The CECD Fellows Program
The CECD Fellows Program was established in 2016, with three awards to Mechanical Engineering graduate students for 2017.
An Alternate Fracking Method
David Horst, 2016/17 CECD Fellow
(Advisor W. L. Fourney)
With the recent find of large reserves of natural gas in the United States and the ability to do horizontal drilling, it is anticipated that the US can become energy independent over the next few years. The fuel of choice will have to be natural gas – not gasoline. To extract the gas from these reservoirs requires that once drilling has been completed the well bore must be fractured. This means creating fractures that are as long as possible emanating from the wellbore out into the rock that contains the gas. At the current time this is accomplished by hydraulic fracturing. This process normally starts by utilizing perforating tools to not only crack the concrete lining of the wellbore but to also create fractures at the wellbore rock interface. A viscous polymer is then forced into the wellbore under pressure, and an acid is pumped into the borehole to etch the fractures. In many cases the process also requires injecting water at high pressures into the borehole, which contains sand particles (a proppant) that hopefully will hold the fractures open so that the gas can travel back into the wellbore and be produced. This water with the sand suspended must also be extracted and discarded, along with the acid and polymer used in the process.
As a result of this process, hydraulic fracturing has met with a lot of opposition and in some states it is not permitted to be used. The discarding of all of the fluids used in the fracking process causes ground water contamination, as well as very frequent small earthquakes, due to the fluids lubricating the subsurface rock masses and causing them to slide on one another.
We are working on an alternate way of fracking wells with the use of explosives. Our explosive fracturing device will contain explosive and water in a tube that will be inserted in the wellbore. It will also contain two or more hardened steel wedges that will be thrown out against the wellbore to create the fractures in a direction that we want them to begin propagating.
Tactile Sensing for Breast Cancer Detection
Yonatan Saadon, 2016/17 CECD Fellow
(Advisors E. Smela, H. Bruck, M. Yu)
Nearly 1.7 million new breast cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide in 2012. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), WHO, “The rate of rise of breast cancer in India is so rampant, that if we do not act now, we are in for a major shock in the next twenty years”. Developing low-cost solutions that can be used by untrained personnel for early diagnosis of breast cancer can improve survival in developing nations. Based on our ongoing work on piezoresistive tactile sensors, we are developing a new system to perform automated palpation for detecting breast tumors, addressing the issues of lack of trained medical personnel. In the long run, our proposed device would produce a digital image of tumor location, depth, and size that can be sent via cellphone for analysis by a physician.