News Briefs

Welcome to the University of Virginia's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering news briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from the faculty, students, staff and alumni.

    Xu earns 2023 Young Investigator Medal from the Society of Engineering Science

    December 01, 2022


    Congratulations to associate professor Baoxing Xu for earning the 2023 Young Investigator Medal from the Society of Engineering Science! This medal is awarded to a young researcher in their ascendancy and whose work has already impacted their field within engineering science. Xu was recognized for “outstanding contributions to multi-physics mechanics of materials and ITS-driven unusual engineering design and nanomanufacturing of heterogeneous structures, soft-hard integrated materials, and transferred film structures." Xu is invited to give an address at the annual meeting of the society.

    Solving the Sports-Related Concussion Dilemma

    November 10, 2022


    UVA Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers Lead the Way

    The Consensus Head Acceleration Measurement Practices (CHAMP) group was founded to develop and recommend the best practices for using wearable sensors to study the head impact biomechanics associated with sport-related concussions. A series of six papers were written by experts in the field, including Matthew B. Panzer, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the deputy director at the UVA Center for Applied Biomechanics. Panzer co-authored a paper on the use of computer models to simulate how a person’s brain is affected during a head impact using data measured by wearable sensors. UVA mechanical and aerospace engineering emeritus professor Jeff Crandall was a member of the CHAMP leadership committee, which helped organize this group of experts. Mechanical and aerospace engineering alumni James Funk and Lee Gabler also co-authored papers related to the validation, analysis, and use of wearable data in physical reconstructions of concussive events.

    Environmental Science Geochemistry Students Tour NMCF

    November 01, 2022

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    UVa Environmental Science Students in Prof. Steve Macko's Geochemistry Class ( EVGE 7850 ) tour the X-ray Diffraction and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy laboratories, where NMCF Scientists, DIane Dickie and Helge Heinrich, describe instrumentation and methods.

    Last Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, graduate and undgraduate students in Prof. Steve Macko's Geochemistry (EVE 7850) took a short field trip from the Environmental Science department to the NMCF, where our staff (Diane Dickie and Helge Heinrich) demonstrated X-ray instrumentation. Dr. Dickie ran samples of table salt on the Empyrean X-ray Diffractometer (XRD) to determine the mineral composition, while Dr. Heinrich showed the students around the X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS). Students learned what information can be learned from each instrument's spectra, as well as the types of samples appropriate for each analytical method.






    Balachandran’s Research Group Uncovers Low Thermal Conductivity Behavior of Novel Thermoelectric Materials

    September 27, 2022

    Thermoelectric materials have been of great interest for a number of decades due to their ability to generate power, such as recycling of waste heat. Prasanna Balachandran, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering, is conducting research to deepen theoretical knowledge about polar thermoelectric materials for energy conversion technologies. 

    Self-Powered In-body Sensors

    September 21, 2022


    Implantable biosensors are revolutionizing healthcare by providing real-time information to patients and clinicians. Powering these sensors is challenging because battery recharging or replacement can be expensive, cumbersome and painful. Self-powered sensors avoid these problems by harvesting energy from within the body. Self-powered sensing of air or liquid fluid flows could be especially efficient because the flow speed is both the measured signal and a power source.

    Researchers at Dan Quinn's Fluid Systems Lab developed a model of self-powered sensing for flows in the body, which they validated with a bench-top simulator of a human trachea using air flows. The simulator offers a way to explore what applications are possible given available materials and size constraints and what input variables to consider when designing self-powered implantable biosensors. 

    Their findings were published today in the high-impact Journal of the Royal Society Open Science. Much of the paper is a culmination of Lucy Fitzgerald's work as a Ph.D. student and as a fourth-year undergraduate doing her capstone project. Fitzgerald is the first author on the paper

    Although the paper is largely a roadmap for using sensing and energy harvesting in the body, one promising application could be the treatment of asthma, one of the use cases in the paper. Some severe asthmatics struggle to self-diagnose worsening conditions. In the hours leading up to an asthma attack, these patients may not realize their lung function is deteriorating, yet prior work has shown that their breathing patterns are slightly different during this window. If the sensor could pick up this change, it could ping the patient and/or the doctor via wireless connection and trigger an early intervention.

    NMCF Director Jim Howe Retires

    July 25, 2022

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    NMCF Director Jim Howe has trained hundreds of students to utilize transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and high-resolution scanning-TEM at the University of Virginia. He is shown here with Ph.D. student Niquana Smith.

    With his retirement from UVa, Professor Jim Howe has stepped down as Director of the UVa's Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF), a position he has held for more than 18 years. During his tenure, the NMCF has grown significantly in both instrumentation and personnel. The facility is now host to two state-of-the-art scanning transmission electron microscopes (STEMs) for atomic-resolution imaging and X-ray and energy-loss analysis at the atomic level, two scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) for high-resolution imaging and compositional characterization, a combined focused ion beam (FIB)-SEM for preparation of TEM samples and cross-sectional analysis, three X-ray diffractometers (XRDs) for identification and characterization of crystal structures, a mapping X-ray photoelectron spectrometer (XPS) for determination of material surface composition and chemistry, a combined confocal Raman spectrometer/atomic force microscope (AFM) to provide chemical analysis in combination of surface structure, an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) for sensitive measurement of bulk composition, a Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer (FT-IR) for chemical bond analysis, and a complete suite of optical instruments and metallographic preparation facilities for determining the microstructure of materials. At the same time, NMCF staff has risen from a single member to a team of five professionals with varied characterization and analytical expertise.  Jim organized facility operation during the renovation of Jesser Hall and oversaw the development of remote training modules for instrumentation during the COVID shutdown. His strong advocacy, positive outlook, and scientific leadership within the NMCF will be missed. A replacement Director has not yet been named.






    NMCF Featured in SEAS Open House

    May 05, 2022

    UVa's Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF) featured during SEAS annual public open house.

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    Saturday, April 23rd, 2022, our laboratory spaces were opened to the public.

    Demonstrations by NMCF scientists and students were given during UVa's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) Open House, which included engineering school building tours and program visits.

    This year's tours featured NMCF's new FEI Themis High-Resolution Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (HR-STEM), the Helios Focused Ion Beam and Scanning Electron Microscope (FIB-SEM), the X-ray Diffraction Laboratory with both powder and single-crystal diffractometers (XRD) on display, as well the Versaprobe III Imaging X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopic (XPS) Microscope.

    Expert student users and scientists spent time describing each sophisticated instrument and materials characterization methodology, providing real-world examples to participants, as well as demonstrating the type of data acquired and answering questions.


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    Masking Requirement Lifted for NMCF

    March 20, 2022

    Masks and COVID vaccinations are now optional at UVa and within the NMCF, including during for-credit laboratory classes.


    If you have had close contact with someone who has recently tested positive for COVID, please wear a mask in the NMCF facilities per UVa policy.


    If you have significant health concerns where universal masking is advised, please reach out to the appropriate NMCF instrument scientist or class instructor.


    Details concerning UVa's COVID policy for staff & visitors can be found here.