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The Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering (D-MAVT) is divided into eight institutes and five single professorships.

Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Design, Materials and Fabrication details of research

Institute's website will follow

Institute of Energy Technology details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Fluid Dynamics details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Mechanical Systems details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Process Engineering details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems details of research

to the Institute's website

Institute of Virtual Manufacturing details of research

to the Institute's website

Chair of Micro and Nanosystems details of research

to the Chair's website

Computational Science and Engineering Laboratory details of research

to the Laboratory's website

Nanotechnology Group details of research

to the Group's website



Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control

Complex dynamic systems are everywhere. Whether engineered – such as autonomous robots, hybrid vehicles, turbines and “smart” buildings – or natural – such as climate systems and the human brain –, complex dynamic systems involve the interplay of many interconnected processes, and are characterized by continual change. Given the prevalence of these systems, and their influence on our lives, it is important that we understand how these systems work, how they respond to change, and how they can be controlled. Yet because of their complexity, the behavior of these systems is difficult to predict, as it may involve processes that span many disciplines that are constantly affected by, and reacting to, one another.

Building on first principles in mathematics and physics, the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control brings a model-based approach to understanding complex dynamic systems. By connecting system theory with aspects of mechanics, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, fluid dynamics, information and computer science, and communication technology, we are able to address a wide range of environmental, commercial, social, biomedical and experimental design challenges. Our projects include the Monta Rosa Hut (an energy efficient “smart” house located in the Swiss Alps), hybrid-electro and hybrid-pneumatic engines, autonomous flying vehicles that dance and play badminton, an internet-based network that allows robots to share information and learn from each other, and a shunt that monitors and controls cerebrospinal fluid in patients with brain trauma. Though our projects are diverse, optimization and efficiency are central to each of these challenging control problems.


Institute of Design, Materials and Fabrication

The Institute of Design, Materials and Fabrication (IDMF) focuses on Engineering Design as a fundamental discipline within Mechanical Engineering, which includes the development and integration of novel material systems, design methodology, methods and tools that lead to innovative technical solutions and their integration with novel fabrication processes. IDMF will develop new synergies in research and industrial collaboration as well as in the Engineering Design education at MAVT.

The Laboratory of Composite Materials and Adaptive Structures develops material systems with adjustable mechanical properties to realize higher quality lightweight structures with integrated functionalities. Examples can be found in the area of deformable aerodynamic structures and active vibration damping in aircraft and automobile components.

The Product Development Group Zurich focuses on the control and modeling of complex innovations and development processes. Mirko Meboldt is interested in human-centered product development. The emphases of his research are on innovative possibilities and quality development based on early prototypes and ongoing validation of efficient product development processes and successful products.

The Engineering Design and Computing Laboratory develops cutting-edge computational models, methods and tools that enable the design of more innovative and complex engineered systems and products. A secondary aim of the research is to automate design and fabrication processes. The research is interdisciplinary combining engineering, design and computing and considers early conceptual design phases through to the fabrication of novel solutions. Current research topics include computational design synthesis and optimization, model-based systems engineering and design-to-fabrication, the latter of which aims to capitalize on new fabrication capabilities in design. A variety of engineering areas are investigated in the research including structures, MEMS, mechatronics, robotics and fabrication processes that are relevant for a wide range of industries including automotive, aerospace, consumer products, manufacturing and buildings. The group carries out both basic scientific research and applied research in collaboration with industry.


Institute of Energy Technology

The Institute of Energy Technology concentrates on sustainable energy systems, which are ecologically friendly, cost-efficient, socially acceptable, reliable and secure. This involves three process types: Firstly, to generate energy materials are allowed to react with one another in a controlled manner. Secondly, the dynamic fluid behavior of materials often has a significant influence on the efficiency of the energy conversion – here there is still significant room for improvements to be made. Thirdly, heat has to be derived, as a main or a by-product, for example in the emergency cooling of nuclear reactors. Research on different combinations of reactions, flow and heat transport and their interaction in energy systems is the common characteristic of the institute's laboratories.

