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Introduction

Like many other fields of science and engineering, mechanical engineering is facing growing uncertainty about its research competitiveness. Concerns about educating students, future employment opportunities, and the fundamental health of the discipline and industry are regular topics of discussion in the mechanical engineering community, in venues such as meetings of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or at workshops of the National Science Foundation (NSF).1 Mechanical engineering researchers seek to position the discipline to meet the needs of the future. However, before addressing future needs, it is imperative to understand the current health and international standing of the discipline.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING BASIC RESEARCH

Mechanical engineering is a discipline that encompasses a broad set of research areas. At the core of the discipline are the design, analysis, manufacturing, and control of solid, thermal and fluid mechanical systems. This now has expanded to include optoelectrical-mechanical machines, materials, structures, and micro- and nanoscale devices. Key aspects of the discipline also include heat transfer, combustion, and other energy conversion processes; solid mechanics (including fracture mechanics); fluid mechanics; biomechanics; tribology; and management and education associated with the above areas.

ROLE OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING BASIC RESEARCH IN THE U.S. ECONOMY

Mechanical engineering is critical to the design, manufacture, and operation of small and large mechanical systems throughout the U.S. economy. It is often called upon to provide scientific and technological solutions for national problems, playing a key role in the transportation, power generation, manufacturing, and aviation industries, to mention a few.

According to the NSF workshop report New Directions in Mechanical Engineering, “In terms of both research areas and education, the mechanical engineering profession has been

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New Directions in Mechanical Engineering, Report from a Workshop Organized by the Big-Ten-Plus Mechanical Engineering Department Heads, Clearwater Beach, Florida, January 25-27, 2002, and “5XME” workshop: Transforming Mechanical Engineering Education and Research in the USA, May 10-11, 2007.



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1 Introduction Like many other fields of science and engineering, mechanical engineering is facing growing uncertainty about its research competitiveness. Concerns about educating students, future employment opportunities, and the fundamental health of the discipline and industry are regular topics of discussion in the mechanical engineering community, in venues such as meetings of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or at workshops of the National Science Foundation (NSF).1 Mechanical engineering researchers seek to position the discipline to meet the needs of the future. However, before addressing future needs, it is imperative to understand the current health and international standing of the discipline. KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING BASIC RESEARCH Mechanical engineering is a discipline that encompasses a broad set of research areas. At the core of the discipline are the design, analysis, manufacturing, and control of solid, thermal and fluid mechanical systems. This now has expanded to include optoelectrical-mechanical machines, materials, structures, and micro- and nanoscale devices. Key aspects of the discipline also include heat transfer, combustion, and other energy conversion processes; solid mechanics (including fracture mechanics); fluid mechanics; biomechanics; tribology; and management and education associated with the above areas. ROLE OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING BASIC RESEARCH IN THE U.S. ECONOMY Mechanical engineering is critical to the design, manufacture, and operation of small and large mechanical systems throughout the U.S. economy. It is often called upon to provide scientific and technological solutions for national problems, playing a key role in the transportation, power generation, manufacturing, and aviation industries, to mention a few. According to the NSF workshop report New Directions in Mechanical Engineering, “In terms of both research areas and education, the mechanical engineering profession has been 1 New Directions in Mechanical Engineering, Report from a Workshop Organized by the Big-Ten-Plus Mechanical Engineering Department Heads, Clearwater Beach, Florida, January 25-27, 2002, and “5XME” workshop: Transforming Mechanical Engineering Education and Research in the USA, May 10-11, 2007. 7

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instrumental in the birth and development of industries such as nuclear and aerospace, and has been the foundation of broad-based disciplines such as industrial engineering. Mechanical engineering has played, and continues playing, a commanding role in trends that drive change in engineering.” As pointed out at a 2002 National Science Foundation workshop,2 “Today, the synergy of science and technology is producing an era of profound change. Mechanical engineering is intrinsic to this change through its impact on enabling technologies. These technologies include: micro- and nano-technologies, cellular and molecular biomechanics, information technology, and energy and environment issues.” For example, mechanical engineers are prominent in medical areas such as tissue engineering, instrumentation, prostheses, and medical devices and in energy areas such as energy conversion, hybrid power, energy storage, and utilization of alternative fuels. A mechanical engineering success story involves large reductions in pollutants from internal combustion engines and other combustion-related energy systems. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING DEFINED FOR THIS REPORT For the purposes of this report, the panel divided mechanical engineering into 11 areas, most with multiple subareas (see Box 1-1). This is not a comprehensive list, but rather provided a framework for the panel to assess the U.S. strength in modern mechanical engineering. The majority of the 11 areas have already been identified earlier in the discussion of key characteristics. Bioengineering, energy, and microelectromechanical systems and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/Nano) represent active areas of research in modern mechanical engineering. The dramatic growth in the use of computer methods for modeling and simulation of mechanical systems has had a profound impact on mechanical engineering and it has affected every area of mechanical engineering. In particular, the field of computational mechanics has become a vital component of this engineering discipline, and the panel has identified it as an independent area. 2 New Directions in Mechanical Engineering, Report from a Workshop Organized by the Big-Ten-Plus Mechanical Engineering Department Heads, Clearwater Beach, Florida, January 25-27, 2002. 8

