Established in 1887, the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts opened for classes two years later. By the 1920s, the school had been renamed North Carolina State College. Its name was changed again following World War II, this time to its current name of North Carolina State University.
The School of Engineering was formed in 1923 and became the College of Engineering in 1987. Today, the College of Engineering encompasses 10 engineering disciplines.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
High-impact research analyzes biological and agricultural systems for the sustainable management and preservation of our natural resources. Biological and agricultural engineers find ways to preserve and protect our natural environment while sustaining food and fiber production, clean water and air, and sustainable energy production and management.
Bioprocess Engineering focuses on the alteration or application of renewable materials to generate value-added products including fuels, food, feed, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and value-added biomaterials. Data Analytics and Integrated Modeling apply data-intensive approaches to biological and natural systems, especially at the convergence of food, agriculture, and natural resources.
Ecological engineers apply engineering principles to design ecosystems for the mutual benefit of humans and nature. Research includes the design, monitoring, and restoration of ecosystems. Sustainable waste management engineering applies sustainable approaches for handling solid and liquid waste through waste minimization, recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, gasification, or pyrolysis.
Founded in 2003, Biomedical Engineering is a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. Research in Biomedical Engineering spans neural systems, microfluidics, rehabilitation, bioinformatics and computational systems biology, biomaterials, medical devices, imaging, metabolomics, single-cell assays, and tissue engineering.
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Since the 1980s, chemical and biomolecular engineering research has focused on theory, modeling, data science, applications, and bioinformatics. Researchers have discovered how Alzheimer's-related amyloid plaques form, parsed the cellular diversity of the brain using next-generation single-cell transcriptomics and bioinformatics, revealed how cellulose pyrolyzes through elementary reactions into bio-oil, and what molecular-scale steps are used by homogeneous catalysis to manufacture polymers and chemicals. Using engineering tools and analyses to address challenges in health and life sciences, researchers have used synthetic biology to harness DNA for next-generation information-storage systems and engineered peptide-based methods to remove the prion protein from plasma and blood products.
Materials researchers are creating new materials and advanced manufacturing approaches. Work has led to the development of self-sterilizing polymers that inactivate coronaviruses, textiles that can capture and deactivate toxic compounds, super sticky microparticles mimicking gecko feet, and 3D printing of advanced materials including liquid metals and jelly-like hydrogels.
Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering
The department focuses on seven core areas of research: computing and systems; construction engineering; environmental engineering, water resources, and coastal engineering; geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering; mechanics and materials; structural engineering and mechanics; and transportation systems and materials.
Computer Science research areas are in theory (algorithms, theory of computation), systems (computer architectures and operating systems, embedded and real-time systems, parallel and distributed systems, scientific and high-performance computing), artificial intelligence (intelligent agents; data mining, information and knowledge discovery, engineering and management; e-commerce technologies; information visualization, graphics and human-computer interaction), networks (networking and performance evaluation), security (software and network systems security, information assurance, privacy), software engineering (requirements, formal methods, reliability engineering, process and methods, programming languages), and computer-based education.
Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Researchers use the latest mathematical tools and approaches to make new discoveries. Focus areas are advanced manufacturing, health systems engineering, human-system engineering, supply chain and logistics, and systems analytics and optimization.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
The first electrical engineering course, offered in 1893, was the first NC State course labeled “engineering.” There are eight focus areas: bioelectronics engineering; communications and signal processing; computer architecture and systems; control, robotics, and mechatronics; electronic circuits and systems; physical electronics, photonics and magnetics; networking; and power electronics and power systems.
Materials Science and Engineering
Materials with novel and controlled electronic, optical, and magnetic properties have widespread applications including computers, lighting, sensors, medicine, and sustainability. Research includes processing techniques for obtaining materials with controlled compositions and structures, characterization, and applications of these materials. The development of new materials requires characterization of their structure across a range of length scales ranging from macro to the atomic. Research in this area focuses on understanding how new properties can emerge from old materials through modifying their micro- and nano-structure features.
The demands placed on structural material performance are constantly increasing across application areas including transportation, power generation, and defense. This area of research is focused on the structure-processing-property relationships in materials for load-bearing applications.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
The strengths of this area include the thermal sciences, particularly thermal fluids, fluid mechanics, and combustion; mechanical sciences including manufacturing mechanics, structural dynamics, materials, and controls; and the aerospace sciences, particularly aerodynamics, aircraft design, hypersonics, propulsion, flight research using UAVs, and computational fluid dynamics.
