Gates Corporation, a subsidiary of UK-based Tomkins plc, has joined with the National Science Foundation, leading universities, and other industrial companies to establish a $21 million Fluid Power Engineering Research Center.
‘Gates is committed to supporting industry and educational efforts to increase awareness, efficiency, and use of fluid power technologies,’ said Lou Braga, Group President of Gates Worldwide Fluid Power Division. ‘… The Center will define and expand new research frontiers in engineering and increase the ability of faculty, students and the fluid power industry to work with researchers from across the country in a variety of interdisciplinary areas.’
Discovering ways to reduce fuel consumption, developing devices for people with mobility impairments and designing state-of-the-art rescue robots are just three of the many goals of this new multimillion-dollar research center involving Gates.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced a $15 million, five-year grant to support the new Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. Gates and other Industry partners, in coordination with the National Fluid Power Association, will augment NSF funding with $3 million, and seven universities involved in the center will contribute an additional $3 million. The center will be based at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
Fluid-power technology encompasses most applications that use liquids or gases to transmit power in the form of pressurized fluid. The complexity of these systems ranges from a simple jack used to lift your car when replacing a tire to sophisticated airplane flight control actuators that rely on high-pressure hydraulic systems. Fluid power is a $33 billion industry worldwide. Industry areas include aerospace, agriculture, construction, health care, manufacturing, mining, and transportation.
Researchers at the center will study ways to use fluid power more efficiently in manufacturing, agriculture, construction and mining. A 10 percent improvement in fluid power efficiency in these industries is estimated to save about $7 billion a year in U.S. energy costs. Researchers will also work to develop hydraulic-hybrid passenger cars that are less expensive and more efficient than current electric hybrids. A 10 percent improvement in efficiency in national passenger-car energy is estimated to save about $100 billion a year.
Another goal of the research center is to develop portable, wearable and autonomous fluid-power devices capable of operating for long periods of time without external energy sources. This technology could lead to new medical and rehabilitation devices and robots that could be used in rescue missions.
In addition to research, the center will be involved in developing youth education programs, improving efforts to increase student diversity in engineering, designing internship and exchange programs for undergraduate and graduate students, and offering short courses and labs for industry workers.
Core universities involved in the center are the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University and Vanderbilt University. Outreach universities include the Milwaukee School of Engineering and North Carolina A& T State University. Outreach institutions include the National Fluid Power Association, Project Lead the Way, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers conduct pioneering research in emerging technologies and train the next generation of engineers to be leaders in innovation. Each center, while based at one university, is a collaborative partnership drawing together individuals and resources from other universities, industry partners, and pre-college teachers and students.