12 Unexplored Term Paper Topics In Mechanical Engineering

Though one of the oldest engineering disciplines (the root of the word describes the construction of machines), developments in mechanical engineering are building up steam, faster and faster into new areas of study. Here are twelve ideas at the cutting edge that will be sure to impress your professor.

  1. Natural machines: As research into robotics gathers pace, how can mechanical systems mimic the natural fluidity of animal motion?
  2. Nano-machines: To improve the efficiencies and allow machines to be applied to new problems, nano-scale structures are a promising new avenue of developments. How might nano-machines be applied to macro-problems?
  3. The 3D printing revolution: Just as computer aided design techniques accelerated the product development lifecycle, 3D printing promises to bring about a similar revolution. But how must these technologies mature before they can form a part of the mechanical engineer’s day-to-day toolkit?
  4. Finite Element Analysis for Grains: Granular materials are critical to thousands of industrial processes. But their analysis mathematically is extremely difficult. What advances in finite element analysis can help?
  5. Flexible Materials: To withstand stresses, it is often better for structures to be flexible rather than rigid. Which materials are as yet insufficiently flexible, and what substitutes or developments should be explored to resolve these?
  6. Assistive Biomedical Techniques: As futurologists predict the wholesale replacement of human organs with bio-mechanical equivalents, more immediate and pragmatic advances may be gained with assistive devices rather than wholesale replacement. What is the current state of the art of these?
  7. Quantified Selves: Smartwatches bring the promise of always-on monitoring of vital signs. Which sensors are ready for prime time for small, mobile applications such as these, and show positive medical predictive value?
  8. Autonomous Vehicle Body Sense: Self-driving cars, among others, depend mostly on artificial vision techniques. But humans have other senses, such as proprioception, that are critical to motion and navigation. How might such biological systems suggest similar mechanical systems for autonomous vehicle applications?
  9. Generic Algorithms in Structure Design: Where thousands of constraints and variables must be considered in a design, how can generic algorithms be applied to generate solutions where traditional approaches are non-computable?
  10. Practical Heat Exchangers: Taken as a whole, buildings often generate heat and cooling as side-effects of other processes, but waste these. How might buildings instead be viewed holistically so that waste-heat and waste-cooling are applied where they are valued?
  11. Accommodating Thermal Stresses in Concentrated Solar Power Plants: CSPs are an attractive alternative source of energy. But in operation, they are subjected to severe thermal stresses and fluctuations, leading to breakdowns over time. How can their lifespans be improved?
  12. Rock-bed Thermal Energy Storage: Electricity grids typically have to provide for peak power demand, not average, leading to significant losses in efficiency. How might rock beds practically be harnessed as thermal capacitors to store excess energy when demand is low for later release when demand is high?

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