Mechanical engineering student earns Alumni Dissertation Award

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
April 15, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jacob Snyder, doctoral student in mechanical engineering, has been awarded the 2019 Penn State Alumni Dissertation Award from the Graduate School for his work in harnessing additive manufacturing to further gas turbine designs.

The award, considered to be among the most prestigious honors bestowed to Penn State graduate students, recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment.

Snyder’s dissertation, “Tailoring Surface Roughness for High-Efficiency Cooling using the Additive Manufacturing Process,” deepens the utility of additive manufacturing, commonly referred to as 3D printing, by understanding how the surface of an individual part can be optimized to enhance heat transfer and improve durability within gas turbines.

At the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Lab, led by Karen Thole, distinguished professor, mechanical engineering department head, and Snyder’s adviser, researchers are forging new knowledge with the goal of designing more efficient turbines.

Used primarily for air travel and energy production, Snyder explained, “Improving the efficiency of gas turbines will ultimately help to reduce the carbon footprint of these sectors, as well as decrease the cost of flying and electricity.”

Additive manufacturing, a rapidly-growing area revolutionizing the manufacturing industry, is expected to play a unique, pivotal role in increasing fuel efficiency. The intersection of these disciplines is where Snyder focused his efforts.

An inherent consequence of additive manufacturing is an increased roughness on the surface of the printed product. Recent investigations have discovered this roughness can be beneficial for cooling within a gas turbine, but little was known about the variability of roughness and its subsequent impact.

Snyder explained, “Is there an optimal roughness for heat transfer that can be created by manipulating the parameters in the additive manufacturing process? My dissertation explores the potential to control the surface roughness and tailor the surface for heat transfer applications.”

Traditionally, the performance of cooling methods is determined by the design features, but Snyder’s work takes a novel approach.

He said, “When using additive manufacturing, you can prescribe the roughness you want on the surface to best fit whatever the application of the part is, opening up another variable for designers to use.”

At Penn State, Snyder was able to fuse the disciplines of heat transfer in gas turbines and additive manufacturing, two areas where the University is pioneering impactful research, to enhance both disciplines.

“I’m able to bridge the gap between the additive manufacturing research going on here that is very focused on materials and process, with the applied heat transfer research going on at the START Lab,” he said. “It’s not only a unique opportunity to learn a lot about both of these fields, but also an opportunity to enable future collaboration between them.”

He said, “In terms of additive manufacturing and turbine research, no university compares to Penn State with the depth and expertise that we have in both of these areas.”

Snyder received his award on April 11 at the Graduate Student Awards luncheon. Reflecting on the honor, he said, “It’s humbling to receive. When you’re doing research, sometimes you get really down into the weeds on the problem you’re trying to solve and lose sight of the big picture. But with receiving this award, the evaluation committee recognized the influence and value of my work on a larger scale.”

After his graduation, Snyder will begin working for Pratt & Whitney to continue developing advanced cooling methods for turbines. His research was also initially sponsored by the company, a key industry partner with the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Additional support was received by the Department of Energy.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done at Penn State and it’s bittersweet to leave. But it’s also exciting to move on to new things,” Snyder said.

Last Updated April 16, 2019