Nebraska Engineering Fall, 2005
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The Future of Nebraska Engineering
Manufacturing Nanotechnology, Processes, Systems and Logistics

University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers are developing new manufacturing processes that have the potential to transform business.

If we can understand the science of the phenomenon and the understand the principles behind it, we can use it for other materials besides diamonds. -Yongfeng LuErick Jones, assistant professor of industrial and management systems engineering, is finding the most efficient way for companies to track their merchandise. The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) & Supply Chain Logistics Lab, which simulates a supply chain operation and mimics an actual warehouse, helps businesses implement radio frequency into their supply chains to track their goods from warehouse to shelf to consumer. “Industry wanted to see systems work beyond a computer model,” Jones said. “This facility will make that possible.” RFID has research partnerships with UPS, Square D, Speedway Motors, Lincoln Plating and Goodyear.

The Center for Nontraditional Research, directed by industrial and management systems engineering professor K.P. Rajurkar, is the only research facility in the United States dedicated solely to the examination of nontraditional manufacturing methods. The center’s goal is to target existing and future needs for software and hardware. Researchers consider machinability, surface integrity, adaptive control, and expert systems in the processing of new high-tech manufacturing materials and methods.

Engineering mechanics professor Yuris Dzenis is developing a technology that is small in size, but could make a big impact. He is creating a method to produce advanced continuous nanofibers. His approach eliminates the problems of discontinuity and is safer and more economical. According to Dzenis, nanofibers can be used in biomedical applications, sensors, actuators and transducers, advanced composites, electronics, agricultural and environmental applications, energy conversion and space applications, among others.

Nanotechnology researchers Xinwei Wang and Yongfeng Lu, both associate professors in electrical engineering, received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to refine a process that coats surfaces with thin diamond films. The underlying reasons for the process are unknown—the technology has preceded the science. That makes it hard to improve the process or extend it to other material systems. Lu’s team will attempt to ascertain the “how” of the technology. “If we can understand the science of the phenomenon and understand the principles behind it, we can use it for other materials besides diamonds,” Lu said.

Nebraska’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program provided a $9 million grant to fund projects in nanomaterials science, mobile computing, cell biology and nutritional genomics. Fred Choobineh, professor of industrial and management systems engineering and director of EPSCoR, said the grant will be distributed among the organization’s four major partners: UNL, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University.

Lab Girl