Research Projects

CCEFP’s Industry Engagement Committee is the volunteer structure tasked with selecting and guiding the research projects that will engage academic faculty and graduate students in investigating the pre-competitive research needs of the fluid power industry. Its membership includes major donors to the NFPA Foundation, including those at the Gold and Silver levels of the Pascal Society.

Over the previous ten years, the CCEFP has sponsored more than 270 such projects, which helped to add more than 100,000 square feet of fluid power laboratory space to its universities, to increase the number of fluid power advanced degrees awarded by those universities by more than 500%, and to increase the number of fluid power educators on those campuses by a factor of 10. NFPA also offers Research Supplements & Grants for researchers and graduate students. 

NFPA Research Supplements are not grants for new research. They provide funds to principal investigators with existing research grants to facilitate their participation and presentation at designated industry conferences and research summits.

NFPA Research Student Travel Grants provide funds to graduate students working on fluid power research projects to facilitate their participation and presentation at designated industry conferences and research summits.

This year, the NFPA Foundation provided funding for 10 additional research projects, which, as determined by the CCEFP Industry Engagement Committee, were awarded as follows:

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Student Researchers: Federico Campanini and Riccardo Bianchi, Purdue University

Faculty Advisor: Andrea Vacca, Purdue University

This project focuses on investigating advanced electro-hydraulic techniques to optimize adaptive control, reduce application oscillations, and conduct hydraulic system diagnostics and prognostics under different operating conditions. It has investigated both hydraulic crane and wheel loader applications for controlling oscillations that occur in those types of machinery.


Student Researcher: Seth Thomas, Vanderbilt University

Faculty Advisor: Eric Barth, Vanderbilt University

The project addresses limitations in the current options for power supplied to mobile robots and exoskeletons through the development of a quieter, more energy-dense, compact, and portable fluid power supply using a stirling device. Such advancements would enable the use of fluid power technology in a variety of military, medical, manufacturing, and construction applications. The stirling device can use a number of highly energy-dense, flexible fuel or available heat sources to create hydraulic or pneumatic fluid power in an easily scalable design.


Student Researcher: Jonathon Slightam, Marquette University

Faculty Advisor: Mark Nagurka, Marquette University

This project sets to advance current hydraulic actuator technology by focusing on the use of flexible fluidic actuators and the additive manufacturing methods needed to produce them. It differentiates itself from existing actuation technologies most prominently through the dramatic reduction in component and system weight that comes with producing this new actuation technology via advanced manufacturing methods, opening up many new applications to fluid power solutions.


Student Researcher: James Marschand, Purdue University

Faculty Advisor: John Lumkes, Purdue University

This project focuses on the design and simulation of digital pumps and motors for multi-fluid operation as well as evaluation of their feasibility. It has built upon existing technology and research by working toward a novel mechanical control for digital pumps and motors in pursuit of making this technology approach more feasible.


Student Researchers: Keyan Liu and Chen Zhang, University of Minnesota

Faculty Advisor: Zongxuan Sun, University of Minnesota

This project focuses on the design, control, and testing of free piston engine pumps for off-road vehicles, a potentially transformational architecture. It has differentiated itself from existing technology approaches by controlling the hydraulic engine, in lieu of variable pumps, to generate the required pressure and flow for the vehicle’s hydraulic actuation systems, including both linear and rotary motions. Solutions to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and energy storage while reducing emissions and environmental impact have also been investigated.


Student Researcher: Nathan Hagstrom, University of Minnesota

Faculty Advisor: Thomas Chase, University of Minnesota

MEMS scale piezoelectric materials to create ultra-efficient miniature proportional pneumatic valves have been studied by CCEFP researchers for a number of years now, but the manufacturing challenges to overcome have proven to be quite daunting. The purpose of this project has been to accelerate the commercialization potential of this innovative approach by leveraging both MEMS-based and conventional elements in a novel “hybrid” configuration. By doing so, the resulting valve stands to not only decrease the power required to drive comparable pneumatic valves by three orders of magnitude, but also create the fastest responding pneumatic valves known


Student Researcher: Paul Kalbfleisch, Purdue University

Faculty Advisor: Monika Ivantysynova, Purdue University

This project focuses on noise modeling techniques for swash plate type axial piston machines. The optimized models arebeing validated by experimental results. It will contribute to the existing body of knowledge for how noise is both generated and transmitted through fluid power components.


Student Researchers: Girish Krishnan, Gaurav Singh, and Chenzhang Xiao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The project focuses on the design and analysis of a soft pneumatic sleeve for arm orthosis. This is expected to contribute to orthotic control mechanisms and clinical treatment strategies, both of which are areas that have significant potential for advancements. The final design will be lighter and more compact than what is currently available and will have enhanced power and performance. In addition to making strides in orthotics, this research will also drive the use of compact fluid power technologies in other human scale devices


Student Researchers: Duval Johnson, Uma Shantini Ramasamy, University of California – Merced; Mercy Cheekolu, Pawan Panwar, Milwaukee School of Engineering

Faculty Advisors: Ashlie Martini, University of California – Merced; Paul Michael, Milwaukee School of Engineering

This project focuses on measuring how a fluid’s polymer structure affects hydraulic power transmission in pursuit of formulating more efficient hydraulic fluids. It builds upon previous research by incorporating tribometer testing, high pressure rheology studies, and molecular dynamics simulations into the research methods.


Student Researchers: Mengtang Li, Vanderbilt University; Ryan Foss, University of Minnesota

Faculty Advisors: Eric Barth, Vanderbilt University; James Van de Ven, University of Minnesota

Hydraulic systems today can best be classified as DC, or direct flow, hydraulics. This project investigates the modeling, design, and development of AC hydraulic systems. This project builds upon the existing CCEFP variable linkage piston pump that is both compact and efficient even under low displacement operating conditions. It also greatly expands the existing body of knowledge for applying existing variable displacement pumps to alternating flow AC hydraulic circuits, including multi-actuator systems.


Fluid Power Research Summits

Fluid Power Innovation and Research Conference

Hosted by the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), this conference features collaborative technical breakout sessions, networking opportunities, tours of local research laboratories, and panel discussions on the technologies and workforce skills transforming the fluid power industry.

The inaugural FPIRC was held at Vanderbilt University in 2014, in 2015 the event was held in conjunction with the ASME/Bath Symposium on Fluid Power in Chicago, and in 2016 it was a stand-alone event in Minneapolis. More than 115 industry professionals attended the 2016 conference, seeking connections with the faculty and graduate students advancing fluid power research.


Summits of the CCEFP Industry Engagement Committee

These summits are held each year at universities conducting the fluid power research, providing opportunities for industry members to connect with researchers and students, tour fluid power and other laboratory facilities, and form partnerships that benefit their workforce and technology development goals.

In the past year, a successful event was held at Texas A&M University, attended by more than 30 industry professionals.

Contact Info

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