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Federal Research Network awards more than $5 million to Ohio State teams

Research projects led by Ohio State engineers have received more than $5 million in combined funding through the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN).

Part of a state initiative to boost Ohio’s economy, the OFRN was established in 2015 to create six university-based research centers of excellence which collaborate with one another, the four federal military research laboratories in Ohio and private industry.

Several OFRN grants have been awarded to Ohio State College of Engineering researchers for projects related to national defense, space exploration and aeronautics – all contributing to the network’s ultimate goal of attracting $350 million in outside investment to the state and creating 2,500 Ohio jobs in the next five years.

Improved efficiency in high-temperature turbines

As the federal government’s energy consumption grows, so does the push for more efficient turbomachinery. A project led by Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Assistant Professor Randall Mathison addresses this need by focusing on advanced cooling designs for reduced fuel consumption. The project has been awarded $1 million over two years and falls under the Ohio State-led Center for Propulsion and Power.

“The hotter you run a jet engine, the higher your efficiency can be,” explained Mathison. “But higher temperatures require more coolant, which also has a cost on your efficiency. So we’re always trying to ask ourselves if we can enable hotter temperatures with less cooling.”

Rather than the traditional “build it and burn it phase” which is costly in both time and money, the project uses an advanced state-of-the-art camera and other techniques to measure turbine cooling performance and create a data set that can be used to improve design tools to better predict engine behavior and improve the next generation of engines. Partners include the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton and University of Cincinnati.

Mathison said the project’s impact will not only benefit improved designed practices and turbine efficiency, but will also support local industry.

“Ohio is a big state for aircraft engine manufacturing and development,” he said. “In training the graduate students and undergraduates who are working on the project, we’re creating future candidates to go work in those government laboratories or private industry.”

Hybrid turbo electric propulsion

Aviation demands continue to increase, as do concerns for the environment and energy usage. In response to these growing needs, a research team led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Fang Luo aims to advance the power and efficiency of an all-electric motor and power converter.

Propulsion power is provided by electric motors and the electric power is generated by large, efficient turboshaft engine-driving generators. Under the Center for Propulsion and Power, Ohio State is collaborating with the University of Akron to meet NASA’s proposed technical specifications for hybrid/turbo-electric propulsion systems.

According to Luo, the research outcomes can significantly influence the performance, cost and reliability of future electric machine-drive systems, as well as future all-electric transportation platforms. Results will benefit not only aerospace applications, but automotive and industrial systems as well.

Control architecture for intelligent aviation electric power systems

Emerging and future aviation platforms will demand ever-increasing amounts of electric power. In collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Jiankang Wang and colleagues aim to optimize electric power system performance and improve system stability during disturbances or component failures.

For several years Ohio State and AFRL researchers have been working together on energy source optimization, fault detection and protection and hardware-in-the-loop based system design validation, which are essential for envisioned intelligent aviation electrical power systems.

According to Wang, project results will benefit aerospace, aviation, advanced energy and automotive industries.

Motion sickness interactions with spine disorders

Warfighter health and performance is the focus of an initiative led by Honda Chair Professor William Marras, director of the Spine Research Institute, in collaboration with the Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton (NAMRU-D).

According to NAMRU-D, motion sickness and lower back disorders are two of the most significant health problems affecting naval aircrew members and their ability to complete missions successfully. The $1.2 million project aims to understand the complex causal pathways between these two health issues and create tools to help evaluate and develop effective preventative treatments.

The project, which falls under the Wright State University-led Center for Human Performance and Health Sciences, will also establish a spine health service to be administered initially at naval bases during routine physical exams.

Improved anti-icing technology for medium altitude drones

Airframe and engine icing is a common issue affecting aircraft safety and performance. That’s why an Ohio State team is leading a $1 million project to advance anti-icing technology for medium altitude unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Jim Gregory will lead the collaborative research effort.

The two-year project aims to predict and measure ice accumulation on an MQ-9 Reaper engine air inlet while assessing the performance of the Battelle HeatCoat system using icing wind tunnel testing. NASA Glenn, University of Dayton Research Institute and Case Western University are collaborating institutions.

Human centered big data

In a supporting role, Ohio State researchers are part of a multi-university project to address the needs of intelligence communities to search and analyze relevant information from a vast amount of big data by new machine learning techniques. Wright State is the lead institution.

The Ohio State team is responsible for developing algorithms to aid intelligence operators by enabling interactive searching of various types of information gathered, according to co-investigator Jihun Hamm, research scientist in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Fellow co-investigator is CSE Associate Professor Mikhail Belkin.

Ohio State will receive $168,000 for the two-year project, which falls under the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Center of Excellence.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |