Research Areas in Mechanical Engineering

Female mechanical engineering student

Mechanical engineering provides a broad foundation for the optimal design and construction of physical devices, especially those that most efficiently convert energy between its many forms. We strive to develop the computational and empirical tools that enable rapid design and analysis across length scales from the atomic to that of the device. We use these tools to innovate solutions to the world’s problems. For example, we apply rigorous mechanics principles to complicated biological and biomedical systems to improve the quality of life for various populations. We develop combustion, power production, refrigeration and building energy systems that optimize efficiency with an eye toward sustainability and minimizing environmental impact. We work to develop and apply innovative manufacturing processes across a range of application spaces.

Research in the department of Mechanical Engineering falls into five categories: biomechanics, computation and data-driven engineering, energy, mechanics and controls, and manufacturing. However, the true hallmarks of the department’s research are the boundary-transcending collaborations that exist and are fostered by our open environment. Mechanical Engineering’s strength is its breadth and this broad exposure gives students and faculty in our department the experience and fearless open-mindedness that is required to become the problem-solvers the world needs.

Research Centers

Engine Research Center

The Engine Research Center includes five faculty members who investigate the thermal, chemical, and fluid aspects of internal combustion engines. The Center has been in existence since 1946 and is recognized as one of the world’s premier engine combustion facilities.

Polymer Engineering Center

The Polymer Engineering Center can trace its activities back to 1946 when Professor Ronald Daggett first included plastics in the mechanical engineering curriculum. Daggett not only taught the first plastics course in engineering worldwide, but he also created the first plastics research group. The current faculty members (Osswald, Turng, and Pfefferkorn) have a wide variety of expertise and research interests. These range from traditional plastics and polymeric/metal composites to bio-based polymers, composites, and smart materials; additive manufacturing; from conventional to emerging and innovative processes,  from geometric modeling and prototyping to process control and automation; from nanofilm and nanocomposites to microcellular plastics; and from advanced modeling and simulation to Internet and Web-based tools for design and manufacturing.

Wisconsin Applied Computing Center

The Wisconsin Applied Computing Center was established due to the co-founders’ shared belief that modeling, simulation, and visualization are poised to become prevalent in solving hard problems and fostering innovation in Engineering. The mission of the center is twofold: (i) discover and share new ways in which computer modeling, simulation, and visualization can foster innovation and scientific discover; and (ii) combine cutting edge research and education in applied computing with a strong outreach effort.

Solar Energy Lab

The Solar Energy Lab is the oldest of its kind in the world. Faculty in the SEL investigate research problems in both solar and conventional energy utilization. These faculty also have expertise in refrigeration and cryogenics. The Cryogenics Lab at the UW-Madison is recognized as one of the strongest centers for research into low temperature refrigeration (from 0.1 K to 150 K) in the world.

Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC)

WEMPEC is an internationally renowned power electronics research and electric machines research group located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With the support of our 80+ corporate sponsors, our team of professors, graduate students, and international scholars work together to research and develop the newest technologies and techniques in electric machines, power electronics, actuators, sensors, drives, motion control, and drive applications.

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