MTRAC Transportation Awardees

Year 3 Projects

Solid-State Batteries (Alumni Team) 

30275192182_79ddeeba86_o-1-attachmentSolid state batteries (SSB) in thin-film formats have been demonstrated and are in various stages of commercialization. Despite attractive features, the development of a bulk scale SSB product has not been demonstrated. The primary challenge associated with SSB is the development of new manufacturing techniques for SSB at a bulk scale. The Sakamoto group at the University of Michigan was the first group in the United States to work on this class of materials and has been performing fundamental research for the past 7 years. Recent technical progress has indicated that bulk scale ceramics processing of these materials is feasible and is under development in an ARPA-E award from the Department of Energy. This MTRAC project aims to map the energy/power capabilities of these batteries and validate the ability to meet requirements of potential early customers.   


Transparent Heads-up Automobile Display 

Advances in automobile technology has raised a crucial issue on how drivers interact with the technology in a natural and non-distracted way.  With the addition of on-board sensors, cameras, and vehicle-to-vehicle infrastructure communications, the amount of information that could be presented to the driver has increased significantly.  At the same time, the development of autonomous and partially-autonomous vehicles can radically change what the driver and the passengers need to see. This need has led to the idea of using the car window as a display panel to display the information. Unfortunately, displays developed to date cannot satisfy the requirement, and those on the market have not provided the desired image quality and their usefulness is limited. A U-M team will develop transparent display technology to address this need. The technology can also be used elsewhere, e.g. digital signage at shopping malls, airports and many other places.


Automated Ergonomic Risk Assessment System for Manual Workers

29760058553_5d27fe35f1_o-attachmentManual workers involved in physically demanding labor with awkward postures or repetitive manual handling tasks suffer from ergonomic injuries such as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). For example, automobile manufacturing is one of the top industry sectors that show high WMSD injury rates. Manual observation-based ergonomic checklists such as OWAS, RULA, REBA, and company-created ones, all of which are based on posture, are among the most widely used methods to assess ergonomic risks. However, because these methods rely on human observations, they are time-consuming and subjective, which makes them difficult to apply to real job sites. To address these issues, we have developed a computer vision-based posture analysis approach that can quantitatively evaluate the level of ergonomic risks that workers face at job sites. Our algorithms are designed to automatically identify excessive postural stresses by processing video images on workers, and thus to quantitatively evaluate the level of ergonomic risks while performing tasks.


Your Own Planner

Each month, over 180M people book their travels online amounting a +$150B/year market that is expected to grow at a rate of 12% a year. Existing travel engines, however, leave the logistical details to travelers. YOWP is the next generation of travel engines that takes care of all the logistics for you, so you can spend less time worrying about your trip and more time enjoying it.

CNC Knitting Technology 


This research proposes the development of design and manufacturing processes for the use of CNC knitting technology and consolidation in the production of textile-based composite materials for both structural and non-structural components of automobiles and other vehicles. Such technology will allow for manufacturers in the various facets of component production to produce extremely lightweight textile-reinforced composite materials, reducing overall vehicle weight in order to improve fuel efficiency.


Year 2 Projects

Elegus Technologies
Ultra-strong ion-conducting separators

A new generation of high capacity, high discharge rate batteries requires battery separators capable of withstanding harsh operating conditions (i.e. high currents). Elegus Technologies is commercializing an aramid-based, ultra-strong battery separator made from high-performance nanoscale fibers developed at the University of Michigan.

dsc_1826_23627991179_o-attachmentThe patent-pending process is based on the transformation of macroscale aramid threads into membranes with a pore range of 5-50 nm. As a result, the separator increases temperature resilience, which allows for the ability to withstand thermal instabilities at high charge/discharge rates. Moreover, the highly competitive mechanical strength has been shown to prevent dendrite-related shorts and decreases in capacities. The membranes satisfy the requirements of multiple energy storage technologies including lithium-ion batteries, lithium-sulfur batteries, lithium-air batteries, thin film batteries, and more. Elegus’ novel material processing allows for competitive pricing, and the process is amenable to high volume, roll-to-roll manufacturing.


Bendable Concrete Rail Ties

Hdsc_1659_23887721782_o-attachmentistorically, rail ties were made of wood planks that the rails would rest on. Over time, the tendency to rot and infestation by termites, limited the performance of the rails. Chemical treatments were used to control rotting, but environmental concerns and the limited supply of quality wood caused the rail industry to move to pre-stressed concrete over the past couple of decades. Pre-stressed concrete is hardened concrete forced into compression by a tensioned steel wire or strand. Prestressing is typically performed in the tie manufacturing plant and is meant to prevent brittle concrete from cracking. Unfortunately, cracking of concrete has since plagued the railroad industry.  Corrosion of prestressing wires or strands is often observed after the concrete cracks.

Victor Li’s lab is developing and commercializing a new type of concrete tie that solves the cracking problem of normal concrete.  The proposed durable concrete tie is based on an innovative materials technology invented by Victor’s research group at U-M Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC), popularly known as “bendable concrete”.  While normal concrete is brittle and relies on reinforcing steel or prestressing steel to carry tensile forces, ECC is ductile and behaves like a ductile metal when overloaded. In other words, ECC deforms elastic-plastically suppressing brittle fracture, without the need for steel reinforcement or prestressing. Furthermore, the durable rail-tie utilizes a self-healing version of ECC that essentially eliminates even micro-cracks by an automatic process that requires only air and water (rain).

