Women in Engineering: Elham Sahraei and Mona Eskandari

This was originally published in the February 2020 issue of REVEAL Magazine.


Elham Sahraei is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Electric Vehicle Safety Lab (EVSL) at Temple University.

As we move towards EV and other forms of sustainable transportation, the demand for lithium-ion batteries is rapidly increasing. You have done extensive research on the mechanical properties of these batteries and studied various failure scenarios. How do you see FE modeling and validation helping to mitigate potential risks associated with using lithium-ion batteries, especially in the case of electric vehicles where they are subject to various loading scenarios? Besides the possible safety concerns of these batteries, are there other challenges you see for their sustainability, i.e., sourcing the raw material, recycling, etc.?

Modeling can provide guidance in two ways. First in product design, EV manufacturers can use FE models of batteries to design low weight and efficient battery packs and protective structures around them. FE models provide understanding on the mechanism and location of a potential safety issue under a specific testing scenario. Manufacturers can expand their test envelops by using FE modeling, as the physical tests on battery packs are often expensive and time consuming, and therefore limited in number. Second, once the product design is complete, the FE models can be used to simulate real world accident conditions and evaluate the response of the battery in such cases.

The safety concern is one of the most important concerns for any battery-operated equipment, but safety itself has a broad meaning in case of batteries, especially in mobile applications such as EVs. Safety concerns can arise due to abusive thermal, electrical, and mechanical conditions or due to manufacturing defects generated in the battery even before it is installed in its final location. In EV applications, possible additional issues are vibration, crash, impact or shock due to road accidents. Therefore, FE modeling is needed to understand the multi-physical aspects of the batteries under various loading scenarios. One of the concerns about most EV applications of the batteries is the over design of the protective structures which adds so much weight and volume that significantly reduces the energy and power density of the batteries at the final product level. This is often due to lack of understanding on the mechanisms of failure of batteries. FE modeling can shed light on such issues and assist manufacturers for more efficient products.

Other challenges such as availability of raw materials, range, sustainability and recycling are also important concerns for EV manufacturers however, our focus with FE simulations is mostly geard toward answering issues in safety of these products.

To learn more about Dr. Sahraei’s work, visit: https://sites.temple.edu/evsl/

Mona Eskandari, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UC – Riverside. 

Medicine and engineering have historically  been  separate  areas  of study with little cross-over. But that seems to be changing as we see the two disciplines working together more and more to create new innovative solutions to old problems. How do you think linking mathematical models with real tissue structures in studying lung function health and illness will lead to new discoveries and treatments in lung diseases?

Lung disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, propelled by the rise of air pollution and vaping crises. By viewing medicine through an engineering lens, we can gain critically needed insights into lung mechanics to help reverse this trend. In the bMECH lab, we work closely with UC-Riverside’s School of Medicine to create new evaluation techniques for the clinical community to improve patient outcomes through early diagnosis, optimized interventions, and treatment assessment.

By linking our extensive tissue characterization experiments to mathematical models, we have overturned a long-standing assumption fundamental to airway biomechanics; we discovered smaller bronchi are drastically less compliant than proximal counterparts. This necessitates reconsideration of how we perceive the role of distal airways during breathing, and informs the development of a new generation of mechanical models. Constructing the first constitutive relationship representative of the bronchial network has empowered our understanding of the interplay between function and form, and how form dominates over tissue content in governing airway function. Our finite element simulations of tissue specimens paired with histological imaging yield important insights regarding the influence of fiber morphology and microstructural reinforcement on the material response. This is particularly significant because the degradation and remodeling of substructures caused by the onset and progression of disease will transform mechanical tissue behavior. Our computational models investigate how these modifications compromise the structural integrity of the airway wall, helping us focus on mitigating lumen obstruction and challenges to breathing.

It is exciting to explore the multi-scale and adaptive response of biological systems through a medically-driven engineering framework. Our simulations have quantified and distinguished the mechanical differences in lung anisotropy and regional heterogeneity; we will continue to develop these models for healthy and diseased lung tissue, ultimately laying the foundation for constructing predictive technologies for pulmonary healthcare advancements.

Eskandari, Mona, Tara M. Nordgren, and Grace D. O’Connell. “Mechanics of pulmonary airways: Linking structure to function through v, biochemistry, and histology.” Acta biomaterialia 97 (2019): 513-523.

To learn more about Dr. Eskandari’s research, visit: bmech.ucr.edu


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Clare Scott

Clare Scott is a SIMULIA Creative Content Advocacy Specialist at Dassault Systèmes. Prior to her work here, she wrote about the additive manufacturing industry for 3DPrint.com. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Hiram College and a Master of Arts from University College Dublin. Clare works out of Dassault Systèmes’ Cleveland, Ohio office and enjoys reading, acting in local theatre and spending time outdoors.

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