Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, was founded in 1869 after businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name. The College of Engineering was established in 1874 with programs in Civil and Mechanical Engineering.

Aeronautics and Astronautics

Aerodynamics research is directed toward a better understanding of the fundamental laws governing the flow of fluids. Research topics include computational fluid mechanics, aerodynamics of rotors and propellers, and aerodynamic noise. Astrodynamics research spans orbital and interplanetary trajectory design, remote sensing, and spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control. The propulsion group focuses on operation and design of aerospace propulsion devices including engine components such as pumps, turbines, and nozzles. Various airbreathing engines such as turbojets, turbofans, ramjets, turboprops, and scramjets are treated. Rocket propulsion systems, including solid rocket motors and liquid rocket engines, are researched.

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

To curb global warming, Purdue engineers created the whitest paint yet. Coating buildings with this paint may one day cool them off enough to reduce the need for air conditioning. (Purdue University/Jared Pike)

Research focuses on the application of engineering principles to biological systems, resulting in the creation of new products and practices that improve the quality of human life. Topics include computer-aided engineering, fluid power, finite element analysis, natural resource conservation, and engineering properties of biological materials. Biological engineering deals with the applications of basic engineering principles to the design, development, and operation of large-scale manufacture of food and biologically based products.

Biomedical Engineering

Biomaterials research focuses on how natural and synthetic materials interact with biological systems. These range from the inert materials used to replace entire joints to biomimetic scaffolds that restore functionality by promoting the body to regenerate lost tissue. From studies that can detect microfractures in bones before they can evolve into a problem, to advanced implants that monitor themselves and the environment around them, researchers are developing treatments that will change the way we view and repair the body. Research in instrumentation covers device development and optimization, testing instrumentation, and signal processing.

Chemical Engineering

Biomedical researchers created an implantable drug-delivery system using nanowires that can be wirelessly controlled. The nanowires respond to an electromagnetic field generated by a separate device, which can be used to control the release of a preloaded drug. (Purdue University/Mark Simons)

In the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, research areas include biomaterials, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, nanoscale science and engineering, polymers and materials, product systems engineering, molecular modeling and simulation, biofuels, batteries, and explosives detection.

Civil Engineering

Architectural engineering deals with integrated design, construction, and operation of buildings. It includes all engineering aspects related to the built environment such as mechanical systems (HVAC), electrical systems, lighting systems, construction, and indoor environmental quality.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering covers the areas of automatic control, computer engineering, optics, microelectronics and nanotechnology, power and energy systems, circuit design, and communications, networking, signal, and image processing.

Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Research highlights how industrial and treatment systems interact with natural processes, cycles, and managed systems. Improving indoor and outdoor air quality; sustainability of buildings, communities, cities, and landscapes; energy efficiency; and eco-friendly technologies are additional research areas. Products, materials, processes, services, and systems must be designed, operated, and managed with consideration for the ecological impact of industrialization. By integrating industrial systems with natural and managed ecosystems, researchers focus on sustainable utilization of both renewable and non-renewable resources.

Industrial Engineering

Industrial Engineering (IE) research improves computational IE, encompassing information engineering. Manufacturing research investigates the interplay between next-generation products and services. Production systems research focuses on complex systems and networks and systems-of-systems challenges.

Mechanical Engineering

Research includes evaluating the acoustic properties of cars and trucks, airplanes, buildings, industrial machines, computer equipment, and medical equipment. Researchers also focus on the human aspects of noise control.

Since 1948, Purdue researchers have set the standard for combustion and propulsion experiments. Work led to the development of the original space shuttle main engines, and today, new technologies allow propellants, combustors, and rocket engines to be conceived, constructed, and tested.

In one mechanical engineering lab, researchers use toys and video games to study how humans utilize creativity in the smartphone era. In another, materials are studied at the nanoscopic level to determine how best to manufacture the nanomaterials of the future. Another lab compares traditional manufacturing techniques with open-source culture, mapping out new paradigms for social and technical systems. Design also collaborates with and strengthens other areas of engineering like biomechanics, robotics, manufacturing, and vehicles.