The Laboratory of Energy Conversion carries out research on cooling and thermal management, improves the efficiency of turbomachines, minimizes the high-cycle fatigue failure of compressors, enhances the performance and reliability of wind energy and suppresses aircraft noise. It investigates laser produced plasma source (EUV) for the semiconductor industry of tomorrow and develops novel measurement techniques.

The Aerothermochemistry and Combustion Systems Laboratory aims at developing future combustion systems with “Zero”-pollutant emissions potential with applications in transportation, marine propulsion systems, and decentralized co-generation. Focal Areas are biogenic/synthetic fuels as well as combustion process in the context of partially-electrified powertrains. In basic research work involves both laseroptical experiments as well as advanced Computational Reactive Fluid Dynamics with Emphasis on Large-Eddy- and Direct Numerical Simulations on High-Performance Computing Architectures.

Prof. Karlin's research is devoted to advanced and novel methods in computational fluid dynamics. His expertise covers methods of model reduction (Method of Invariant Manifold) and has applications in kinetic theory and the Boltzmann equation, polymer dynamics, and complex chemical kinetics. He was a key developer of the lattice Boltzmann method for fluid dynamics and micro-flow of rarefied gas. He is the inventor of the unconditionally stable ELBM, which opened the door to the high-performance computation of turbulent flows.

Research at the Laboratory of Energy Science and Engineering is aimed at applying a fundamental understanding in the fields of chemical and mechanical engineering, material science and catalysis, together with appropriate mathematical modelling, to the challenge of the sustainable production of fuels and electricity. The research topics of the laboratory include CO2 capture, hydrogen production, biomass conversion and the numerical and experimental study of single- and two-phase particulate systems.

The research carried out at the Laboratory of Combustion and Acoustics for Power Systems deals with reactive and non-reactive flow dynamics, flow-induced vibrations control and thermoacoustics. These activities aim at addressing the fundamental and practical problems that are relevant for the development of new workable, reliable, efficient and sustainable solutions in Energy and Transport sectors. The research is based on three core competencies: dedicated combustion and acoustic experimental facilities, theoretical modeling and numerical simulations using compressible reactive “Large Eddy Simulation” solvers.

The Nanoscience for Energy Technology and Sustainability group research is centered around nanoscience of carbon nanotubes and graphene for energy- and clean technologies applications. These nanomaterials pose unique properties including very fast mass transport of molecules under extreme confinement commensurable with the molecules’ own sizes. Membrane that employs such unique mass transport phenomena under graphitic nanoconfinement can realize a wide range of applications from energy-efficient seawater desalination to gas separation for mitigation of greenhouse gas emission and to energy harvesting and storage. On top of exploring this unique nanoscience and nurturing a new academic discipline of Carbon Nanofluidics, the group is interested in rational engineering design useful for photovoltaics and plasmonics studies.

The Laboratory of Thermodynamics in Emerging Technologies focuses its current research on the area thermodynamics of interfacial and transport phenomena and energy in emerging technologies and materials, aiming at understanding and integrating the physics at micro- and nanoscales to innovative engineering technologies. Specific examples of application areas are energy conversion and transport (novel concepts for solar cells and fuel cells), energy efficient, printed nanoelectronics, chip/transistor cooling for energy efficient high performance computing, and the rational, science-based design of functional surfaces for heat and fluid transport, such as super-icephobic surfaces. The laboratory is also performing biological thermofluidics research exemplified by developing nanostructured device surfaces for controlled cell growth and transport under realistic flow conditions.

The Laboratory of Nuclear Energy Systems carries out research on fluid dynamics in nuclear reactors to improve security and efficiency. Novel methods of flow control can optimize heat removal and therefore save fuel. Furthermore, reliable cooling is essential for security.

Research in the Laboratory of Reliability and Risk Engineering is aimed at the development of innovative techniques and hybrid analytical and computational tools suitable for analyzing and simulating failure behavior of engineered complex systems. We aim to estimate and quantitatively define reliability, vulnerability and risk within these systems. We focus on highly integrated energy supply, energy supply with high penetrations of renewable energy sources, communication, transport, and other physically networked critical infrastructures that provide vital social services. Our main research areas include: vulnerability analysis of interdependent infrastructures, e.g. Smart Grid communication networks; evaluation and development of protective measures against propagation of failure cascades in engineered complex systems; quantification and propagation of the uncertainty in electric systems.