Solid-State Batteries 

The EV Everywhere Grand Challenge requires a breakthrough in energy storage dsc_1616_23367810484_o-attachmenttechnology. State-of-the-art Li-ion technology is currently used in low volume production plug-in hybrid and niche high performance vehicles; however, widespread adoption of electrified powertrains requires 25% lower cost, 4x higher performance, and safer batteries without the possibility of fire. One approach is to develop solid-state battery (SSB) technology. SSB offer the promise of 3 – 4x the energy density (compared to the State-of-the-art Li-ion) at a reduction in the pack cost of 20%. Despite these attractive features, the fabrication and testing of SSB for EVs has not been demonstrated.

Jeff Sakamoto and Travis Thompson will design, fabricate, and demonstrate a SSB based on an oriented cathode joined to a LLZO solid.

Olson, Eustice AirMetrics-attachment

AirMetrics Analytics

AirMetrics Analytics is developing an automated ultrasound inspection system that will provide comprehensive Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic airframe inspection, data management, and analytics. It will allow plane owners to decrease downtime by 80% over current inspection methods, inspect every square millimeter, and compare and analyze the data over time.


Enertia Microsystems
Small, accurate angular orientation sensor for motion and position sensing

Khalil Najafi and Jaeyoong Cho are developing an ultra-high precision, millimeter-scale dsc_1832_23367612044_o-attachmentMicro Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) gyroscope, called the Birdbath Resonator Gyroscope (BRG). A gyroscope is a sensor for measuring rotation rates and orientations.  Gyroscopes with higher accuracy (navigation grade accuracy) are required to enable more advanced vehicles applications, such as self-navigation, but gyroscopes with such high accuracy are very expensive ($10,000+).

Under a $2.5 million DARPA research project, the BRG is a navigation-grade MEMS gyroscope with a similar price to current MEMS gyroscopes. This technology has enough accuracy to allow cars to self-navigate without relying on Global Positioning System (GPS) signals and with a positional error of less than 10 centimeters. This meets the government’s transportation safety requirement for collision avoidance and would dramatically improve driver’s safety.

Building Blocks for high performance computing in the automotive industry

There is an emerging trend in the auto industry to increase the computational power in the vehicle to enable lower fuel consumption, advanced safety features, integrated infotainment systems, and smart assistance. While there are several high performance systems that can meet these requirements, one of the biggest challenges is programming these systems for hundreds of cores. Hardware specific knowledge and optimization are required to fully utilize these multicore systems, and it forces system builders to be dependent on a specific hardware vendor. Furthermore, the software development cycle increases drastically due to the complexity involved in programming for multicore systems.

To mitigate these challenges, Parabricks is a software solution that can be used by non-expert programmers to run highly optimized parallel programs on multicore systems. With this technology, the programmer only needs to focus on the implementation of his algorithm, rather than focusing on understanding low-level hardware details and tedious performance optimizations.


There is a critical need to develop ice-resistant or ice-phobic coatings for a range of applications i.e. automobiles, naval vehicles, aircrafts, wind turbines, refrigeration, power-lines, satellite dishes, off-shore oil drilling platforms, etcetera. Market size exceeds $200 million/year within North America.

Professor Anish Tuteja’s group is developing a durable and transparent icephobic coating that can be used to eliminate ice adhesion on an automobile’s body or windshield. They will perform additional durability tests to ascertain the long-term performance of the developed coatings, build an automated spray-coating setup to reproducibly apply the coating, and analyze the large-scale commercialization potential.

Year 1 Projects


Ultra-low power timing circuit for auto applications

The average economy sedan employs up to 50 embedded processors, while a BMW 7 series engages more than 100.  As the connected car market becomes a reality, this number is expected to grow exponentially. Currently, each embedded processor requires a stable clock signal, which is an external component on the printed circuit board. As the number of embedded processors in vehicles increases, the size, weight, power and cost of the chip must be considered in the design of vehicles. Therefore, there’s a need for lower power, small form factor, and low cost electronics.

The inventors, Muhammad Faisal and David Wentzloff, are developing a new design methodology and innovative digital architectures for clock generators. These architectures will be implemented using digital design tools, resulting in a 5x reduction in design time and 15x in the silicone area. This will lead to lower costs and a reduction in the number of power clock generators.

Bamboo Fiber Composite Sheets

Lightweight composite materials are viewed as important solutions in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions, but glass and carbon fibers used in composites are costly to produce and extremely energy intensive. The U.S. Department of Energy has established a National Manufacturing Innovation Initiative to produce composites that are 25% to 75% lower in cost, 50% lower in embodied energy and 80% more recyclable. However, the roadmap to achieve these goals is extremely difficult and requires overcoming some huge hurdles.

U-M Professor Jack Hu and Research Associate Professor Michaela Banu are developing processing methods to efficiently extract high strength bamboo fibers from raw bamboo.  Bamboo is of significant value to both the producer and the consumer. Key markets and applications with the biggest pain in this area are automotive, commercial furniture, and sporting goods.


Secure in-vehicle communication

Automotive cyber security issues have emerged as information technologies are increasingly deployed in modern vehicles. Security researchers have already demonstrated the associated threats and risks with in-vehicle communication. Although many security protocols have been proposed, the threats posed by denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and external connectivity vulnerabilities have not been considered.

To alleviate this problem, Kang Shin, Andrew Weimerskirch, and Kyusuk Han, are proposing a new, secure in-vehicle communication protocol, called “ID-Anonymization for CAN (IA-CAN).” The technology protects against DoS attacks and provides a secure channel between in-vehicle components and external devices for advanced connected vehicle applications.

Power Split Hybrid Powertrains

Manufacturers around the world are facing the issue of tightening fuel-economy standards. Non-hybrid vehicle designs continue to struggle to meet these standards. The Power Split Hybrid Powertrain software technology enables a computationally efficient evaluation of every (>1,000,000) hybrid powertrain architecture based on an OEM’s vehicle attributes.

The resulting optimized design allows an OEM or Tier 1 to find the best architecture, and rules out patented designs.