College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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EPISODE: The Engineering Physics Department Newsletter


Spring / Summer 2005

Featured articles

Fonck to lead U.S. burning plasma effort

Fusion reactor could detect explosives

Fuel for the future: Finding the best materials for Gen IV reactors

Fuel-cladding research yields results

Statics and dynamics by design: EP professor coauthors two new textbooks

Cutting-edge research gives state companies extra edge

Regular Features

Message from the chair

In the news

Faculty profile:
Gregory Moses

Faculty/staff news

Student news


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Statics and dynamics by design:
EP professor co-authors two new textbooks

Roderic Lakes
Rod Lakes
(25K JPG)

A pplied to everything from taffy and cheese to aluminum, prolonged forces such as heat or stress will deform the material in question.

And while pizza eaters might not mind what happens to their mozzarella, Wisconsin companies like Harley-Davidson, Briggs & Stratton, and Mercury Marine care deeply about the performance of the products they manufacture.

To make them lightweight, economical and competitive, many components in motorcycle and lawnmower engines and boat motors are made of aluminum alloys. “When the alloys expand at elevated temperature and deform under long-term stress, screws get loose and things start getting noisy or things happen like oil starts leaking,” says Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Roderic Lakes.

“Better materials exist, he says. But the materials, such as those used to build airplanes, are so expensive that they’re cost-prohibitive. So for several years, representatives from the companies have turned to Lakes and his students — via the college’s Small Engine Consortium — to study how their aluminum alloys behave.

Working with existing alloys and materials the companies recently have developed, the researchers apply steady force for about two weeks, then interpolate the data to predict how each sample will fare in the long run. “My results help companies choose which alloys are acceptable alternatives,” says Lakes. “The Wisconsin companies compete with international companies like Honda and this helps them stay competitive.”

At Briggs & Stratton, Lakes’ work taught materials engineers an engineering fundamental through which the company can take advantage of cost-effective aluminum alloys in designing its products, says Nao Tsumagari, Briggs & Stratton materials engineering manager. “It allowed us to optimize our design without resorting to more expensive exotic materials,” he says.

“No one company would have the financial resources to reach this fundamental relationship alone. The partnership between the right academician and the industry led to a discovery of this useful knowledge.”


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Date last modified: Friday, 22-July-2005 11:49:00 CDT
Date created: 22-July-2005