Research interests cover a number of the areas of importance to the development of nuclear energy including fission, fusion, and radiation physics.
Researchers have demonstrated that vehicle armor using composite metal foam (CMF) can stop ball and armor-piercing .50-caliber rounds as well as conventional steel armor, even though it weighs less than half as much. The finding means that vehicle designers will be able to develop lighter military vehicles without sacrificing safety or can improve protection without making vehicles heavier. CMF is a foam that consists of hollow, metallic spheres made of materials such as stainless steel or titanium that are embedded in a metallic matrix made of steel, titanium, aluminum, or other metallic alloys. The researchers used steel-steel CMF, meaning that both the spheres and the matrix were made of steel. CMF consists of metallic bubbles filled with air. Because the finished product includes pockets of air, threats like heat, fire, impact, radiation, and even blast and ballistics become weaker and less harmful.
NC State developed materials that can be used to create structures capable of transforming into multiple different architectures for applications ranging from construction to robotics. The system was inspired by metamorphosis in nature, in which animals change their fundamental shape. The materials can create structures that change their fundamental architecture. Kirigami is a fundamental concept for the system. While kirigami traditionally uses two-dimensional materials, the same principles are applied to three-dimensional materials.
A team used liquid gallium to create an antiviral and antimicrobial coating and tested it on a range of fabrics including facemasks. The coating adhered more strongly to fabric than some conventional metal coatings and eradicated 99 percent of several common pathogens within five minutes.
Researchers created a soft and stretchable device that converts movement into electricity and can work in wet environments. The device can turn mechanical motion into electricity and works underwater. The heart of the energy harvester is a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium. The alloy is encased in a hydrogel — a soft, elastic polymer swollen with water. The water in the hydrogel contains dissolved salts called ions. The ions assemble at the surface of the metal, which can induce charge in the metal. Increasing the area of the metal provides more surface to attract charge. This generates electricity, which is captured by a wire attached to the device.
NC State created insecticide-free, mosquito-resistant clothing using textile materials they confirmed to be bite-proof in experiments with live mosquitoes. They developed the materials using a computational model of their own design, which describes the biting behavior of the mosquito that carries viruses that cause human diseases like Zika, Dengue fever, and yellow fever. They were able to prevent 100 percent of bites when a volunteer wore their clothing – a base layer undergarment and a combat shirt initially designed for the military – in a cage with 200 live, disease-free mosquitoes. Vector Textiles, an NC State startup company, has licensed the related patent rights and intends to make clothing for commercial sale in the United States. The computational model could be used to develop clothing to reduce transmission of diseases.
Researchers invented a patch that plants can “wear” to monitor continuously for plant diseases or other stresses such as crop damage or extreme heat. It measures the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by plants. By targeting VOCs that are relevant to specific diseases or plant stress, the sensors can alert users to specific problems. The prototype stores the data but future versions will transmit the data wirelessly. The rectangular patches are 30 millimeters long and consist of a flexible material containing graphene-based sensors and flexible silver nanowires. The sensors are coated with various chemical ligands that respond to the presence of specific VOCs, allowing the system to detect and measure VOCs in gases emitted by the plant’s leaves.
North Carolina State University researchers demonstrated they could print layers of electrically conductive ink on polyester fabric to make an e-textile for wearable devices. Since the printing method can be completed at room temperature and in normal atmospheric conditions, inkjet printing could offer a simpler and more effective method of manufacturing electronic textiles. In addition, the findings suggest they could extend techniques common in the flexible electronic industry to textile manufacturing.
Stealth fighters and bombers are among the most expensive aircraft in the world and they rely on a radar-absorbent polymer skin to avoid detection. But that polymer is so fragile that these aircraft must be designed in ways that protect the skin — even if that means hurting their performance in the air. A new material creates a tougher skin that also has more desirable stealth characteristics. The NC State team created a ceramic material that is more radar-absorbent than existing polymers and can absorb 90 percent or more of the energy from radar.
In addition, the material is water-resistant and harder than sand, enabling it to withstand harsh conditions.