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Assistant Professor Nicholas Wierschem and CEE Graduate Student Publish Two Research Papers on Rotational Inertia Dampers

CEE graduate student Abdollah Javidialesaadi and assistant professor Nicholas Wierschem recently published two papers – one in Engineering Structures and one in the Journal of Vibration and Acoustics – about vibration control using tuned mass dampers enhanced with rotational inertia dampers. These papers investigate the closed-formed optimization of these devices and propose a new more effective configuration.

Rotational inertia dampers have been used for vibration reduction of Formula 1 racing cars. These dampers utilize an inerter that transfers translational motion to the localized rotational motion of a flywheel, which can provide large mass effects despite their relatively small size. Recently, these devices have been studied for passive control in structural engineering. These types of devices can be used for protecting civil structures by reducing their vibration during various types of excitation such as wind and earthquakes.

“We feel excited about the progress we are making and the contribution to the field of structural engineering and structural control,” said Wierschem. “These rotational inertia devices have a lot of potential and can help us protect structures more efficiently against wind and earthquake in the future.”

CE 481 Creates Preliminary Designs for CEC’s project with the Knoxville Zoo for the Elephant Exhibit

CE 481 is the Environmental Engineering II class focused on Water and Wastewater Engineering. The students learn how to design water and wastewater treatment processes for municipal and industrial waters. This year, a unique project appeared for James Tomiczek and Ivan Cooper at CEC, a civil and environmental consulting company in Knoxville.

The Knoxville Zoo needed to restructure the way water is provided to and disposed of for the elephant bathing, drinking and playing ponds. Department head Chris Cox set up a meeting, and after approval from Lisa New, President and CEO of Knoxville Zoo, my class got to work.

First they began doing research on Elephant enclosures. Before the students began doing design work, they had the opportunity to do a behind the scenes tour of the elephant enclosure to look at the pond and get a better understanding of the project. While at the zoo, they also got to see the water/wastewater treatment techniques for the new Tiger and Gibbon exhibits, and the Beaver exhibit. They were all very excited to get a look at multiple treatment techniques currently employed by the Zoo.

The class was divided into three groups of five and were only given very basic information. A water sample from the pond was also processed by the CE 482 class, Environmental Engineering Lab, which all students in CE 481 take concurrently. This allowed them to get an idea of the water quality that they would need to treat and provided additional real-world applications to this project. This is a real design project that CEC will begin designing within the year in conjunction with the Knoxville Zoo. We were able to provide CEC with some preliminary ideas for their future design choices that will likely be made within the year. The students presented their final designs to CEC on April 26, 2018.

This project would not have been possible without the help of CEC’s James Tomiczek and Ivan Cooper, CEE Department Head Chris Cox, and Knoxville Zoo’s Lisa New and Shane Chester. The students were very excited to have a real-life problem to use for design work, and greatly appreciate the opportunity provided to them.

By Kristen Wyckoff, Lecturer

Senior Design Showcases Hands-On Community Engagement

The CE400 capstone Senior design course provides a comprehensive, team oriented, design experience in which students apply their acquired knowledge and skills toward the solution of an actual problem faced by a local community.

The projects often incorporate the knowledge base of students across different focus areas within the CEE department and require students to find solutions to real-world problems facing communities that have higher stakes than in the classroom.

The Spring 2018 class wrapped up the semester by showcasing the results of their projects that ranged from renovating an old railroad bed into public recreation space  to fixing drainage issues on roadways. Best overall went to the team that did a proposal for expanding the Greenway in the City of Maryville. Congratulations to all nine teams for excellent work!


CEE Announces Graduate Student Tennessee Fellow to Join the Department

CEE announces that Victoria Rexhausen will be joining the department as a Tennessee Fellow. The Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence is the signature graduate fellowship program at the University of Tennessee offered to top incoming doctoral and terminal-degree students. Tennessee Fellows are among an elite group of the nation’s top graduate students who have chosen the University of Tennessee for their graduate education.

Rexhausen will be graduating with honors from Mercer University with a bachelors in science and engineering in Environmental Engineering in May 2018. In August 2018, she will be joining Hathaway Research Group in pursuit of a PhD in Tickle College of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a specialization in Environmental Engineering.

“I believe my research experience is what made me competitive for receiving the fellowship, especially earning the EPA P3 award/funding,” says Rexhausen.

Victoria’s undergraduate research career included work on an at-home Gray water treatment system for sustainable home irrigation. Her work on this project included leading a student team to apply and earn the EPA P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) award. Phase I of this award included a $15,000 grant for continuing research, as well as the opportunity to present the work at the 14th annual National Sustainable Design Expo at the U.S. Science and Engineering Fair in April 2018. Other research projects Victoria has worked on include geospatial air quality monitoring/mapping in Ecuador, design/build/test of a residential scale anaerobic digester for converting food waste to biofuel, and indoor air quality assessment in relation to COPD patients at the University of Washington Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences department. Victoria is excited to continue research at the University of Tennessee, and is incredibly humbled to be recognized as a Tennessee Fellow.

CEE professor Dayakar Penumadu to Lead Joint Investigation with Oak Ridge National Lab and RMX Technologies

CEE professor Dayakar Penumadu, who holds a Fred N. Peebles Professorship in the College of Engineering, will serve as a lead investigator of a joint effort at the University of Tennessee leveraging significant resources for this project through the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) and Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) laboratories.

