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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Engineers to direct Navy project

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 33 - June 13, 1996

Ali H. Nayfeh, university distinguished professor of engineering science and mechanics (ESM), and Dean Mook, the N. Waldo Harrison professor of ESM, will direct a $6.85-million multidisciplinary university research initiative (MURI) funded by the Office of Naval Research.

The overall goal of the five-year project is to develop innovative tools and methodologies for the control of complex uncertain nonlinear dynamic systems.

One primary focus of the project will be to better control the motion of U.S. Navy ships and ship-mounted cranes in rough seas so that various types of cargo can be transferred at sea. Currently, ships typically have to wait until the sea calms or go to a port to transfer cargo. The Navy also would like to be able to safely transfer missiles from one ship to another in high seas.

Fred C. Lee, the Lewis A. Hester professor of electrical engineering (EE) at Tech and director of the Virginia Power Electronics Center, will oversee research in developing models for power-electronic building-block (PEBB) systems. PEBB's distribute electricity from a ship's power plant to other parts of the vessel, much as a local power station distributes electricity to a town.

The third research focus will be improving guidance systems for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV's), such as torpedoes and deep-sea research vessels. The Navy wants to more precisely control the trajectory of UUV's, especially in bringing them close to shore.

Another goal of the project is to train several Ph.D. candidates as pioneers in the rapidly emerging engineering and scientific fields related to nonlinear active control of dynamic systems.

The other Virginia Tech faculty members involved in the project are Dusan Borojevic, associate professor of EE; Char-Ming Chin, a senior research associate in ESM; Chris R. Fuller, the Roanoke Electric Steel professor of mechanical engineering; Muhammad R. Hajj, assistant professor of ESM; Daniel J. Inman, the Samuel Herrick professor of ESM; Stergios I. Liapis, assistant professor of aerospace and ocean engineering; Saad A. Ragab, professor of ESM; and Hugh VanLandingham, professor of EE.

Other participating institutions are Florida Atlantic University, the Naval Postgraduate School, North Carolina A&T State University, Science Applications International Corp., United Technologies Research Center, and University of Maryland.