Research and innovation are integral parts of the Mechanical and Energy Engineering department at The University of North Texas, a Carnegie Tier One research institution. The department offers state-of-the-art facilities ranging from a variety of instructional laboratories to research facilities including the Net Zero Energy (ZØE) Research Laboratory. These facilities allow our faculty and students to work side-by-side on industry-sponsored senior capstone design projects or on cutting-edge graduate research.
The department’s research focus include energy and the environment, sustainable products and manufacturing systems, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials for energy storage, advanced manufacturing, and renewable energy systems. Faculty, post-doctoral researchers and student teams work on exciting inter-disciplinary projects on robotics and controls, manufacturing of composite and engineered materials, characterization of high-performance structural material, air quality modeling and environmental monitoring. They are also developing next-generation sensors for extreme environments, and energy harvesting using phase-change materials. If you are interested in partnering with the MEE Department or if you are a prospective graduate student, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the department at 940-565-2400.
Smart Materials Laboratory
The Smart Material Lab (SML) in the University of North Texas (UNT) is focused on design, analysis, and experiments for piezoelectric devices used for sensing, energy harvesting, and structure health monitoring applications. This group has conducted research in high-temperature material test methodology, modeling and experiment of novel sensing and energy harvesting mechanism, and structure health monitoring in harsh environments. The technology we have developed addresses critical national needs in the monitoring of power plants, manufacturing process and control, aerospace propulsion systems, oil and gas exploration, and other applications. The group’s research is funded by National Science Foundation (NSF), Army Research Office (ARO), Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Energy (DoE), Peterbuit, US Army Natic Program, USDA and UNT.
1) “Self-powered Wireless Through-wall Data Communication for Nuclear Environments,” US Department of EnergyRoom: F179
2) “Energy harvesting nanorods-enhanced MEMS temperature-insensitive gas sensor for combustion monitoring and control,” National Science Foundation
Research in the thermal laboratory focuses on projects such as the latent heat thermal energy storage (LHTES) system using phase change materials (PCMs) for large-scale electricity generation in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. Research is also being done into high-temperature PCMs (melting points above 700 °C) combined with graphite foam to significantly increase the effective thermal conductivity, and therefore, enhance the heat transfer performance in the LHTES system. Researchers are also investigating on dispersing nanoparticles in the PCMs to improve the latent heat of fusion. Another area being researched is the efficient thermal control technologies for the power electronics heat removal in hybrid electric or all-electric vehicles, i.e., use of vapor chamber combined with high thermal conductivity graphite foam to enhance the heat spreading, studying on a novel jet impingement configuration to enhance the heat removal capacity.
Weihuan Zhao Ph.D.
Zhao’s research interests focus on thermo-fluids sciences, including computational heat transfer and fluid dynamics, thermal management technologies, thermal energy storage, PCMs, and thermal-fluids experimental design. She is working on innovative solutions for built environment and human comfort using PCMs. She is also working closely with researchers at Argonne National Laboratory on the numerical modeling and analyses of the high-efficiency thermal energy storage for concentrated solar power plants. Zhao is currently the research director of the Zero-Energy (ZØE) Facility at UNT.
1) High efficiency latent heat based thermal energy storage system for concentrated solar power plantRoom: F102C
2) Use of PCMs for efficient building temperature control and energy savings
3) Infiltrated Boron nitride nanotubes by PCM for thermal management
4) Thermal transport analysis in 3D pillared-graphene structures
5) Investigation of the Fresnel-lens based solar concentrator system for efficient usage of solar energy
Small Scale Instrumentation Laboratory
The Laboratory of Small Scale Instrumentation (LSI) has been served for several research projects including thermal characterization of one dimensional, two dimensional and three dimensional materials. One dimensional materials are carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes, and silicon carbide nanowires. Their thermal conductivities were characterized by using either 3-omega or thermal conductance method. Recent advances in micropipette-based thermal sensors have been used to measure thermal conductivities of 2D materials such as graphene and carbon nanotube thin film. We are extending this technology to characterize fluid thermal properties and furthermore cellular level thermal conductivities (3D). In the LSI we are also conducting research related with 3D manufacturing as a recently awarded NSF-funded project. In addition, one PhD student is working on simulation of membrane mass transfer that may provide important data to develop a membrane heat pump system.
