Kim wins award from American Society of Mechanical Engineers

November 16, 2005

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - A Texas A&M University mechanical engineer has won a macro award for micro research. Assistant Professor Daejong Kim has won the American Society of Mechanical Engineers-Tribology Division's Innovative Research Award for his research on micro gas bearings. Kim shares the award with two mechanical engineers who advised him when he was a doctoral student: Professor Michael D. Bryant and Professor Emeritus Frederick F. Ling from the University of Texas-Austin. The Tribology Division's Innovative Research Award is given to mechanical engineers whose research has resulted in noteworthy or novel technologies that have furthered tribology, the science of friction and lubrication between mechanisms that are in relative motion: for example, bearings and gears. Through his research, Kim has strengthened micro gas bearings by coating them in diamond-like tungsten hydrocarbon. These submillimeter micro gas bearings had been fabricated by the micromachining technology LIGA, the acronym for the German translations of X-ray lithography, electroplating and molding. "The main purpose of the coating is to design surfaces with low friction and high resistance," he said. Micro gas bearings - several times smaller than dimes - can support micromachines such as microactuators, micromotors and microturbines, Kim said. These micromachines can move inside more macro machines. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) strives to engineer micro air vehicles that have wingspans shorter than 6 inches. Micro air vehicles are toylike airplanes that can pilot themselves. Their most promising power and propulsion systems are micro gas turbines that include micro gas bearings, he said. "Surely, this technology is beneficial to defense and homeland security areas," Kim said. His most recent research concerns meso - between micro and macro - gas bearings that are softer but stabler than the micro gas bearings he had earlier researched, he said. "Soft-walled" meso gas bearings can support gadgets such as dentists' drills, micro hard drives and micro laser scanners, and micromachines such as high-speed rotors, microturbines and micro turbo generators. The Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) administers this research. "I feel more obliged to do more innovative research," Kim said. "Even though my work was innovative, I feel a duty to continue." Kim came to the Texas A&M Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2004 after he earned his doctorate from UT Austin. He earned a bachelor's and master's from Seoul (Korea) National University.

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