Selected Research Areas
Computing continues to evolve rapidly, and Michigan Engineering is at the forefront of the field. Faculty here lead in future computer architectures and software systems. With specific expertise in cybersecurity, display technology, machine learning, virtual reality, wireless communication and embedded/low power computing, engineers at the college span the expanding roles of computers in consumer tech and in industry.
Michigan engineers also develop sophisticated computer simulations that provide insights into the theories that underpin fluid dynamics, self-assembling nanomaterials, weather and climate modeling, space weather and other plasma interactions, ship and marine systems, nuclear reactors and material properties.
With institutes devoted to energy and sustainability, U-M is committed to finding a way to balance quality of life with the health of the planet. Engineers at the college help find ways to capture solar energy, safely generate nuclear power, produce biofuels and improve batteries to power our buildings, vehicles and gadgets. Michigan engineers are also engaged in monitoring and protecting the environment through sensors, climate diagnostics and research on the Great Lakes.
The supply of drinking water and the handling of garbage remain challenges for both the developing and developed worlds, so engineers at the college are seeking better ways to address these needs.
The University of Michigan has a long heritage in manufacturing and a history of collaborating with industries in Detroit. While automotive manufacturing is still a major focus, with a new institute for studying lightweight metals, the college’s expertise also extends to the very small with micromachining, miniaturized systems, nanomanufacturing and self-assembly.
Michigan engineers develop ways to avoid breakdowns through preventive maintenance and predicting failures, manufacture alternative energy equipment, use plasma (ionized gasses) to process materials, and explore personalized production such as 3D printing.
One day, doctors may be able to heal large wounds with stem cells grown from the patient’s own tissue. Drugs could be delivered directly to the site of infections, reducing side effects. Cancer could be biopsied with a blood test. Medical monitoring could be less obtrusive and more informative. Prosthetics could link up with a person’s brain, making movement intuitive again. Treatments could improve with better understanding of biomechanics as well as our internal ecosystems.
Working alongside a strong medical school and a leading hospital, Michigan engineers are poised to help fulfill the promise of stem cells, nanomedicine, lab-on-a-chip diagnostic systems and more. It also puts engineers in a perfect position to understand what goes wrong in patient safety and design systems that prevent mistakes from occurring.
The field of robotics is undergoing revolutionary change, and U-M faculty are at the vanguard. The next generation of robots will be able to perform tasks not suited for humans as well as work safely with humans in environments designed for humans. Michigan engineers develop the sensors and software needed to handle these operations. Not to mention the higher level planning of where to go and how to get there. One of the most-discussed robots, the self-driving car, is a major area of interest at Michigan, with a dedicated test facility to find out just how well these systems will handle the perils of the road. Michigan engineers are also known for their work on drones, which could one day reduce water and pesticide use in agriculture and deliver time-sensitive medical equipment.
As the threats facing the nation continue to shift, Michigan engineers find new ways to combat them. Faculty here lead major projects to fight the spread of nuclear weapons and design safer and more effective military vehicles. Others excel in chemical and biological detection, cybersecurity and technologies for autonomous reconnaissance.
Researchers at Michigan Engineering design equipment to explore space and study our own planet from beyond the atmosphere. Faculty build bread-loaf-sized satellites called cubesats that hitch rides to space on NASA rockets or develop more traditional missions such as a NASA-backed constellation of satellites for tracking extreme weather. Researchers here produced the leading space weather forecasting software.
Michigan engineers have participated in the design and building of equipment on both the Mars Curiosity rover and the comet-catching Rosetta mission. With one of the largest vacuum test chambers on a university campus, engineering faculty research plasma thrusters that may one day take humans to Mars.