Originally published in the 2015 edition of Innovation magazine
Two Purdue Polytechnic professors were honored at the University’s 2014-15 Inventors Recognition Reception for being awarded patents.
Qingyou Han, professor of mechanical engineering technology, devised a way to add titanium powder to aluminum to produce stronger and lighter composite materials for manufacturing.
Han’s process starts with molten aluminum, to which he adds low-cost titanium powders. He then applies a highintensity acoustic vibration to the mixture. The vibration enhances a chemical reaction that breaks up the titanium particles to create much smaller and stronger Al3Ti particles.
The process of adding a complementary material to a metal creates a metal matrix composite.
“These particles are extremely small. Aluminum alloys that are reinforced using these small particles should have higher toughness and ductility than conventional aluminum matrix composites reinforced with silicon carbide particulate,” Han says. “Aluminum matrix composites that contain smaller particles also should have more improved machinability than conventional aluminum matrix composites.” Because of these properties, the process should be attractive to automotive or aerospace manufacturers who are looking for lighter materials.
Athula Kulatunga, former professor of electrical engineering technology, patented a process of collecting a small vehicle’s energy in an ultracapacitor through regenerative braking. The lighter ultracapacitor can store energy better and for longer periods than a typical vehicle battery, which makes it ideal for providing additional energy when it is needed most, such as during acceleration.
“With the ultracapacitor, I can add the additional energy during acceleration without using the batteries, and the coasting is done by the batteries,” he says. “During the deceleration, we absorb the energy back into the ultracapacitor. It can stow energy very quickly and release energy very quickly. A battery can’t do that; a battery is pretty slow.”
This process is unlike any other because the configuration of the capacitor maximizes energy absorption and the placement of the motor in the vehicle’s wheel is unique. The patent also covers an attachable pedaling mechanism that can help generate electricity and drive the system.