Department of Mechanical Engineering
Lei Chen’s group focus on applying data science tools to advanced manufacturing. Chen’s research expertise and interests are to integrate the physics-based computational and experimental methods and data-driven approaches, to exploit the fundamental phenomena emerged in advanced manufacturing and to establish the design protocol for optimizing the materials and process parameters of as-fabricated parts for quality control. Current research can be summarized by:
1 One of significant challenges in additive manufacturing (AM) is the presence of heterogeneous sources of uncertainty involved in the complex layer-wise processes under non-equilibrium conditions that lead to variability in the microstructure and properties of as-built components. Consequently, it is extremely challenging to repeat the manufacturing of a high-quality product in mass production, and current practice usually reverts to trial-and-error techniques that are very time-consuming and costly. This research aims to develop an uncertainty quantification framework by bringing together physical modeling, machine-learning (ML), and experiments.
2 Computational microstructure optimization of piezocomposites involves iterative searches to achieve the desired combination of properties demanded by a selected application. Traditional analytical-based optimization methods suffer from the searching efficiency and result optimality due to high dimensionality of microstructure space, complicated electrical and mechanical coupling and non-uniqueness of solutions. Moreover, AM process inherently poses several manufacturing constraints e.g., the minimum feature size and the porosity in the piezoelectric ceramics as well as at the ceramics-polymer interface. It is challenging to include such manufacturing constraints since they are not explicitly available. This research aims to develop a novel data-driven framework for microstructure optimization of AM piezoelectric composites by leveraging extensive physics-based simulation data as well as limited amount of measurement data from AM process.
3 Lithium (Li) and other alkali metals (e.g., sodium and potassium) are very attractive electrode candidates for the next-generation rechargeable batteries that promise several times higher energy density at lower cost. However, Li-dendrite formation severely limits the commercialization of Li-metal batteries, either because dendrite pieces lose electrical contact with the rest of the Li-electrode or because growing dendrites can penetrate the separator and lead to short circuits. This research aims to develop a computational model to accelerate the design of dendrite-free Li-metal batteries.