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ME: The Mechanical Engineering Department Newsletter


The ME Newsletter
Spring-Summer 2008

Featured articles

Getting into shapes: Krishnan Suresh
applies CAREER award
to optimization

Two ME faculty receive College of Engineering recognition awards

Vehicle teams built
for speed!

Snowmobile team "zaps" competition with electric snowmobile

Alum earns college achievement award

West meets East: ME students take part in China Summer Program

Regular Features

Message from the Chair

Faculty News

Focus on new faculty:
David Rothamer and
Ryan Kershner

Professor Edward Lovell

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Sculpting a surface composed of tightly packed nanostructures that resemble tiny nails, Associate Professor Tom Krupenkin and Senior Scientist J. Ashley Taylor, with colleagues from Bell Laboratories, have created a material that can repel almost any liquid, then electrically switch to become wettable. The new material, reported in January in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir, has potential uses in biomedical applications such as “lab-on-a-chip” technology, the manufacture of self-cleaning surfaces, and could help extend the working life of batteries as a way to turn them off when not in use.

Associate Professor Greg Nellis received the 2008 R.W. Boom Award from the Cryogenic Society of America. The society presents the award every two years to recognize an engineer or scientist under the age of 40 for an outstanding record of accomplishment in the field of cryogenic and refrigeration research and development. Nellis’ cryogenic research involves refrigeration systems including mixed gas Joule-Thompson systems, reverse-Brayton systems, pulse tubes and hybrid cryocoolers.

Working with Polymer Engineering Center and business school faculty and students, a Wisconsin entrepreneur has perfected fiber-reinforced fishing lure technologies that may prevent millions of pounds of toxic plastics from polluting waters nationwide. Each year, more than 12,000 tons of rubbery “soft baits” land at the bottom of lakes, streams and rivers; the lures are so weak and pliable that they rip and pull off the hook easily. As a stronger alternative, entrepreneur Ben Hobbins devised a fiber-reinforced soft-plastic fishing lure. K.K. & Cindy Wang Professor of Mechanical Engineering Tim Osswald and students Nick Newman and Eric Foltz worked with Hobbins to address materials and manufacturing questions associated with the lures. Read more at

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) elects less than 10 of its 35,000 worldwide members to fellow status every year. Only 257 members have been elected to this prestigious status since it was established in 1984. In 2008 two of those elected are UW-Madison engineers: Professors Tim Osswald and Lih-Sheng (Tom) Turng were named SPE fellows for their leadership and dedication in plastics education, research and industry. Osswald and Turng received the honor at the SPE conference in May.

Assistant Professors Frank Pfefferkorn and Kevin Turner received $167,392 from NSF for a three-year project, “Collaborative research: Investigation of local flow boiling heat transfer on micro-pin-fins using thin-film temperature/heat flux sensor arrays.” The researchers will study local heat transfer variations on micro-pin-fins to better understand the fundamental behavior of liquid flow boiling in miniature heat sinks. Pfefferkorn and Turner will design, fabricate and characterize an array of unique thin-film temperature and heat flux sensors directly on the side of a copper micro-fin. They are collaborating with Assistant Professor Weilin Qu at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Using a novel technique, researchers have developed a way to predict stress fracture and applied the procedure to Michelangelo’s David in an analysis that proved simpler, faster and more accurate than previous methods. On March 18, Professor Vadim Shapiro, Igor Tsukanov of Florida International University and their colleagues presented results from their Scan and Solve technique at the International Conference on Computational and Experimental Engineeringand Sciences in Honolulu, Hawaii. In their analysis of Michelangelo’s David, the researchers were able to predict the stresses that the statue endures on a daily basis by using the Scan and Solve software with original shape data. The analysis matched the statue’s known crack damage, indicating that the method could help archivists predict which areas of an ancient artifact may need to be bolstered to prevent damage. Read more on this technology at

Associate Professor Darryl Thelen (also biomedical engineering) and Silvia Blemker of the University of Virginia have received a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Their study, “Biocomputation of the links between muscle morphology, coordination and injury,” will couple the use of dynamic magnetic resonance imaging, finite element modeling, and motion analysis techniques to investigate the influence of muscle injury on in vivo mechanics and function. UW-Madison collaborators include Biomedical Engineering and Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Assistant Professor Bryan Heiderscheit, Radiology Professor Michael Tuite, Biomedical Engineering and Radiology Assistant Professor Scott Reeder and UW Hospital and Clinics Physical Therapist Marc Sherry.

The Engineering Mechanics Division of the American Society for Engineering Education awarded Assistant Professor Kevin Turner the Ferdinand P. Beer and E. Russell Johnston, Jr. Outstanding New Mechanics Educator Award. The award is given annually to individuals who, though having five years or less of experience, have shown a strong commitment to mechanics education. Turner, in his third year of teaching at UW-Madison, was given the award for his outstanding instructor evaluations in two required undergraduate mechanics courses and the development of the upper-level course, Design of Micro- and Nanomechanical Systems.

Assistant Professor Michael Zinn received the best paper award at the 2008 IEEE Symposium on Haptic Interfaces for Virtual Environments and Teleoperator Systems. The field of haptics is concerned with robotic devices and associated algorithms that allow users to interact with virtual or remote environments. “Large workspace haptic devices: A new actuation approach,” co-authored with collaborators from Stanford University, describes a new actuation method, called distributed macro-mini actuation, which provides for accurate, high-force haptic rendering over a large workspace while maintaining low output impedance—an essential characteristic for maintaining safety.



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Date last modified: Monday, 18-August-2008 15:43:00 CDT
Date created: 18-August-2008



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