Dr. Jovan Tatar
Durability of Composites Derived from Renewable Resources
Overview: Fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites have become an essential and widely used construction material. While FRP composites offer significant advantages over concrete and steel—such as higher strength-to-weight ratio, improved durability and faster construction—these materials are produced from non-renewable fossil fuel feedstocks with a substantial carbon footprint. This research examines novel recyclable composite materials manufactured from renewable sources, like natural fibers and biomass-derived epoxy. The specific objective is to investigate the fundamental degradation mechanisms of bio-based composites when exposed to outdoor environments typical for transportation infrastructure (e.g., wet/dry cycles, freeze/thaw, UV, etc.) The project employs sensitive materials characterization techniques and mechanical testing of aged composite samples to elucidate the environmental effects on the material performance.
Suggested coursework: Construction Materials, Construction Materials Lab, Mechanics of Materials, Mechanics of Materials Lab. Equivalent courses are acceptable.
Dr. Monique Head
Vulnerability Assessment for Resilient Coastal Bridges
Overview: Coastal infrastructure, particularly bridges along the US eastern seaboard, are more vulnerable due to the increasing impacts of natural hazards and the consequences of climate change. This research examines the physical impacts of various changing environmental loads, hydrodynamic loads, and storm surge effects imposed by natural hazards such as hurricanes on various bridge components such as its piers, columns, and deck/superstructure. The specific aim is to investigate the structural behavior of bridge components when modeled and subjected to various load cases that may not have been considered in its original design. Field data from past performance of bridge columns will be used to inform and update structural models. The project consists of examining fundamental structural behavior of bridge components to assess their physical vulnerabilities and expected performance levels due to the likelihood of climate-induced load effects.
Suggested coursework: Mechanics of Materials, Structural Analysis and Design, Reinforced Concrete Design (desirable). Equivalent courses are acceptable.
Dr. Mark Nejad
Electric Vehicle Charging Mechanisms Compatible with Dynamic Renewable Energy Production
Overview: Vehicle electrification and automation has the potential to transform transportation into a low-carbon-footprint mode. The objective of this project is to investigate energy-aware charging mechanisms for Electric Automated Vehicles (EAVs). The potential reduction of CO2e emissions of EAVs cannot be fully exploited unless a large part of its charging electricity is produced by renewable energy sources. Given that electricity is perishable, and its storage has limitations, coping with fluctuations in renewable energy production is highly critical. This project will result in a new approach to optimal charging decisions for EAVs. Optimizing charging decisions while considering factors such as renewable energy production, cost, amount and rate of charging, and charging stations availability, brings about new classes of network flow and mechanism design problems. We will contribute to the state-of-the-art by developing new mathematical modeling frameworks and solution methods to address the emerging problems in energy-aware EAV charging.
Suggested coursework: N/A.
Dr. Michael Chajes
Newark’s Sustainability Plan: Implementation and Monitoring Measures
Overview: In November of 2019, the City of Newark finalized an ambitious sustainability plan. The plan was based on significant public input and is organized around four interrelated themes which are: (1) Respond to Climate Change, (2) Plan and Develop for All, (3) Build Better, Waste Less, and (4) Preserve Nature, Reduce Impacts. Among these themes, the concepts of building better using sustainable design strategies and reducing the city’s transportation GHG footprint are both important goals. The project will involve reviewing the plan and its current status, and then conducting research aimed at helping the design, implement, and monitor sustainability strategies that will speed up the city’s electrification and reduce its GHG emissions.
Suggested coursework: Knowledge of sustainability is helpful.
Dr. Shangjia Dong
The Resilience of Coupled Human-Infrastructure System
Overview: Daily operation of our society heavily relies on the proper functioning of the infrastructure system. However, disaster poses a severe threat to the coupled human-infrastructure system. And climate change can exacerbate physical and societal disruption and even induce new types of failure. To prepare our society to quickly recover after a disaster, we need to first understand how the coupled human-infrastructure system responds to disruptions. This research will utilize mobility data collected from critical facility visits to map the interaction between human and infrastructure systems and develop models to characterize this interdependent system. This project employs data science techniques and a complex network modeling approach to elucidate the resilience of the coupled human-infrastructure system in facing disaster disruption.
