Engineering Ideas for Tomorrow -- College of Engineering 1997 Annual Report
Engineering Physics
College of Engineering 1997 Annual Report -- Engineering Ideas for Tomorrow

Gilbert A. Emmert (Chair)
147 Engineering Research Building
1500 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1687
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Tel: 608/263-1646
Fax: 608/263-7451
emmert@engr.wisc.edu
www.engr.wisc.edu/ep

In age of funding cutbacks, new fusion program a coup for UW-Madison researchers

  Future Power
Fusion research group

The College of Engineering has landed the nation's only major new fusion program at a university within the past two years. Known as Pegasus, the three-year, $2.5 million program is funded by the Department of Energy (DOE). It involves the design and construction of a small fusion science research facility capable of generating high-pressure hydrogen gas plasmas, the fuel that drives fusion energy production in a process similar to the one that powers the sun. The development of a working, economical fusion reactor is an elusive and long-sought goal of science. Success would mean an environmentally benign, cheap and almost limitless source of new energy. While the grant may seem small in the context of the nation's fusion research programs, it's a huge accomplishment in a time of major cutbacks, says Professor Raymond J. Fonck, the project's director (front row, right, (59K JPG)). "The DOE, as it redirects fusion research, has been forced to pull the plug on at least seven major fusion programs at U.S. universities." In addition to Fonck, Pegasus involves 20 UW-Madison undergraduates, three graduate students, a post-doctoral researcher, a full-time scientist and a technician.

Hilldale Award recipient promotes benefits of undergraduate research on Capitol Hill

When senior engineering mechanics student Kristina Hermanson went to Washington, D.C., this spring, she played a front-line role in promoting the value of undergraduate research. Hermanson, one of only 47 undergraduates selected by the Council on Undergraduate Research to attend an April 10 session on Capitol Hill, displayed a poster describing her project, conferred with the other student scientists, and touted the benefits of undergraduate research to elected officials such as U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and U.S. Rep. Scott Klug. A 1996 Hilldale Undergraduate Research Award recipient, Hermanson studied heat imaging technology used to "see" hidden corrosion and structural flaws in metals, an issue of great importance to the construction and transportation industries. She conducted her research at Stress Photonics, Inc., a Madison-based company co-founded by Emeritus Engineering Physics Professor Bela I. Sandor, who served as her advisor. Hermanson completed her undergraduate degree in May and is now enrolled in UW-Madison's mechanical engineering graduate program. "Without the Hilldale Award," she says, "I don't think I would have had any idea how much I enjoy research."

Research facility finds additional use

When college researchers built a one-twelfth scale model of the containment structure of an advanced pressurized light-water reactor, they anticipated it would be used solely for research. However, the condensation rig has proven to be an excellent instructional tool as well. Located in the basement of the Engineering Research and Mechanical Engineering Buildings, the facility was designed for condensation heat transfer studies under conditions similar to those possible in the Westinghouse AP 600 nuclear reactor. It simulates phenomena that may occur in the full-scale containment vessel under a variety of transient and accident conditions. After running several experiments, Professor Michael L. Corradini decided to have several students from his Two-Phase Flow and Heat Transfer course use the "test portion" of the facility to gather data that could be compared to condensation theory. The students were successful in their effort and now the condensation rig may be used regularly as part of the course. Additionally, research assistant Mark Anderson is adding several other features to the facility so that it can be used for flow visualization and particle image velocimetry.

Kammer to test `health' of Mir components

The U.S. Space Shuttle will be making many more flights to the Russian space station Mir than originally anticipated. Consequently, NASA officials are concerned about how the repeated dockings are affecting the life expectancy of various Mir components, especially the docking mechanism and the interface between the shuttle and the station. That's where Associate Professor Daniel C. Kammer comes in. He has been contracted by NASA to conduct a "health identification analysis" using inverse system identification techniques he developed. Kammer will estimate structural responses at discrete points on the Mir station based on measurements taken elsewhere on the station. Simulations for the study will be conducted on a finite element model of the Mir station, and compared to data taken from 25 sensors on the actual station during a docking event. "The fact that the main structural components of Mir are over-designed would seem to indicate that any substantial change in the vibration characteristics of the station, such as vibration frequencies, could be correctly attributed to changes or damage in module interfaces or the docking mechanism," explains Kammer, who has also done similar tests on automobiles.


Copyright © 1997 University System Board of Regents

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Date last modified: Thursday, 02-Oct-1997 12:00:00 CDT
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1997 Annual Report Contents