Based on outstanding annual faculty activity report data, the Department of Mechanical Engineering is pleased to recognize Associate Professor Bart Raeymaekers as the 2017 Researcher-of-the-Year. This is especially noteworthy considering he was also recognized with this distinction in 2015. Additionally, Raeymaekers was recognized as a research honoree by the U Vice President for Research at the recent annual Celebrate U event.

Raeymaekers’ research spans two main categories: tribology, which is the science of friction, wear, and lubrication, with an emphasis on micro- and nanoscale lubrication; and precision manufacturing with an emphasis on directed self-assembly. His research group consists of approximately ten graduate and undergraduate students, and he continuously seeks opportunities to further expand his group with self-motivated, high-caliber students. He has an active research program, which is supported by federal agencies and industry sponsors, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy, and NASA.

“As a research group, we are passionate about precision design and manufacturing of complex mechanical systems and devices. We attempt to understand the underlying physics of the problems we study. From the knowledge we gain, we apply it to improve the design and development of systems and devices,” notes Raeymaekers.

Raeymaekers’ research group works on a diverse set of projects. In one, they are trying to understand how to design novel microtextured bearing surfaces to extend the longevity of prosthetic hip joints. Each year, approximately 300,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed in the United States. A prosthetic hip joint lasts for approximately 15 years before failing due to a variety of possible reasons, including wear. This limited longevity causes many patients to outlive their prosthetic joint and require a revision surgery. Raeymaekers and his students have partnered with the National Institutes of Health and prosthetic joint manufacturers to address this problem by attempting to design and manufacture engineered, patient-specific prosthetic hip bearing surfaces that stimulate the formation of a lubricant film and reduce wear of the prosthetic joint. “With this work, we aim to impact patient quality of life, by reducing their chance of needing a risky and costly revision surgery,” Raeymaekers says.

Other projects in Raeymaekers’ lab are related to using ultrasound to manufacture engineered materials with tailored properties. The ability to design and manufacture multi-functional materials with tailored properties, including optical, thermal, electrical, acoustic, and/or mechanical properties, is of interest to the scientific community because of the game-changing impact it can have on many engineering applications. Raeymaekers and his students are working with the Army to develop a scalable material synthesis technique based on ultrasound directed self-assembly, i.e., using ultrasound waves to make large quantities of particles organize themselves into user-specified patterns within a matrix material. Additionally, they work with NASA to integrate the ultrasound directed self-assembly technique with additive manufacturing, to enable 3D printing of low-density structural materials that may be used in space exploration.

Raeymaekers joined the University of Utah in 2010. “The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah is a great place to do research,” he says, “and I have been lucky to work with very talented, hard-working students in my group, which makes it exciting and rewarding.”

For more info about Prof. Raeymaekers research, visit the website of the Utah Nanotribology and Precision Engineering Laboratory.