The Professorship of Renewable Energy Carriers performs R&D aimed at the advancement of the thermal and thermochemical engineering sciences applied to renewable energy technologies. The research focus is in high-temperature heat/mass transfer phenomena and multi-phase reacting flows, with applications in solar power, fuels, and materials production, decarbonization processes, and CO2 capture, mitigation, and conversion to transportation fuels. The unique solar concentrating facilities and the synergy with the PSI’s Solar Technology Laboratory enable the pursuit of highly innovative projects towards clean and sustainable energy technologies.



Institute of Fluid Dynamics

The field of Fluid Dynamics is concerned with fundamental questions in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology and at the same time is an essential part of many different applications, products and processes. It is of huge significance for aerodynamics (e.g. cars, trains, ships, planes), energy technology (turbo machinery, combustion engines, wind turbines) and for environmental and earth sciences (oceanography, meteorology, hydrology), and is continually expanding as a result of interdisciplinary applications e.g. in biology, medical, micro and nanoscale engineering.

The two main emphases within the Institute of Fluid Dynamics are on the development of experimental methods and on computational simulation techniques. Both are relevant in many technical applications, for example in the reduction of jet noise, advanced film cooling of turbine blades, the hypersonic re-entry flight, clean combustion and improving the aerodynamics of vehicles and planes. Furthermore, scenarios like fire catastrophes in road tunnels and environmental questions in connection with carbon dioxide storage and oil exploration are examined.

The connection between experimental and computational studies has also proved to be successful in biomedical applications. This can be seen in the study of alveolar micro-flows in the human lung, diseases of the inner ear, the dynamic behavior of artificial heart valves or blood circulation in the brain.


Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing

The Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing conducts research into manufacturing processes and production machinery as well as into questions of manufacturing organization. The Institute also develops analytical methods in these areas, including instrumented test stations and various computational and analytical models.

Research into machine tools concentrates on the optimization of their accuracy, as well as on efficiency improvements. The Institute develops compensation algorithms, which are based upon finite element models or analytical models. For the compensation of thermal displacements, a reduced real time FE-model is used for control, which predicts relative TCP shifts and uses these to modify the positioning of the axes. The result is a very energy efficient improvement in machine performance as compared to climatisation. Further work is being carried out in the areas of compensation methods for dynamic errors; the development of measurement and calibration strategies for machine tools; the enhancement of path and speed planning, as well as axis regulation. The development of modern machine design and construction methods and the use of new materials are also included in the research program.

The Institute also carries out research into various additional manufacturing processes and takes advantage of synergies between these processes. The focus is always on better understanding of the processes and enlarging the limits of their applications in the areas of materials, accuracy, quality and improved efficiency. Instrumented test rigs for the processes exist at the Institute and are continuously improved. The development of process models and the simulative description of the processes are further areas on which research is focused. The processes in research are: machining with geometrically defined and undefined cutting edges; material processing with lasers; electro erosion and additive processing with SLM and SLS. Erosive and laser-assisted solutions for cutting are synergistically explored.

At the Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing virtual reality methods and tools for analysis and visualization of manufacturing processes and production facilities are developed. Machines and equipment need to be emulated as realistic as possible for the planning process. The aim is furthermore to model sequential decision-making processes and to show the consequences of decisions on the behavior of the systems in order to improve them.

The Institute cooperates closely with industry. Most research subjects have an industrial trigger and the results will be transferred to industry and implemented there.



Institute of Mechanical Systems

Mechanics is a fundamental area of science and is concerned with the movements and deformations of objects under the effects of forces. The former Institute of Mechanics has developed in the last 30 years from a mainly theoretically oriented Institute to a competence center for many fields of mechanics: With ever more powerful computers and more efficient algorithms it is possible today to perform calculations relating to bigger and more complex systems (multi-body dynamics, finite element method). New possibilities arise from modern experimental methods, as well as new processes and technologies for fiber composites, micro and nanosystems, adaptive materials and intelligent structures.