- Thermal properties of a cell as a biomarker to detect early-stage epithelial ovarian cancer (Sponsor NSF-CBET)
- Cellular level temperature measurement for photothermal damage mechanism (Sponsor: AFOSR)
- Cellular level mechanical characterization due to laser-initiated cavitation bubbles (Sponsor: AFOSR expected)
- Study of water transport through nanocomposite membranes using an MD simulation tool (Sponsor: KIMM)
- Mechanical properties characterization based on phononic crystals (Sponsor: NSF-EFRI)
Composites Preprocessing Laboratory
This lab is used for fabrication and study of bio products which can include wood products, bio composites, activated carbon, and any materials made from renewable resources. The lab is used to prep materials and construct composites. Currently in the lab is a concrete tester, a differential scanning caloromiter, a plasma etcher, and some other equipment most of which is used to characterize the material properties of what is made in the lab. Most characterization is specific to properties that are important most bioproducts. A seconday Lab to this space is D140 where this lab is stores the large box furnace, tube furnace, large universal testing machine, and wind tunnel senior design project. The furnaces are used to activate materials into complex carbon structures or modify materials with heat treatments. Much of the research done in D140 is linked to lab D144. Room: D144
Composites Characterizations Laboratory
This lab is used for material characterizations including, mechanical properties, thermal, acoustic, electrical, surface properties, specific surface area, and porosity, biodegradability, flammability, and etc. This lab contains a large amount of equipment which is used to determine the properties of the different materials that are brought to our department or made within the department. The lab includes universal testing machine that can determine the mechanical properties, various machines that can determin surface area, there is a composter that is used to determine the gasses produced by a material that is undergoing decomposition which can measure how biodegradable a materials is and it is only one of a few in the southern united states. Room: D126
Air Quality Research Laboratory
This lab is used in support of field-based environmental monitoring of air pollutants. Measurement of environmental contaminants in the ambient atmosphere and indoors is conducted using state-of-science compliance grade monitors for ozone, fine particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organics and toxic compounds. In addition, meteorological parameters are measured using weather stations. Routine testing and calibration of monitors are performed here. The lab is also used for the development and evaluation of low-cost and low-energy portable sensors for measurement of environmental para-meters including concentrations of air pollutants in the ambient atmosphere. Room: F177
Biosensing and Bioenergy Laboratory
Dr. Reid develops and characterizes electrode materials and devices for bioenergy harvesting and biosensing applications such as biofuel cells and biosensors. Performance of these devices is highly affected by mass, electronic, and ionic transport through the electrode materials as well as at the liquid-electrode interface. By understanding these key factors, Dr. Reid hopes to develop new and improved ways to utilize and monitor bioenergy sources. His current interests include mechanical energy harvesting through reverse electrowetting, electrochemical detection of traumatic brain injury, and multifunctional sensing/energy harvesting devices.
Common themes among many of Dr. Reid’s previous projects are 1) accessing untapped bioenergy sources within us and in our surroundings and 2) combining multiple functionalities into a single material or device. These themes can be seen in examples of previous research projects: a contact lens biofuel cell, a self-powered lactate sensor, and composites that have active surface roughness control.
Research ProjectsRoom: F102A.1
1) Self-powered wearable sensors that operate by harvesting motion through reverse electrowetting
2) Single-cell biological probes that consist of either pulled pipette microelectrodes or nanosphere fluorescent probes
Nanoscale Energy Transport Laboratory
Nanoscale Energy Transport Laboratory provides researchers with top-of-the-line computational software and hardware. The student and faculty researchers are developing improved computational modeling techniques and design tools open to collaborators in both industry and academia. Tools developed here in the laboratory or our various commercial programs (MATLAB, ANSYS, SINDA/Fluint, and more) have resulted in publications in prestigious journals and have been used in classroom teaching. Between Dr. Sadat and Dr. R. Zhang, they share thousands-CPU dedicated cores to ensure express development of simulations. Funding has been supported by Office of Naval Research.
Zihao Richard Zhang Ph.D.
• Understanding nanoscale heat transfer phenomena, by modeling quantum interactions and electrodynamics of atomic-scale energy carriers, such as electrons, phonons, and photons. Outcomes in theoretical methods for optical and infrared properties of ultra-thin films, heat conduction in 2D materials and nanotubes/wires, and thermoelectric/piezoelectric effect for waste heat recovery.
