Department of Mechanical Engineering

Commitment to excellence in its teaching, research, scholarship, and service missions.

Modeling Framework may lower biomedical device infections

A recent article in the American Chemical Society’s Applied Materials & Interfaces journal introduces a new thermodynamic-based modeling framework to solve a problem that may one day result in lowering the instances of biomedical-device associated infections.

The modeling breakthrough came from an interdisciplinary team of Macromolecules and Innovation Institute faculty led by Bahareh Behkam, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, working with Amrinder Nain and Michael Ellis, also associate professors in mechanical engineering, and Professor Alan Esker, Chair of the Chemistry Department in the College of Science.

“Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are a major cause of death in the United States and add up to $45 billion in additional health care costs annually,” Behkam said. “Up to seventy percent of HAIs are attributable to microbial biofilm growth on implantable medical devices, particularly catheters.”

Because items like catheters are inserted into the patient’s body, the buildup of biofilm is often only detected after symptoms occur, which is after the infection has taken hold. In fact, catheter-associated infections are the most common cause of secondary bloodstream infection with substantial mortality rates.

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Michael von Spakovsky named Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor

Michael von Spakovsky, professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and director of the Center for Energy Systems Research at Virginia Tech, has been named the Robert E. Hord Jr. Mechanical Engineering Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Robert E. Hord Jr. Professorship of Mechanical Engineering was established by a gift from the late Robert E. Hord Jr. Hord, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree the following year, both from the College of Engineering, was an enthusiastic supporter of Virginia Tech’s chemical and mechanical engineering programs.

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Engineering and arts join forces at Moogfest

It’s not often an engineer is featured on the lineup schedule for a music festival, but Mike Roan, a professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering has done it as part of Moogfest, a community of futurists who explore emerging sound technologies in Durham, North Carolina.

This year, Roan, who works in areas of immersive audio, psychoacoustics, and digital signal processing, joined with Tanner Upthegrove, media engineer with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, to provide the festival with a first-ever event – a large scale immersive audio experience.

Working with Meyer Sound, a designer and manufacturer of innovative sound solutions, Roan and Upthegrove transferred a project originally designed in the Cube,  a four-story-high, state-of-the-art theatre and high tech laboratory that serves multiple platforms of creative practice, to another live music venue. The results, according to Roan, could change the way artists view sound during a live performance.

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Sea urchins may hold key to lightweight engineering materials

In the ongoing search for strong, lightweight materials, researchers are looking at an odd source – sea urchins, which have spines made of chalk, a generally brittle substance.

The highly complex three-dimensional structure of sea urchin spines that is 70 to 80 percent porous creates a stable and strong structure. Studying the sea urchin is part of a $540,000 National Science Foundation grant being investigated by Ling Li, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering.

By using design rules gathered from studying biological systems and inputting those rules into the design of bio-inspired lightweight ceramic materials, Li said he hopes the information can be applied to creating lightweight panels and other components.

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Undergraduates thank scholarship sponsors