The Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power recently announced the appointment of Professor Zongxuan Sun to become Director of the CCEFP effective July 1. Professor Sun will succeed current Director, Professor Kim Stelson. We recently spoke with Prof. Sun about the Center’s mission and future direction.
FPW: First of all, congratulations on being named the new incoming director of the CCEFP. What was your initial reaction to the news?
Professor Sun: Well, it’s exciting but, on the other side, it was not completely surprising because I have been serving as a deputy director for the Center since January 2014. I’ve been an active participant in the Center activities as well as in strategic planning, and I am leading one project as a Principle Investigator. I was participating as a part of the leadership team and also as a researcher, so I know the Center very well.
But on the other side, it’s exciting because I think the Center has been great for industry and has been a great asset for universities as well as the students. I’m very passionate about the future of the Center, that’s the exciting part.
FPW: Moving forward, will the CCEFP’s focus continue to be on research, education and advancing fluid power technology?
Professor Sun: Precisely. I recently made a presentation to our industry members about the strategy going forward. The two key focus areas, as you just mentioned, are research, as well as through research, the training of graduate students.
Let me elaborate a little bit. First, we would continuously grow our research portfolio. Basically, we do not want to stop or reduce the size and scope of research, we want to continue to grow that. And we are looking for strategic resources both from the federal government as well as from our industry members to invest in growing research portfolios.
Second, through research, we would ask to increase the number of graduate students involved. That is a key factor our industry members really welcome because we all recognize that we need to continuously train talent for the fluid power industry.
FPW: And also a focus on advancing fluid power?
Prof. Sun: We also discussed fluid power technology. There are only three ways to transmit power: by electrical, fluid power, or mechanical means. We will focus on fluid power as a power transmission method, but that’s only the base. We’re also going to expand to power generation, energy storage, and the use of power transmission in areas like motion control.
So basically we’re going to expand to the whole power-train system, regardless of whether fluid power is used in industrial or mobile applications. We need a power source that drives the system, and also have some end effect that uses fluid power—such as a mobile machine that would dig and transport material through a work circuit as well as a drive circuit. We want to consider the entire power-train system and look for new ways to further grow and advance fluid power technology.
FPW: You mentioned funding, and I would imagine that’s always as a concern. Is the recent trend of attracting significant funding from government entities, like the Department of Energy, something you hope to continue?
Professor Sun: Definitely. The DOE program for fluid power system efficiency research for off-road vehicles has really been a success for us. The Center was the key driving force behind this program. The first call for proposals came out late last year and two projects have already been selected by DOE, one from the University of Minnesota and the other from Purdue University. Both Principal Investigators are professors who are active participants in the Center activities, so we are very happy about the outcome. And this program will, in the future, be continuously a key focus of the Center.
But let me also emphasize that while DOE is an important success, and will continue to be a focus of our activity, it’s not the only activity. We are actively looking for other opportunities. We have ideas about several other programs. We see significant synergy where we can grow our Center’s activities using fluid power technology as a foundation and expanding it into the entire power-train area, which has significant impact to the nation’s economy, technology, environment, energy consumption and security. So those are the areas we are going to grow into because we address the needs of many federal agencies.
FPW: How about attracting funding from the private sector? Are individual companies contributing their fair share?
Professor Sun: Yes. In fact, let me elaborate on having two funding sources. One is, again, government investment in research and development in fluid power. The other one is from industry. The Center is entering a new fiscal year on July 1st, so at this moment we are actively recruiting members. We have a lot of members already committed, but we are also actively looking for new members. We have already developed a plan to reach out to potential members, and we welcome them to contact us as well.