• Characterization of materials for aerospace systems, including optical reflectors, radiators, thermal switches, interfaces, electronics, etc. Supporting student-led CubeSat design and testing team for NASA space flights.
1) Few-parameter computational modeling of electron and phonon interactions driving a non-equilibrium thermoelectric effect in a semiconductor nanowire/2D sheet pulsed by a femtosecond laser (AFOSR)
2) Far-field and near-field (nanogap) thermal radiative properties of patterned topological insulator semiconductors
3) CubeSat thermal management using temperature-actuated shape memory alloys (NASA)
Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
The computational fluid dynamics lab focuses on the development of numerical methods including turbulent flow modeling using large-eddy simulation and detached eddy simulation methods, two-phase free-surface flow modeling, particulate flow modeling, fluid-structure interactions, higher-order discretization methods such as spectral difference, non-traditional CFD approaches such as Lattice Boltzmann Method, deterministic and stochastic simulation-based design and optimization, uncertainty quantification (UQ), and high-performance computing methodology. The code development and models are for ocean and aerospace engineering applications (ship hydrodynamics, drone aerodynamics, wave/winds, stratified flows, etc.), biomedical applications (heart flow, hemodynamics, etc.), and energy systems (onshore and offshore wind turbines, wave energy converter etc.).
1) Study the interaction of a dynamic system and particles using coupled discrete element method and CFDRoom: D206B
2) Novel immersed boundary methods for strong fluid-structure coupling for extremely flexible structures
3) Development of methodologies to predict extremely rare events
4) Stable Lattice Boltzmann schemes for stratified flows
5) Simulation of supported cardiovascular systems to minimize eddies and stasis, and to mitigate thrombotic risks
6) Modeling acoustics using acoustic perturbation equations
Zero Energy (ZØE) Laboratory
The Zero Energy (ZØE) Research Laboratory is a unique kind of building in Texas – designed specifically to test and demonstrate various alternative energy generation technologies in order to achieve a net-zero energy consumption of energy. The net-zero energy philosophy is based on a combination of different renewable energy technologies in a building (such as solar, geothermal, and wind systems) which leads to produce enough energy to power a building and in many cases even create excess energy to power a building and in many cases even create excess energy to return back to the power grid and thus the net energy consumption over a period or a year becomes zero. The lab is over 1,200 square feet and has an open flexible work/laboratory space along with an attached work shop area. There is a living quarter with a bathroom and a small kitchen with a refrigerator. Steel columns/beams were used for building as well as structural insulated panels for the walls and roof. It has a centered utility core for easy operation and remodeling. The sustainability features include: bamboo flooring and millwork, local materials, a recycled glass counter top and back splash, a rain-harvesting water system, and renewable solar and wind power for energy.
The Manufacturing Lab is used for the class 3100 Manufacturing Processes as well as the capstone design classes. Students will study the manufacturing processes and their capabilities, analysis and economics. Study of the fundamentals of engineering processes in manufacturing as related to design and production and materials properties. Traditional and non-traditional manufacturing process and selection optimization. Students are given laboratory assignments in material removal, forming, casting, joining, forging and computer-aided machining. Room: F157
Senior Design Laboratory
Senior Design is the capstone undergraduate design project of the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering. Seniors are able to apply their knowledge and showcase their abilities through the completion of challenging, real-world design problems. Students will research and select an issue, then design a project with the guidance of advisors and sponsors. In Design II, student ideas are brought to life by prototype construction, testing and final analysis. Senior Design culminates with Design Day, a college-wide event where teams from each engineering department present projects to engineering faculty members and industry leaders. Room: F102D
Department Teaching Laboratory
The Lab F158 is an undergraduate teaching lab for MEEN 3240 Lab I and MEEN 3242 Lab II courses. The Lab is equipped with the following apparatus to offer MEE undergraduate students with hands-on experiments covering a broad spectrum of topics of in instrument and measurements, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. Subsonic wind tunnel with completed modules (manometer, pitot tube, pressure cylinder, lift and drag balance, aerofoil, pressure wing, pressure cylinder and boundary layer plates). Computer controlled heat transfer teaching equipment (linear heat conduction, combined convection and radiation, extended surface heat transfer, unsteady state heat transfer, free & forced convection). Viscometer, cup viscometers, air viscosity measurement equipment, thermocouples, thermistor, RTD and data acquisition system. Room: F158