Research

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at UAB has a long history of pursuing interdisciplinary programs of research, development, education, technology transfer, and outreach in high fidelity computational field simulations and associated enabling technologies. Our faculty, staff, and students are involved in interdisciplinary research with support from industry and government agencies and collaboration with other departments at UAB, other universities, and national laboratories.


The applications that we address are important to industry, and they involve complex geometries and multi-scale science issues. Our research includes developing solution algorithms for field equations governing fluid and structural dynamics, developing mesh generation and adaptation technologies for complex geometries, using parallel and distributed computing to facilitate the solution of large-scale practical problems, and visualizing large scale simulation results.  Our philosophy is to fully utilize information technology in creating, analyzing, managing, and interpreting large-scale data associated with the simulation of mathematical models that describe interacting multi-scale science and engineering phenomena. Our team has developed computational simulation algorithms applicable to science and engineering problems in the following areas:

  • Aeroacoustics and Noise Predictions
  • Aerodynamics and Moving Bodies with Relative Motions
  • Biomechanics
  • Biomedical and Life Sciences
  • Computer-aided Design and Numerical Geometry
  • Crashworthiness and Impact Engineering
  • Continuum and Non-continuum Flows
  • Design Optimization
  • Fluid-Structure Interactions
  • Image Processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Numerical Mesh Generation
  • Pollutant Transport
  • Propulsion, Combustion and Multi-phase Flows
  • Radiation and Surface Ablation for Re-entry Aerothermodynamics
  • Scientific Visualization and Virtual Reality
  • Turbulent and Transitional Flows

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Our computational fluid dynamics research includes both density and pressure-based algorithm development for chemically reacting, multi-phase, multi-species, compressible and incompressible, subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic flows.  Applications include combustion processes, turbo-machinery, turbulence modeling, heat transfer and drag computations for flow over rough surfaces, conjugate heat transfer, and spray combustion instability.  Research efforts are underway to develop 1) a unified environment for continuum to atomic scale simulations using a Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes equations and a Direct Simulation Monte-Carlo (DSMC) approach, 2) a high-fidelity unified space-time numerical framework for unsteady and turbulent flow simulations, 3) an overset grid library to enable CFD codes to simulate moving bodies with relative motions, 4) non-equilibrium radiation and surface ablation models for re-entry vehicles, 5) a large-scale pollutant and bio-hazard transport model, and 6) a DSMC model for chemical or physical vapor deposition.

Computational Structural Mechanics (CSM) & Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO)
Our CSM research includes static, dynamic, and aeroelastic analyses of complex solid-bodies using computational approaches such as finite element and meshless methods and multi-body dynamics. Applications include hypervelocity ballistic impact and blast simulations for defense and national security, composite body armor systems, vehicle crashworthiness, traumatic injury biomechanics, and sports mechanics. We also focus on high-fidelity finite element modeling of the human body, development of efficient fluid-structure interaction algorithms and an integrated design system by combining our computational simulation capabilities with multi-disciplinary design optimization techniques.


Enabling Technology (ET)

Our enabling technology research effort is focused on numerical geometry modeling, numerical mesh generation, image processing, scientific visualization, and virtual environment technology.  The computer software that we developed can be applied to problems associated with aerospace and automotive, as well as many other applications. We developed a parametric geometry-mesh generation template system allowing automated mesh generation for use in large scale parametric studies.  Our mesh generation algorithms encompass structured, unstructured, hybrid, hexahedral and Octree-based approaches.  CaseMan, our case management software, enables users to easily access the high performance computing resources and to utilize advanced simulation tools.  Our collaborations with the healthcare community at UAB and industry in the greater Birmingham area has expanded our expertise in virtual reality to such applications as Continuing Medical Education (CME) and other medical-related education applications, such as the Virtual Interactive Presence system (VIP) developed in collaboration with the UAB School of Medicine (Surgery) and the Virtual Patient Simulator (VPS) developed in collaboration with UAB School of Nursing.

High Performance Computing (HPC)

Our HPC facilities include more than 1,400 square feet of computer server space that houses more than 2,500 advanced processors.  Existing hardware includes an IBM BlueGene/L with 2,048 processors, a DELL system with 128 nodes of dual Xeon 3.6GHx processors, an IBM system with 64 nodes of dual Xeon 2.4GHz processors, a Verari system with 64 nodes of dual AMD-244 processors, and 20 Terabytes of disk space. These HPC computer systems were ranked in the World Top 500 Supercomputer list in both 2003 and 2007.  Other equipment includes a stereoscopic display system, which is a fully integrated, projection-based virtual reality system with head-tracking, and a high resolution 8ft´8ft tiled display wall with a 3´3 configuration that is capable of a combined screen resolution of 3000´2300 pixels. A four-wall immersive virtual reality system allows users to explore novel transformative ideas in engineering, health care, rehabilitation and other educational applications.

 

The Vehicle and Robotics Engineering Laboratory (VREL)

Our vehicle and robotics engineering research is focused on developing multi-disciplined and multi-domain systems engineering approach to engineer vehicle and robotic mechatronic systems in partnership with academia, industry, governmental research agencies, and Intergovernmental International organizations. The laboratory provides conditions and equipment and facilities postgraduate, graduate and undergraduate research, works on contact projects with industry, and develops advanced academic and professional development courses and programs at all educational levels in the area on vehicle and robotic mechatronic systems engineering.