Suggested coursework: Probability and Statistics for Engineers, Mathematical modeling and simulation, Basic programming skills in Python are needed.
Dr. Chris Kloxin
Recyclable Covalent Adaptable Networks
Overview: Thermosetting polymers are used a wide variety of structural applications but are fundamentally incapable of being remelted, remolded, or recycled owing the permanent covalent crosslinking. In contrast, covalent adaptable networks (CANs) implements reversible covalent crosslinkings, enabling bond breaking and reforming to impart non-destructive flow on the macroscopic scale. This new class of materials have the potential to be recycled towards the creation the next generation of sustainable construction materials. This project will consider different CAN formulations and examine the effects on dynamic properties, such as creep and stress relaxation. Through formulation optimization of the mechanical properties, we will tailor these materials for a range of applications that have, to date, had limited potential for recovery or repair.
Suggested coursework: Organic Chemistry and/or Introduction to Polymers are helpful, but not required.
Dr. Koffi Pierre Yao
Reducing or Replacing NMP as Solvent in Battery Electrode Slurry Preparations
Overview: N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) has been the solvent of choice for battery slurry preparation. NMP is effective at solvating and activating the typical electrode binder such as PVDF and unlike water does not show adverse effects on the stability of the electrode active material. However, NMP is classified as a “Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC)” by the European Union Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction (REACH) regulatory unit. Alternative aprotic solvents are needed to address the expanding need for battery electrode production. This proposed research will examine the substitution of NMP by emerging environmentally-friendly and bio-renewable aprotic solvents such as dihydrolevoglucosenone (Cyrene™) which is extracted from residual biomass. The project will examine Cyrene, Cyrene 2-MeTHF, Cyrene GVL blend, and Dimethyl isosorbide as slurry solvents. The project will utilize optical microscopy imaging to gauge the ability of the solvent to form a stable slurry. Upon electrode fabrication, electron microscopy will be used to examine the electrode microstructure. Electrochemical techniques such as EIS and galvanostatic cycling will be utilized for comparison of the novel electrode performance against traditional NMP cast electrodes.
Suggested coursework: Electrochemistry or equivalent, Microscopy imaging.
Dr. Jennifer McConnell
Measurement of Environmental Effects on Long-Term Bridge Performance
Overview: The primary cause for reduced service life and increased maintenance requirements for bridges is deterioration in the form of corrosion. Yet, quantitative and objective means for assessing corrosion are limited. This project will seek to overcome these limitations through evaluating the use of existing simple methodologies used in other fields for their suitability in rapidly measuring corrosion. Correlation between field measurements and other accepted assessment methodologies will first be performed in order to assess the new methodology. This can then be used to assess cause and effect relationships between environmental variables and bridge performance. While previous work on this topic for steel bridges has largely been qualitative, the present work will be quantitative so that more objective guidance can be given to bridge owners.
Suggested coursework: Physics, Statistics
Dr. Weisong Shi
Electric Autonomous Vehicle Platform for Sustainable Intelligent Transportation System
Overview: Electrified and autonomous transportation systems make human society safer and cleaner. The objective of this project is to design an Electric Autonomous Vehicle Platform (EAVP) that enables researchers to investigate multi-task planning, energy consumption optimization, and multi-agent robot learning scenarios in an intelligent transportation system. By using a group of EAVPs, multiple agents can be simulated in the transportation system to implement interactive and cooperative tasks. Specifically, each EAVP will be equipped with intelligent sensors, e.g., Lidar and cameras to extract environment information from the real world, and processors with high computing power to provide real-time reasoning and planning, and it will be based on a down-scaled wheeled mechanical structure to simulate real cars. And with a group EAVPs, an energy aware system and communication networks can be leveraged to optimize working burden and path length to cut down energy consumption meanwhile not compromise on task performance of whole transportation system
Suggested coursework: N/A