Baylor mechanical engineering researchers drive innovation in advanced composites and nano-materials

They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link — a single, seemingly insignificant point of failure can have disastrous consequences. That axiom is especially true in the automotive and aerospace industries where it's often not until after a failure that a dangerous or even fatal weakness is identified.

That's why faculty and students in Baylor's mechanical engineering department are studying advanced composites — strong, lightweight materials used to manufacture aircraft and automotive components and a wide range of other products. Mechanical engineering researchers at the BRIC are looking deep inside these composite materials and developing methods to manufacture parts that are stronger and lighter than those made from conventional materials.

They are also developing nondestructive testing methods that can determine the strength and potential failure point of a composite part without requiring it to be removed or damaged.

Other faculty and students in Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science are studying materials at an even smaller scale. Carbon nanotubes are incredibly strong — up to 200 times stronger than steel — but they're so small that it can be difficult to make them interact with normal, macro-scale materials. By finding methods to collect and arrange carbon nanotubes into usable materials, Baylor researchers are discovering how to harness the tiny structures in order to create strong, lightweight materials for industrial and consumer products.

At the BRIC, Baylor's mechanical engineering faculty and student researchers are making a difference, working alongside industry leaders to move innovative ideas out of the lab and into the real world.

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Baylor Mechanical Engineering

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.