College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Cyclone Engineering undergrads to showcase research at Iowa Capitol

Cyclone Engineering undergraduates will present research posters at the Iowa Statehouse at the 14th annual Research in the Capitol event on April 1. Research in the Capitol highlights the important research being conducted by undergraduate students across the state. Students will interact with elected officials, university administrators and news media, discussing the impact their research could have on Iowa, the nation and the world.

Six engineering undergrads will present their hands-on research experience:

Bre Dykstra, biological systems engineering, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Alyssa Iverson, biological systems engineering, Springfield, Nebraska Emerging Markets for Switchgrass in the Midwest: Challenges and Opportunities

The objective of this CenUSA Bioenergy research project is to evaluate and summarize the current state of the market for switchgrass and to showcase the developing and alternative markets that are currently available for switchgrass. The driving force behind this effort is the EPA Renewable Fuels Standard’s goal to produce 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel by 2022. Switchgrass is a high-yielding perennial grass, both able to be grown on marginal land in the central U.S, and able to be used as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. CenUSA-partnered researchers are still increasing the potential yield of switchgrass through ongoing research, but the established market for corn stover and the low price of corn has inhibited the take off the switchgrass market. This paper examines developing and alternative markets for switchgrass that could provide a supplemental income to Midwest farmers while also ensuring that an energy grass supply is in place when the cellulosic ethanol industry becomes fully established.

Jenna Oftedal, industrial engineering, Dubuque, Iowa; and Shibani Raje, industrial engineering, Naperville, IllinoisDeveloping a TRIZ-based Design for Flexibility Tool for Manufacturing Facilities

As manufacturers evaluate assets and long-term production plans, they struggle with how best to meet complex building requirements that maximize building flexibility and minimize costs. Research shows that manufacturers highly prioritize facility flexibility. However, infusing flexibility into facility design can be complex and achieving it can be costly. These issues could be mitigated with a dedicated tool for addressing flexibility in facility design. TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a problem- solving method that exploits information contained in millions of patents to identify solution genres and standard contradictions to drive inventive design principles. This user-friendly, decision support tool can efficiently reduce the complexity of incorporating flexibility into manufacturing facility design. Using this tool as a platform and incorporating information from fifteen case studies, construction-specific terms were mapped to TRIZ parameters and principles to create a construction industry specific TRIZ contradiction matrix. This paper describes basic TRIZ theory and previous uses in the construction industry. It then discusses industry input and case studies that helped make it construction-specific. Finally, it addresses the modified TRIZ tool’s potential benefits to the construction industry regarding flexibility considerations.

Jacob Shedenhelm, software engineering, Grimes, Iowa; and Philip Cordova, computer science, Overland Park, Kansas TIMELI: Using Data Analysis to Improve Traffic Safety

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that a quarter of the congestion on U.S. roads is due to traffic incidents such as a crash, an overturned truck, stalled vehicles, or a variety of other impediments to normal traffic flow. Iowa State University (ISU) and its partners TransCore and Iowa DOT propose TIMELI (Traffic Incident Management Enabled by Large-data Innovations): a new, robust traffic incident management system integrating innovative data analysis techniques to monitor traffic incidents in real time, proactively control risk, quickly detect traffic incidents, identify the location and potential cause of these incidents, and suggest traffic control alternatives. Our goal in this project is to implement camera-based traffic incident detection and congestion detection algorithms on a statewide level and develop a user-interface to efficiently show the detected incidents to traffic incident managers (TIMs). The incident and congestion detection algorithms are being implemented in server-based multiple Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) to handle more than 300 cameras installed across the state of Iowa. These algorithms are based on state-of- the-art deep learning techniques to build a robust incident detection system. Our user-interface is also designed to minimize the time spent by TIMs in managing the detected incidents, thereby reducing their cognitive load.

Brandon Vance, chemical engineering, Des Moines Fueling Space Exploration: Engineering Materials to Produce Rocket Fuel on Mars

One of NASA’s future goals in space exploration is to send crewed missions to Mars. However, sending the fuel needed to return the crew to Earth is logistically and financially impossible. NASA’s solution is to produce the return rocket fuel directly on Mars by using a supported-metal catalyst to facilitate the generation of methane gas from Mars’ natural resources: carbon dioxide and water. This conversion requires harsh reaction conditions that induce irreversible deactivation of the catalyst, which has proven to be a major obstacle in engineering a catalyst for Mars applications. To design a robust catalyst, we must fully understand every factor that affects the catalytic activity, including the ability of the metal catalyst to increase the rate of methane generation. This study examines the influence of the support’s thermal conductivity on methane production to determine the catalytic activity’s dependence on heat transfer within the catalyst particle. Our results demonstrate that the activity of supported-metal catalysts is directly affected by the support’s ability to remove the heat of reaction from the metal nanoparticles. Coupling these findings with future investigations will enable a catalyst to be engineered for the production of rocket fuel on Mars.