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University of Windsor

Lightweight engine partnership with GM earns engineer $200,000 research grant

A UWindsor engineering professor has been recognized with a national award and a $200,000 research grant to continue his innovative work with General Motors on making more energy-efficient vehicles.~

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council announced yesterday that Ahmet Alpas from mechanical, automotive and materials engineering was one of only four recipients of a 2010 Synergy Award for Innovation for his partnership with the auto manufacturer on developing lightweight materials for automotive products and manufacturing processes.

Dr. Alpas’ team and collaborating GM scientists have developed a new generation of linerless, aluminum-silicon alloy engines which are 40 per cent lighter than cast iron blocks, provide exceptional durability, improved fuel economy and therefore, lower environmental impact. Every 10 percent reduction of a vehicle’s weight improves fuel efficiency by an estimated eight percent.

“The advances made by the winners of the Synergy Awards are examples of the best of Canadian innovation, and showcase the types of partnerships that will drive our economy forward," said Industry Minister Tony Clement, who along with Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear and NSERC president Suzanne Fortier, announced the awards Tuesday in Ottawa.

This is not the first time Alpas has been recognized for his work. Earlier this year, he received a GM R&D Innovation Award for his research team’s years of fundamental material science and the subsequent technical know-how it has produced to help create a new generation of lightweight aluminum engines.

“Having this kind of recognition is very good,” said Alpas, the NSERC/General Motors/University of Windsor Industrial Research Chair. “This partnership started as a small contract in 2002 and it’s been growing since then. Our students are welcome in GM’s laboratories and their researchers have contributed greatly to our programs. It’s been a very good partnership.”

Much of his team's work has focused on resolving issues of friction and wear between parts such as pistons and engine block cylinders, but they also devised simple, cost-effective technology for environmentally sustainable machining of powertrain components and other aluminum and magnesium castings. By protecting tool surfaces with diamond-like carbon coatings they showed that it’s possible to use much less metal cutting fluid, vastly reducing the large amounts of coolant used in traditional machining, resulting in longer cutting and forming tool life.

Alpas is also part of an NSERC $1 million seven-university strategic network
developing machining modeling technology to be commercialized by Canadian companies so they can test manufacturing systems and products in a virtual world without costly physical trials.

A ceremony will be held on campus November 17 to recognize Alpas’ award.

Read the NSERC news release about the awards.

— Stephen Fields

Ahmet Alpas examines a cross-sectioned portion of an engine block in this DailyNews file photo.