A sensor was developed that can be placed on an over-the-counter contact lens and then used to detect glaucoma in patients. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

Manufacturing has been a central focus at Purdue since the 1800s. Today, researchers study every aspect of manufacturing and materials processing, from automotive and aerospace to electronics and medical applications. By studying the fatigue and fracture of materials, researchers can pinpoint what needs to be strengthened and how much. In nanomanufacturing, new breakthroughs enable devices to do things unthinkable just a few years ago. Purdue researchers pursue robotics on all fronts: manufacturing, biomedicine, design, nanotechnology, and more. From large-scale automation, such as in manufacturing, to microrobots moving individual cells, every aspect of robotics is explored.


COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases spread through small aerosolized droplets produced by infected individuals. These small droplets stay suspended in the air for hours and can be inhaled by the non-infected populace, leading to spread of the disease. Typical cotton masks/face coverings are not effective at stopping droplets from being inhaled or potentially spread by infected individuals. Purdue researchers developed a pocket containing a mask/interchangeable filter combination that, when used together, provides more protection than cotton masks alone. The pocket functions as an insert location for the filter placed over the mouth of the wearer.

The university’s LightSail 2 solar sail project launched into space in 2019, demonstrating the use of reflective sails to harness the momentum of sunlight for propulsion. LightSail 2 provided a total sail area about the size of a boxing ring. It was termed a success after it was able to use solar photons to change its orbit, raising the high point in the orbit by several miles. It was the first mission to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in Earth orbit.

Purdue engineers created white paint that can keep surfaces up to 18 °F cooler than their ambient surroundings — almost like a refrigerator does but without consuming energy. The paint would replace the need for air conditioning by absorbing nearly no solar energy and sending heat away from the building. It would also send heat away from Earth into deep space where heat travels indefinitely at the speed of light. This way, heat doesn’t get trapped within the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Purdue engineers developed a method to transform existing cloth items into battery-free wearables resistant to laundry. A flexible, silk-based coil sewn onto a smart textile is capable of harvesting energy from radio and Wi-Fi signals. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

Electronic stickers, called sticktronics, contain electronics or smart technology to convert items like contact lenses and prosthetic hands into smart devices that measure vision loss or simulate the sense of feeling. Sticktronics offer the ability to physically separate materials in existing items and turn an item into a sticker that can be more flexible or transparent, especially on curved displays and biomedical sensors.

Engineers developed a method to transform existing cloth items into battery-free wearables resistant to laundry. These smart clothes are powered wirelessly through a flexible, silk-based coil sewn on the textile.

Modern devices that use lithium-ion batteries, like smartphones and electric cars, are susceptible to malfunctions and low performance due to extreme temperatures. Purdue developed a thermal switch made of compressible graphene foam that dynamically adjusts to temperatures inside and outside the device to maintain consistent thermal management.

An allergen detector known as Pod identifies allergens in food items. Current technology is mainly focused on gluten or peanut allergies and available kits for testing food items often involve lab setups that are inconvenient to use. Pod features a magnetic backing for placement on a refrigerator and is also portable to carry for everyday use such as in restaurants or grocery stores. In addition, food labels can also be scanned by Pod to check for potential allergens, providing added peace of mind.

An electrocardiogram-type technology for gas turbine engines monitors rhythms and warns of potential compressor stall. Sensors record the data during operation and then use a novel signal processing procedure to determine the engine’s status.

A soft, stretchable, strain-insensitive biomaterial forms dispensable, stretchable biosensors. In addition, a new type of direct ink writing (DIW) printing was developed that enables multidimensional and multifunctional architectures in a variety of shapes and sizes for biosensors. The porous, silicon-based, sponge-like material created by Purdue can be integrated in DIW and 3D printing for making customized biosensors.

Researchers have developed a battery state monitoring system to enhance performance, avoid failure, and prolong lifetime for batteries in electronic vehicle and energy storage system applications. This approach measures states of charge (SoC) and health (SoH) in batteries with higher accuracy and speed than current technologies.

Purdue developed a power bank to be charged from body heat within a power harness built into a parka jacket. Charging a power bank instead of a phone is beneficial as it allows for thermoelectric temperature control. This technology can warm up or cool down the inner side of a jacket by consuming the electrical power generated from the power bank. The power generation and temperature control can be externally controlled with a wireless transmitter/receiver or from a cellphone connected with a power wire or wirelessly through an additional app.

Technology Transfer

The Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) operates a comprehensive technology transfer program. Visit the OTC here . Find technologies available for licensing here .