery in Mobile EV Charging Application for Rural Transportation (SMART)

Principal Investigator:  Pingen Chen, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Energy

Three-Year Award Total: $4,531,642

This project aims to address the urgent need to develop affordable mobile charging stations (MCSs) that can be deployed in rural America on a large scale by utilizing second-life batteries retired from electric vehicles (EVs).  Project objectives are: 1) design, develop, demonstrate, and validate four types of cost-effective MCSs to reduce upfront investment costs; 2) create and demonstrate first-of-the-kind affordable, resilient, and sustainable rural EV infrastructure in a multi-state region by seamlessly integrating affordable MCSs into the existing charging network to support electrification in underserved rural communities; 3) collect and analyze the first-hand data of second-life-battery-integrated MCSs to assess the potential market and benefits; 4) create outreach, training, and education opportunities to help a broad range of EV stakeholders make informed decisions in adopting second-life-battery-powered MCSs and develop economically viable charging stations.


Rural Reimagined: Building an EV Ecosystem and Green Economy for Transforming Lives in Economically Distressed Appalachia

Principal Investigator:  Pingen Chen, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Energy

Three-Year Award Total: $4,000,000

The "Rural Reimagined" project is Tennessee Tech's Grand Challenge initiative to harness science,  technology and innovation to transform rural communities.  

"Today is a great day," said Pingen Chen, principal investigator and assistant professor of mechanical engineering.  "With the rise of the clean energy economy around electric vehicles, rural and low-income communities in Appalachia have struggled in the transition, due in part to a lack of infrastructure, low awareness and limited-to-no access to electric vehicles and clean energy jobs."

The total cost of the project is $8 million.  Tennessee Tech is the leading organization among more than 50 partners from Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia sharing the balance of the funding.  

"This project aims to provide clean and affordable mobility options to the underserved communities by developing needed charging infrastructure and adopting and demonstrating  various cost-effective electric vehicles in diverse applications," said Chen.  "In addition, the project aims to create outreach, training and education opportunities to the residents of rural and low-income communities."

Five major components make up the project:  charging infrastructure development, electric vehicle acquisition and demonstration, data collection and analysis, outreach and education and workforce training and economic development.  Long term impacts on rural areas include transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to clean energy, improved environmental quality and public health as well as creating new job opportunities.

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