The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $15 million, five-year grant to support the new Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. Industry partners and seven universities will augment NSF funding with $3 million each. The center will be based at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
With help from NFPA, more than 50 companies have agreed to provide support for the research center.
Engineering faculty and their students will study ways to use fluid power more efficiently in manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and mining. Each 10% improvement in efficiency of current uses of fluid power in these industries will 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% improvement in national passenger-car energy use will save about $10 billion a year.
Another goal is to develop portable, wearable, and autonomous fluid-power devices capable of operating for long periods of time without external energy for use in medical and rehabilitation devices and rescue robots.
The center will also develop youth education programs, improve efforts to increase student diversity in engineering, design internship and exchange programs for undergraduate and graduate students, and offer 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 NFPA, Project Lead The Way, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.