Research Center For Fluid Power Industry Announced

Posted on May 23, 2006

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a $15 million, five-year grant to support a new Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. Industry partners will augment NSF funding with $3 million, and seven universities involved in the center will contribute an additional $3 million, according to an announcement from the National Fluid Power Association. The center will be based at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

Discovering ways to reduce fuel consumption, developing devices for people with mobility impairments and designing rescue robots are just three of the goals of a new multimillion-dollar research center involving a nationwide network of engineering researchers and educators; manufacturers, suppliers and distributors in the fluid power industry; and the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA).

“This center will advance fundamental knowledge, providing a platform for technology that will spawn new industries. We are impressed with the ambitious goals of the center for research and education and the strong partnership with industry,” said Lynn Preston, leader of the Engineering Research Centers Program at NSF.

With help from NFPA, more than 50 companies have agreed to provide support for the research center. According to Linda Western, NFPA’s executive director, “Companies of every size throughout the fluid power industry’s supply chain rallied around the concept of establishing the center from its inception, consulting with the research team members as they developed the proposal while pledging financial and in-kind support through an association-led drive. That broad base of industry support proved to be a key factor in NSF’s decision to award this grant.”

Research conducted through the Center will be multi-dimensional. Engineering faculty and their students will study ways to use fluid power more efficiently in manufacturing, agriculture, construction and mining. Each 10 percent 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.

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.