STEM, Delphi research project under way

Research has resumed on the aluminum cable research project, after a state review of the $1 million grant in the fall caused progress to stall.

It’s a joint effort between Youngstown State University’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Delphi, a Warren-based automotive systems company.

Aluminum cable is being tested with the intention of replacing copper cables used on cars for everything from battery cables to the wires connecting the radio to its power source.

“Aluminum is cheaper than copper, and it’s lighter than copper, so it will make cars lighter and more fuel efficient,” said Virgil Solomon, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and lead researcher on the project.

Barbara Barkley, a spokeswoman from Delphi, said the company is receiving a lot of calls from car companies about the project.

“Aluminum is very popular right now as an alternative to copper,” Barkley said.

Solomon will be working with Brandon Hart, a student at Clarion

University of Pennsylvania, to work out problems Delphi may run into.

“I’m pretty excited about working on the project,” Hart said. “To me, the most attractive part is getting a chance to use all of the education I’ve received up to this point.”

Hart was chosen after Solomon presented the project to a group of Clarion students.

Afterward, Hart contacted Solomon to express his interest in working with him.

“I guess my persistency paid off,” Hart said.

The research duo will be analyzing the chemical analysis of the cables; they hope to find a reliable way to connect the cable to its source through ultrasonic welding.

“While universities specialize in research, Delphi brings the benefit of over 100 years of experience of taking automotive innovations from the laboratory to the production floor,” Larry Groves, manager of materials and cable engineering at Delphi Packard Electrical, said in an email. “The STEM College and materials program remains on the cutting edge of research and education. The high caliber of the YSU staff, students and equipment, coupled with Delphi’s industry expertise, is what we feel makes this local collaboration a success.”

Each of the of aluminum cable samples that have been sent to Solomon possess different chemical compositions. Though the cables are aluminum, the different impurities in each cable affect how the metal welds to its connection point.

“We will be finding out which one will give them reliable results when welding the cable,” Solomon said. “How they are going to achieve that is the research part.”

Groves added, “Aluminum offers a 48 percent weight savings, lower core material costs and increased fuel economy, all while offering a significant edge against the volatile copper market.”

Hart will graduate from Clarion with a physics degree in May. Along with researching the cables, he will begin pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at YSU this summer.

Though Hart admits he has never worked on a project of this magnitude, and that he’s nervous, he is glad to have a chance to apply what he has learned.

During his time at Clarion, Hart worked on an undergraduate research project involving zinc oxide nanostructures.

Michael Hripko, director of STEM research, said the timing of the project has worked out well.

Delphi hired YSU to conduct research on the project and will be monitoring Hart’s progress throughout the summer.