Research within the Institute of Mechanical Systems focuses among other things in the simulation of multi-body systems, in the characterization of biological tissues, in micro and nanosystem technologies, in the manipulation of micro particles by optimized fluid structure interaction, and in material characterization through vibrations and ultrasound. Applied questions like the curve squealing of rail vehicles, the fatigue of turbine components or dynamic viscometry are also central.




Institute of Process Engineering

The Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) applies scientific and engineering principles to develop economically optimized and environmentally responsible processes that are broadly applicable to modern technology. Its research portfolio includes projects in the areas of advanced materials, climate change, food and pharmaceuticals, and sustainable energy systems. The four laboratories in IPE house efforts in design, fabrication, experimental measurements, and computational simulations to address specific problems related to a variety of applications.

The vision of the Separations and Processes Laboratory (SPL) is “to develop efficient, safe, and sustainable processes for high-quality products and environmentally responsible systems”. Its mission is to educate future engineers and scientists, trained in the science and engineering of economically optimized and environmentally beneficial separation processes, by carrying out cutting edge research. SPL research deals with adsorption-based separations and chromatography, and with crystallization processes. Applications are in the purification of biopharmaceuticals, in the production of populations of crystals of controlled particle size and shape distributions, and in carbon dioxide capture and storage systems.

The Optical Materials Engineering Laboratory (OMEL) utilizes nanotechnology to create and investigate advanced materials. By tailoring the size, shape, or periodicity of a solid, one can create optical properties not observed in any natural material. While sophisticated processes developed by the semiconductor industry are utilized for fabrication, OMEL also seeks simpler strategies, e.g., self-assembly. In addition to studying fundamental properties of the resulting materials, OMEL explores their use in new optoelectronic devices, including improved solar energy conversion devices, such as photovoltaic and thermophotovoltaic cells.

The Particle Technology Laboratory (PTL) professes on education of the fundamentals of aerosol particle science and engineering through research specializing on dry synthesis of catalysts and sensors as well as electronic, food, dental, and biomedical materials. Highlights of the PTL research activity include dry (flame) synthesis of nanoparticles for manufacture of a spectrum of novel materials and devices. The PTL focuses on innovation, effective scientific communication and leadership in the international academic and industrial communities.

Inspired by novel scientific findings and the manifold needs of process engineering in various industries, teaching and research at the Laboratory for Transport Processes and Reactions is highly diversified and features unique research in relevant processing areas. Novel concepts, production processes, tools and innovations are developed based on experiments and modeling. We focus on process intensification in reactive multiphase flows and in the field of renewable energies from micro to macro-scale, in plasma processes for surface modifications of grained materials and in innovative drilling technologies.



Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems

The Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems explores the world of robots at every scale – ranging from the world smallest robotic medical device and other micron and nanometer sized robots swimming in human cells or arteries, to bio-inspired robots like dogs, fish or kangaroos, or to autonomous flying solar airplanes or driving cars.

The Agile and Dexterous Robotics Lab seeks to develop the technology that will enable robots to roam and manipulate the world with agility and dexterity. We study the scientific underpinnings of dynamic motions and motion generation of robots, animals and humans. We turn these insights into algorithms and software. Model based and learning control is a central aspect to robust performance of animals and humans in the real world. We develop methods that enable similar adaptive behaviors for robots.

The research interests of the Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab  lie at the intersection of robotics and biology. Through abstraction of the design principles of biological systems, we develop core competences which are the design and control of dynamic mechatronics systems, bionic sensor technologies, and computational optimization techniques. Our main goals are to contribute to a deeper understanding of adaptivity and autonomy of animals through the investigation of dynamic robots, and to engineer novel robotic applications which are more adaptive, resilient, and energy efficient.

The Multi-Scale Robotics Lab pursues a dynamic research program that maintains a strong robotics research focus on several emerging areas of science and technology. A major component of the lab research leverages advanced robotics for creating intelligent machines that operate at micron and nanometer scales. The lab research develops the tools and processes required to fabricate and assemble micron sized robots and nanometer scale robotic components. Many of these systems are used for robotic exploration within biological domains, such as in the investigation of molecular structures, cellular systems, and complex organism behavior.