Read the full press release here.

CEE Associate Professor Chris Cherry’s E-Bike Survey

CEE Associate Professor Chris Cherry and Portland State University research associate John MacArthur  published an e-bike survey funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities that has been cited by Bicycle Retailer and The Washington Post.

The survey of nearly 1,800 e-bike users in the U.S. and Canada identified some emerging trends among users, most notably that having access to an e-bike can overcome many barriers to biking. Common barriers include hills, lengthy distances and not wanting to arrive at destinations sweaty. Respondents also reported being able to transport children by bike more easily, and reported that they also felt safer on e-bikes.

Washington Post

As e-biking grows, U.S. cities consider easing rules on where the machines may be used

Bicycle Retailer

Survey says: E-biek users love the things … and use them often

Professor Khalid Alshibli and Former Students Awarded ASCE’s J. James R. Croes Medal for Research Paper

Professor Khalid Alshibli, along with his former graduate students Maha Jarrar (MS, 2016) and Andrew Druckrey (PhD, 2016) and Collaborator Dr. Riyadh Al-Raoush, Qatar University won ASCE’s J. James R. Croes Medal for their paper “Influence of Particle Morphology on 3D Kinematic Behavior and Strain Localization of Sheared Sand” published in the February 2017 issue of ASCE’s Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. The research is funded by NSF.

Granular materials can be natural materials such as sand, aggregates, gravel, coffee beans, and agriculture grains or manufactured materials such as pills, beads, food

and pharmaceutical products. The behavior of sand as a foundation for a structure or processing and handling of manufactured granular materials (e.g., efficient flow of pills on production conveyer or behavior of grains in a silo) are examples of processes that require a fundamental understanding of engineering properties of granular


Particle-to-particle interaction plays a major role in understanding the behavior of a larger mass of granular materials. Surface texture, shape of surface corners, and overall shape of a particle describe particle morphology properties that can be used to classify particles as

spherical with rounded corners, non-spherical with sharp corners, angular, etc. A mass of granular material may fail along a shear band that has a certain orientation and thickness depending on the applied stresses, boundary conditions, and properties of the material. Knowing the onset and propagation of a shear band is critical for predicting the failure mode of granular materials which impacts the design and performance of structures that interact with granular materials.

Professor Alshibli’s research answered fundamental questions about intrinsic particle properties that affect friction and dilatancy properties of granular materials, and this increased understanding will spur the development of new theories dealing with predicting the engineering behavior of granular materials. The results can be used to develop models capable of accurate prediction of the behavior of granular materials which will result in a more economical design of structures supported on granular materials and efficient development and performance of systems that handle and process granular materials.

“Congratulations to Dr. Alshibli and the Research Team on this award,” said Druckrey. “It was an honor to work on this research with the team and am delighted to see it being recognized on this scale!”

Maha Jarrar added: “I am really excited that we won the award! It was both challenging and rewarding to be part of the research team, and it feels great that our hard work paid off”

“It is a great honor to recognize the quality of our research in a very competitive process and win this award,” said Alshibli.

More information about Professor Alshibli’s research can be found in

Water Research Breakthrough Nets Papanicolaou Einstein Award

Swimmers, tubers, and boaters often have the same question when they are in or around the water: What, exactly, is down there?

While a silted creek might not prevent someone from enjoying a day in the sun, it’s a different case for those whose jobs depend on knowing what lies beneath.

UT’s Henry Goodrich Chair of Excellence Thanos Papanicolaou has helped solve that riddle by developing a way to allow researchers to see underwater sediment and predict its likelihood for mobility.

Read more here.


CEE Transportation Engineering professor Chris Cherry Speaks at Africa Clean Mobility Week Conference

CEE Transportation Engineering professor Chris Cherry recently spoke at the Africa Clean Mobility Week Conference, March 12-16, by the UN Environment Program in Nairobi, Kenya. The subject of his talk was about policy opportunities to electrify motorcycles to reduce air pollution in African cities, learning from Asian experiences.

“As African nations motorize in an era of rapidly advancing technologies, there are great opportunities to leap-frog conventional transportation fuels and technologies and skip some of the growing pains that other countries have faced,” said Cherry. “I’m fortunate to help bridge policy and technology development to advance sustainable mobility in this region.”

The Africa Clean Mobility Week provides a platform for participants to discuss cleaner mobility and its impacts on health, environment and economic growth in Africa.


CEE Graduate Student Presents at Unisense Workshop in Denmark

CEE environmental engineering graduate student Yongchao Xie  presented at a Unisense workshop in Aarhus, Denmark, March 14-16. Unisense is a world leading manufacturer of microsensors and instrumentation for microscale measurements in the medical and environmental fields. Xie presented his experience designing a bioreactor that could monitor denitrifying microorganism activity by measuring nitrogen oxide with Unisense microsensor/electrodes.

The workshop covered  the following areas: 1) Introduction and theory behind microsensor and application; 2) Scientific presentations by workshop participants and guest speakers; 3) Tour of facility and production; 4) Demonstration of Unisense  sensors, instruments and software; and 5) Hands-on training and experimental work.

“This workshop gave me a better theoretical understanding about using electrochemical methods to explore microbial/environmental problems,” he said. “Another precise system will be built up in Dr.Loeffler’s lab for deeper exploration of nitrogen oxide turnover in the environmental system.”

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