Founded in 1817 by an act of the old Michigan Territory, 20 years before the territory became a state, University of Michigan is one of the earliest American research universities. The institution was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 in the area currently known as Central Campus, a U.S. historic district. The university consists of 19 colleges and offers degree programs at undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels in some 250 disciplines.
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is the engineering unit of the University of Michigan. The college was founded in 1854, with courses in civil engineering. Since its founding, the College of Engineering established some of the earliest programs in various fields such as data science, computer science, electrical engineering, and nuclear engineering.
The vision of Michigan Engineering, according to the university’s website, is to improve the quality of life by developing intellectually curious and socially conscious minds, creating collaborative solutions to societal problems, and promoting an inclusive and innovative community of service for the common good.
The college offers a wide range of education programs and options, including graduate and undergraduate programs in various fields of engineering including aerospace engineering; biomedical engineering; chemical engineering; civil and environmental engineering; climate and space sciences and engineering; electrical and computer engineering; industrial and operations engineering; materials science and engineering; mechanical engineering; naval architecture and marine engineering; nuclear engineering; and more. There are 14 departments/divisions and 60+ fields of study as well as interdisciplinary degree programs for students.
The University of Michigan College of Engineering provides many research avenues for students. Teams of Michigan engineers and collaborators are improving smart infrastructure, autonomous transportation, weather prediction, nuclear non-proliferation, and more through its six research centers.
The Center for Applications Driving Architectures is at the forefront of computing frontiers, such as autonomous control, robotics, and machine learning. The center is a five-year project that’s led by U-M and includes researchers from a total of seven universities, pending final contracts: Harvard University, MIT, Stanford University, Princeton University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Washington.
The Automotive Research Center focuses on military, academic, and industry research and advancement for ground vehicle systems. Sponsored by the U.S. Army as a Center of Excellence, the University of Michigan team collaborates with industry and university partners to address gaps in mobility, survivability, and operational efficiency.
The Consortium for Verification Technology, which spans policy, engineering, and education, analyzes nuclear non-proliferation efforts, improves technologies for monitoring weapons-grade materials and detecting secret weapon tests, and trains the next generation of nonproliferation experts.
The goal of the PRedictive Integrated Structural Materials Science Center, or PRISMS, is to develop a predictive understanding of how structure relates to material properties, so that researchers can engineer materials that have the qualities that they need to invent new technologies. This effort to model materials from the macroscale to the nanoscale is backed with $11 million from the Department of Energy’s Materials Genome Project.
The MURI Center for Dynamic Magneto-Optics seeks to use the magnetic properties of light for purposes such as energy conversion. With a $7.5-million grant from the Department of Defense, this is a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Columbia University, and the University of Central Florida.
A team at the University of Michigan showed how a network of nanofibers, fashioned out of recycled Kevlar, can allow lithium-sulfur batteries to overcome issues surrounding cycle life, such as the number of times it can be charged and discharged. The research team integrated ionic selectivity of cell membranes and toughness of cartilage. Their integrated system approach enabled them to address the overarching challenges of lithium-sulfur batteries.
In an advance that could dramatically improve the productivity of solar panels in cold climates, a University of Michigan-led team demonstrated an inexpensive, clear coating that reduced snow and ice accumulation on solar panels, enabling them to generate up to 85 percent more energy in early testing.
The coating is made chiefly of PVC or PDMS plastic and silicon or vegetable-based oils. It can be sprayed or brushed on in cold weather and in its current iteration, can keep shedding snow and ice for up to a year.
Researchers at the University of Michigan in collaboration with the University of Bath have also shown that twisted nanoscale semiconductors manipulate light in a new way. The effect could be harnessed to accelerate the discovery and development of life-saving medicines as well as photonic technologies.
Specifically, the photonic effect could help enable rapid development and screening of new antibiotics and other drugs through automation. It offers a new analysis tool for high-throughput screening, a method to analyze vast libraries of chemical compounds. A tiny sample of each compound fills a well on a microplate. The wells can be as small as a cubic millimeter, and a plate the size of a chocolate bar can contain a thousand of them.
A new algorithm developed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Northeastern University promises to maximize the performance and efficiency of structures — everything from bridges to computer components — by determining the combination that gives the highest load capacity with lowest cost.
The team tested their algorithm in four optimization scenarios: designing structures to maximize their stiffness for carrying a given load, designing the shape of fluid channels to minimize pressure loss, creating shapes for heat transfer enhancement, and minimizing the material of complex trusses for load bearing. The new algorithm reduced the computational time needed to reach the best solution by roughly 100 to 100,000 times over traditional approaches.
Beyond infrastructure and cost issues, the algorithm can be utilized for any shape optimization projects where maximizing performance is the goal.
Future applications include optimizing battery electrode morphology, vehicle frames and shells, structures of buildings, and even more complex optimization problems outside of topology optimization.
Engineers have been looking more deeply into the sensitivity of the devices that serve the same function as hands for eventual robotic or prosthetic uses. A research team at the University of Michigan recently reported an improved method for tactile sensing that detects directionality as well as force with a high level of sensitivity. The system’s high resolution makes it suitable for robotic and HCI applications. It is also relatively simple to manufacture.
The team was able to integrate a highly sensitive sense of touch along with directionality using asymmetric nanopillars — so a prosthetic device can more tightly grasp a falling object, or a human-computer interface can differentiate a rising from a falling motion.
As a proof of concept, the team built a sensor, roughly the size of a fingertip, that contains 1.6 million gallium nitride (GaN) nanopillars. GaN was used because of its ability to measure force through its innate piezoelectric property, meaning its ability to generate an electrical charge when stressed. Because the sensor can determine the direction of the force, it can then alert a future prosthetic device about whether an object may be falling through its grasp, requiring a tighter grip.
To bring robotic assistance to workers, the elderly and more, a University of Michigan team is also developing a new type of powered exoskeleton for lower limbs — funded by $1.7 million from the National Institutes of Health. The research team plans to develop a modular, powered exoskeleton system that could be used on one or multiple joints of the legs. The three-year project will first study workers who lift and lower objects and the elderly who have lost mobility with age.