The Autonomous Systems Lab carries on research in mobile robotics and Mechatronics, namely in the design, control and navigation of systems operating in uncertain and highly dynamical environments. We are fascinated by novel robots, adapting to act on earth, in the air, or in water. We want to give them the intelligence to navigate autonomously in highly challenging environments. These technologies find their applications in personal and service robots, unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligent cars, space rovers, inspection robots and walking machines.



Institute of Virtual Manufacturing

Nowadays, complex manufacturing systems and processes are virtually planned before their realization. The Institute of Virtual Manufacturing deals with the development of systems that support these planning processes. Virtual mapping is viewed in close conjunction with industrial applications. Knowledge of real-life manufacturing plants, material behavior and production methods are important components of a virtual planning process.

The Institute of Virtual Manufacturing produces innovative products in the field of material modeling and simulation programs, e.g. for forming and press hardening. Numerous spin-off firms like AutoForm AG, Dynamore-Swiss, iCapp or 3R-Technics originated in the institute. However, tangible products, such as super-flexible eyeglasses or steel furniture, which are inflated with low-pressure gas using FIDU Technology (Free Inner Pressure Forming), are also created here. The aim is always to facilitate the production of bulk products with appropriate materials in an energy efficient and thus environmentally friendly way.

The Institute cooperates with international partners in the US, Japan, Korea, China and the EU and works among others with car and household appliance manufacturers, the steel industry and with medical technology companies.



Chair of Micro and Nanosystems

New materials, their production and their properties in electronic construction elements: These are the most important elements of our research in the field of innovative micro and nanosystems. The Chair of Micro and Nanosystems develops novel sensors for molecules, forces and pressure for various applications in the areas of life sciences and the environment. We explore new concepts for efficient energy systems and focus on particularly energy saving solutions for our sensors. Here we work on the frontiers of the technologically and the physically feasible, to exhaust the possibilities of modern nano-technology. One example is in the use of carbon nanotubes, which we produce in the clean room laboratories of ETH Zurich, apply as functional sensor materials and understand better as a result of our research. Making energy from waste heat: a spin-off of ETH Zurich, founded by former and current members of our group, is developing innovative technology based on films, which make possible the creation of relatively large-scale thermoelectric generators for the recovery of e.g. waste heat from combustion processes or body heat.



Computational Science and Engineering Laboratory

Advances in Computer Science and Mathematics provide us today with an unprecedented potential for scientific discovery and engineering innovation.

The Computational Science and Engineering Laboratory integrates these advances leading to validated, verifiable and efficient simulation, analysis and optimization of real world problems.

Research in the Chair of Computational Science is in the areas of: multiscale modeling and simulation, high performance computing, scientific visualization and bioinspired optimization. Applications range from nanofluidics, to the modeling bones and tumor induced angiogenesis and the optimization of fish schools.   


Nanotechnology Group

The research focus of the Nanotechnology Group lies on nanoscale and molecular electronics, advanced scanning probe microscopy, directed assembly, and energy harvesting. Molecular electronics employs individual molecules or their assemblies as functional electronic building blocks. Designable functionality and precise composition of molecules, coupled with their small size, make this concept a potential candidate to overcome the increasing difficulties current CMOS technology faces upon further downscaling to reach higher performance.

The group seeks for new methods to guide the assembly and electrical interfacing of nanoscale components and molecules, and to characterize the electric and thermal properties of these structures at high spatial resolution. The group develops advanced scanning probe microscopy techniques to map charge and potential distributions, local temperatures, and material contrasts on the nanometer scale to quantify, for example, doping profiles and hot spots, which have a crucial influence on the performance of nanoscale electronic devices.

Harvesting electric energy from living cells may ultimately allow one to employ available metabolic energy rather than batteries to power small implants. The emphasis here is on understanding and facilitating charge transport between macroscopic electrodes and complex molecular assemblies regulated by living cells.


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© 2015 ETH Zurich | Imprint | Disclaimer | 13 April 2015