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BOX 1-1 Areas and SubAreas of Mechanical Engineering in This Report ACOUSTICS AND DYNAMICS ENERGY SYSTEMS • Acoustics • Renewable Energy Systems and Sources • Dynamics • Energy Conversion • Energy Storage BIOENGINEERING • Nuclear Energy • Biomechanics of Auditory, Cardiovascular, Musculoskeletal, and Respiratory Systems MANUFACTURING AND COMPUTER • Constitutive Modeling of Hard and Soft AIDED MANUFACTURING (CAM) • Manufacturing Processes Tissues • Molecular and Cellular Biomechanics • Manufacturing Tools and Equipment • Functional Tissue Engineering • Manufacturing Systems • Biomaterials • Manufacturing Metrology • Manufacturing Quality COMPUTATIONAL MECHANICS • Computational Fluid Dynamics MECHANICS OF ENGINEERING • Computational Solid Mechanics MATERIALS • Computational Electromagnetics and • Nanomechanics and Nanomaterials • Durability Mechanics Electromechanical Systems • Computational Methods in Design and • Computational Materials Optimization • Experimental Mechanics • Computational Bio-Engineering • Multiscale Mechanics DESIGN AND COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN MEMS/Nano (CAD) • Fundamental Issues • Design Theory • Design and Modeling • Design Modeling and Simulation • Micro/Nano Process Technologies • Design Informatics and Environments • Micro/Nano Devices and Systems • Design Synthesis THERMAL SYSTEMS AND HEAT DYNAMIC SYSTEMS & CONTROLS TRANSFER • Modeling and Identification • Combustion • Control System Design Methodologies • Heat Transfer (Control Theories) • Fluid Mechanics • Enabling Technologies • Nano/Micro Systems • Mechatronics and Applications • Applications • Robotics and Automation TRIBOLOGY • Hydrodynamic Phenomena • Friction and Wear • Tribomaterials • Contact Mechanics and Surface Engineering • Diagnostics 9

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STUDY CAVEATS Because of the size and strength of U.S. science and engineering overall, in this report the United States is largely compared with regions, such as Europe or Asia, rather than with individual countries. On occasion, specific countries are discussed. One difficulty in carrying out this benchmarking exercise was not being able to obtain data on international human resources (such as numbers of Ph.D.’s granted by country) and funding of mechanical engineering. Thus, the panel focused mainly on U.S. human resource and funding trends and relied on general science and engineering data to make international comparisons. In addition, mechanical engineering is a highly diverse field, and mechanical engineers are employed in a broad range of industries. In some cases, mechanical engineers are not associated with mechanical engineering departments. As a result, the panel acknowledges that contributions from some individuals involved in mechanical engineering undoubtedly will not have been captured in this report. ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT The panel was instructed to perform its charge in a short time frame and with a limited budget, and followed a process similar to that established in Experiments in International Benchmarking of U.S. Research Fields,3. The group met in person once and otherwise communicated by way of teleconference or electronic mail. Thus, in order to adequately respond to its charge, the panel had to limit the scope of the benchmarking exercise to assessing the state of basic (fundamental) mechanical engineering research as determined by the open published literature, the opinions of their peers, and other sources of easily accessible information. This benchmarking exercise was conducted based on the premise that evaluating this type of more “academic” research information would give a good estimate of the quality and quantity of fundamental research being conducted, which could in turn be used as an indicator of the competitiveness of overall U.S. mechanical engineering research. Thus, this exercise in no way presents a complete picture of the research activity in the field—particularly the industrial component. The quantitative and qualitative measures employed to compare U.S. mechanical engineering with that in other nations included analysis of journal publications (numbers of papers, citations of papers, and most-cited papers), utilizing such sources as Thompson ISI Essential Science Indicators and Scopus. In addition, the panel asked leading experts from the United States and abroad to identify the "best of the best" whom they would invite to an international conference in their subfield. The national makeup of these “virtual congresses” provides qualitative information on leadership in mechanical engineering. The panel also examined trends in the numbers of degrees, employment, and research funding of U.S. mechanical engineering, relying heavily upon NSF Science and Engineering (S&E) Indicators 2006 and earlier years. The outline of this report is as follows: Chapter 2 responds to the first question of the panel’s charge and details the panel’s assessment of the current standing of the United States in 3 Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 2000, Experiments in International Benchmarking of U.S. Research Fields, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 10

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the 11 areas of mechanical engineering. Chapter 3 addresses the second question of the charge and identifies the key determinants of leadership in the field. Chapter 4 addresses the third part of the charge, assimilating past leadership determinants and current benchmarking results to predict future U.S. leadership. 11

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