Award-winning GM collaborator praises students for hard work

Ahmet Alpas points to the bound volumes of doctoral dissertations that line the shelves of his office as evidence of the years of work invested into developing the next generation of green, lightweight automotive engines.

Like most great educators, the NSERC/General Motors/University of Windsor Industrial Research Chair is quick to deflect attention from himself and credit his students with doing all the heavy lifting. So it’s on their behalf Dr. Alpas will travel to Warren, Michigan, today to receive a GM R&D Innovation Award.

“They’re the ones who have done all of the work,” said Alpas, a professor in mechanical, automotive and materials engineering.

Since his position was created in 2002, Alpas and his students have worked with General Motors, providing the automotive giant with the fundamental material science and the subsequent technical know-how to help create a new generation of lightweight aluminum engines.

Much of his team's work has focused on solutions to resolve issues of friction and wear between parts such as pistons and engine block cylinders that are in constant contact with one another. Those solutions have included developing new aluminum and magnesium alloys and new surface coatings for engine parts.

But before those parts can be used in an engine, they must go through rigorous manufacturing process and Alpas’ students are investigating the use of diamond-like coatings in order to eliminate lubricants required to machine aluminum and magnesium castings. Lighter engines help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels because they improve fuel efficiency, Alpas said, but it also makes sense to develop environmentally friendly manufacturing technologies for new alloys to reduce our dependence on machining fluids and lubricants.

“We have an excellent relationship with GM,” Alpas said. “We have constant feedback from them and we have a very detailed and responsive reporting system. This trains our students very effectively because we help develop new engineering products for industry.”

Alpas will receive the award from Alan Taub, Vice President of General Motors (Global Research and Development) at GM’s Mound Road Technical Centre. The award is shared by Thomas Perry and Yue Qi, Alpas’ colleagues at GM who also hold adjunct professor appointments with the University of Windsor.

Ahmet Alpas, Mehdi Shafiei and Ahmed Abougharam in their Essex Hall Lab

Ahmet Alpas, right, consults in his Essex Hall lab with post-doctoral fellow Mehdi Shafiei, seated, and graduate student Ahmed Abougharam.

 News Story Courtesy of UWin Daily News