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Engineering secures $40M government research contract


The College of Engineering (CoE) has announced a $40 million Army research contract over five years to continue funding the U-M-led Automotive Research Center (ARC). The amount is the largest research contract in CoE history.

ARC is the most advanced university-based automotive research center in the country, says Dennis Assanis, director of ARC and chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Securing another round of funding, he says, was critical to advancing research on both commercial and military ground vehicles.

The continuing success and growth of the center validates the concept of establishing a collaborative environment to address multidisciplinary research issues in the automotive area, Assanis says.

The funding will continue to attract automotive industry research to the University and its partners in ARC, Assanis says. Its research program will address key transportation energy issues, critical to both the military and Michigan's auto industry, says James MacBain, director of engineering research relations.

ARC is an eight-university consortium housed at U-M and sponsored by the National Automotive Center at the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren. This is the third five-year funding cycle for the center.

In addition to U-M, the consortium includes University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin, Wayne State University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Clemson University, University of Tennessee and Oakland University.

ARC is an excellent example of collaboration between academia, government and industry that benefits both the civilian and military communities, says Dennis Wend, executive director of the National Automotive Center.

ARC covers a broad spectrum of automotive topics that impact vehicle propulsion, advanced structures, control strategies for optimal energy usage and safety, optimal design, mobility of vehicles and robotics, and human-centered design. The work aims at dramatically reducing fuel consumption—a critical military and civilian issue—while maintaining or improving mobility, handling and safety. Research teams are organized in five "thrust areas":

• Dynamics and control of vehicles and mobile robots. Scientists develop tools to evaluate if a vehicle can cross a certain terrain and strategies controlling when to use which power source in a hybrid engine for optimal fuel economy;

• Human-centered modeling and simulation. Researchers design the interfaces of the vehicle to fit the operators and evaluate the impact of driving off-road;

• High performance structures and materials. Developing structures and materials that are lighter and stronger;

• Advanced and hybrid power trains. Making more powerful, efficient, and cleaner diesel engines and alternative power sources;

• Vehicle system integration, optimization and robustness. Scientists evaluate uncertainty in inputs to the system simulations and the effect on design objectives.

As part of the new contract, ARC has been awarded funding that will support an alternative energy/power research activity. The breadth of current research in ARC and already-established collaborative links make it uniquely positioned to address complex inter-disciplinary issues related to energy options and to propose solutions for improved mobility and clean and affordable power for the future, Assanis says.

For more about ARC, visit http://arc.engin.umich.edu/.

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