My Research with Micro Combustion Engines and Shape Memory Alloys

Sarah Research, Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Happy E-Week everyone!

E-week is one of my favorite weeks of the spring semester because it’s an entire week dedicated to celebrating engineering. There’s a carnival, a talent show, a day dedicated to showing middle school students what engineering is, and a formal ball to name a few activities. In honor of E-week, we’re spending this week blogging about the coolest things we have done as engineering students, ranging from research to internships to class projects!

I wanted to take some time this week to talk about the various research projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on during my two years as an engineer thus far. One of my favorite things about Viterbi is how easy it is to get involved with research! I know so many people who get started in research as early as the first week of freshman year. Another one of my favorite things about Viterbi is how easy it is to get involved in research that is not directly related to your major. Although I am a Chemical Engineer, I’ve never worked in what would be considered a Chemical Engineering laboratory. Rather, I’ve done both of my research projects in a Mechanical Engineering combustion laboratory.

The first research project I got involved with revolved around designing microscale combustion engines using Solidworks and then developing them using 3D printing. This research project was awesome because I got to work with a variety of majors ranging from mechanical engineers to industrial and systems engineers.  I loved getting to work in conjunction with the 3D printing lab because it was cool to watch how multiple labs would come together to work on one common project.

My lab!

My lab!


The second research project is one that I got involved with a few weeks ago. This one is focused on using shape memory alloys to create a microscale engine that will be able to power a robotic insect. Once again, I’m working with a variety of majors, and my main responsibility is assisting the mechanical engineering senior who is the head of the engine design team. I can’t wait to bring my chemical engineering knowledge to the lab when I help electroplate a catalyst directly onto the shape memory alloy, so that we can run a combustion reaction directly on the wire.

Research has been one of my favorite parts about my time as an undergraduate thus far because it allows me to take the theory I’m learning in my different engineering classes and apply it to a research project. I can’t wait to see where my projects go in the future! Be sure and stay tuned for updates.


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