Thematic Research Areas and Projects

The Institute conducts research and scholarly initiatives that are innovative and forward-looking within the theme of enhancing quality of life, with emphasis on health care, sustainability, and mobility among others.

Health Care

According to Medicare’s actuaries, the health care industry percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is among the highest of the industrial world, consuming roughly 17.9% of the GDP in 2007. With escalating costs and an aging population, health care spending is expected to consume roughly 20% of the GDP by 2019. To address these challenges, the health care industry is under tremendous pressure to develop innovative strategies for efficient medical services that enhance the quality of care while at the same time controlling its costs.


Due to a lack of a well-conceived Disaster Recovery Plan, the gulf oil spill may become one of the largest environmental and economic disasters experienced in this country. As this disaster illustrates, there is a need for a broader systems level approach in building sustainable entities that consider environmental, social, and economic factors. The issue of sustainability has a direct impact for a number of organizations as companies strive for green manufacturing techniques and development of supply chains that reduce the carbon footprint.


According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report, a person living in the fourteen largest U.S. metropolitan areas spent 51 hours annually driving during rush hour. This number was up by 30 hours from 1982 at an estimated annual congestion cost of $35.5 billion. In large urban areas, transit systems are used to address the transportation requirements of the population. However, the public generally considers the service to be inconvenient because either the pick-up and drop-off locations or the service schedules do not meet the needs of the individual riders. This may explain the small percentage of people (4.7%, 2000 U.S. Census Report) who use some form of public transit system to work. There is a need to develop alternative transportation methodologies that increase service flexibility in a cost efficient manner, thereby improving mobility. For example, a new paradigm may be necessary to view each vehicle on the road as a resource and with an appropriate market mechanism these resources can be made available to consumers to facilitate an efficient allocation of unused vehicle capacity.

Project Title: Contour Crafting of High Performance Ceramic Materials at Meso-Scale w/Post-Doctoral Scholar Mahmood Shirooyeh, Mohammadaref Vali
Investigator: Berok Khoshnevis

The objective of the proposed research is to advance the fabrication of various high performance ceramic and polymer components with a variety of shapes through the additive manufacturing (AM) method of Contour Crafting (CC) system.  The system uses computer-generated design consisting of sliced cross-sections of a three-dimensional object to reconstruct the object using ceramic powder as raw material.  In order to produce the parts with desired properties, it is necessary to control and optimize material parameters (powder properties, slurry compositions, binders, etc.) and processing parameters (nozzle design, flow pattern, tool path, etc.)  It is also essential to develop a proper post-processing densification step to obtain, for example, optimized surface properties.  Problems affecting the process will also be investigated.  Solutions for processing challenges such as reducing shrinkage and thermal inhomogeneity will be developed.

Conventional processed required significant manual labor in various manufacturing steps as well as the need os using expensive tools or long load times which all lead to high cost.  Additive manufacturing methods could provide a cost-effective production route for fabrication of materials.  However, majority of additive manufacturing efforts are focused on polymers and metallic systems due to numerous matieral and prodessing challenges in ceramic systems.  The current research will address some of the challenges and provide a solution for application of an AM technology, Contour Crafting, for various ceramic systems.

Project Title: USC Dental Project
Investigator: Yong Chen

The smile is the most defining characteristic of an individual.  Straightened teeth improve self-esteem, earning potential, and overall quality of life, in addition to reducing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and other health-related issues.  Despite the demand for orthodontic care, a large portion of the population still remains untreated.  Among the main deterrents to conventional braces are length of treatment, esthetic concerns, and discomfort.  We developed a more effective and esthetic solution by utilizing the latest development in direct digital manufacturing to mass-customize orthodontic braces for individual patients.  It offers unparalleled comfort through a free-flowing design anatomically contoured to each individual tooth.  The fabrication of such braces can be automated by using direct digital manufacturing techniques.  The project will be dedicated to completing a functional prototype system including both a brace design software system and brace fabrication testbed.