Aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering behind the design, construction and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It is broken into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. The former deals with craft that stay within Earth’s atmosphere, and the latter deals with craft that operate outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Research areas include aircraft and spacecraft design, aerodynamics, propulsion, turbomachinery, aerospace structures, aeroelasticity, aeroacoustics, jet and rocket engine combustion, vehicle dynamics and control, and computational thermal/fluid dynamic methods.
Improvements in the efficiency of fossil fuel combustion, along with reductions in air pollutants like ultra-fine particulate matter, will be needed for energy generation and transportation. In addition, new energy sources will be required. The Energy and Environment group looks at fossil fuel combustion as well as wind energy, hydrogen and fuel cell systems to answer these challenges.
Research in air pollution involves strong collaborations with colleagues in biology to help in understanding the health impacts of energy use and the ensuing air pollutants, especially ultrafine particles.
Design involves the creative use of all the basic engineering sciences to conceive practical devices that satisfy a prescribed functional specification. Design typically involves iteration between “synthetic” and “analytic” phases, the former being concerned with conceptualization of basic operating principles, and the latter with detailed sizing of parts, selection of materials, etc. Software tools (for computer aided geometric design, finite element analysis, dynamic simulations, etc.) play a central role in engineering design. Manufacturing involves the selection of basic part fabrication processes (such as casting, machining, forming, molding, etc.) consistent with the desired part characteristics and costs. Computer controls play a central role in modern manufacturing, to ensure consistent part accuracy with high throughput. Design for manufacturability, maintenance, extended service life, disposability, and many other considerations are key concerns of modern industryy
Research into biological systems within Mechanical Engineering encompasses studies from the scale of the human down to the scale of the atom or molecule. Bio-sensing makes use of micro-fluidic devices and novel nanoscale materials to detect signatures that arise from diseases, or from toxins and pathogens in our environment. This research area is very multi-disciplinary with collaborations with Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Research on Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) and Nanostructures includes optical nanostructures and optical MEMS, physical sensors, and microfluidic devices. Biomechanics research looks at the human or animal body in terms of mechanical systems and relates those characteristics to normal function, disease processes, performance in sports, or the development of advanced medical devices and/or prostheses for joints and limbs.
Computational sciences (or scientific computing) is the field of study concerned with constructing mathematical models and numerical solution techniques and using computers to analyze and solve scientific, and mechanical and aerospace engineering problems. In practical use, it is typically the application of computer simulations and other forms of computation to problems in various scientific disciplines. Research areas include computational geometry pertaining to computer automated design (CAD), numerical methods for solution to governing equations to fluid dynamics, heat transfer, structures, and thermodynamics, computational grid generation, and related computer sciences issues including parallel computing, data structures, and computing infrastructure.
Control systems are an integral part of most, if not all, the systems that are analyzed and designed by mechanical and aerospace engineers. As the name implies, the ultimate purpose of a control system in mechanical and aerospace applications is to allow a dynamic system to perform the task for which it has been designed safely, efficiently and accurately. Pertinent examples can include such diverse applications as an automatic landing system for a commercial aircraft, a motion control system for a high-precision milling machine, a stability augmentation device for an automobile, and a pump to automatically regulate insulin for diabetics. A typical control system design involves three fundamental and interdependent components associated with sensing, control computation, and actuation. Development of the requisite skills necessary to integrate these components in an effective control system design require a firm grounding in mathematics, fluid mechanics and system dynamics, sub-disciplines which form the core of the curricula in mechanical and aerospace programs.