Department of Mechanical Engineering

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3D printed piezoelectric materials a game-changer

The piezoelectric materials that inhabit everything from our cell phones to musical greeting cards may be getting an upgrade thanks to work discussed in the journal Nature Materials released online Jan 21.

Xiaoyu ‘Rayne’ Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, and a member of the Macromolecules Innovation Institute, and his team have developed methods to 3D print piezoelectric materials that can be custom-designed to convert movement, impact and stress from any direction to electrical energy.

“Piezoelectric materials convert strain and stress into electric charges,” Zheng explained.

The piezoelectric materials come in only a few defined shapes and are made of brittle crystal and ceramic – the kind that require a clean room to manufacture. Zheng’s team has developed a technique to 3D print these materials so they are not restricted by shape or size. The material can also be activated – providing the next generation of intelligent infrastructures and smart materials for tactile sensing, impact and vibration monitoring, energy harvesting, and other applications.

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Wing Ng elected Fellow of AIAA

Twenty-nine members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics were elected as Fellows for 2019 including three current Virginia Tech faculty: Wing Ng, Christopher C. Kraft Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Rakesh Kapania, Mitchell Professor of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, and Robert Canfield, professor and assistant department head in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering.

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Zheng receives Office of Naval Research award

Xiaoyu ‘Rayne’ Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, has received an Office of Naval Research 2019 Young Investigator award to study rational design and additive manufacturing of 3D piezoelectrics with arbitrary anisotropy for maritime self-sensing structures. The work will be done as part of ONR’s Maritime Sensing Program.

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Students form club to help local people

In the 2017-2018 academic year, a new sponsor for mechanical engineering senior design teams arrived at Virginia Tech in the form of QL+, a non-profit dedicated to helping veterans and first responders. Teams tackled problems brought forth by challengers and made a difference in their lives.

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Mechanical Engineering students help '07 CLAHS alum Rob Jones