Research Activities

Short Biographical Note:

JOHN R. WAGNER joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson in 1998. He holds B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo and Purdue University. Dr. Wagner was previously on the engineering staff at Delphi Automotive Systems (formerly Delco Electronics as a subsidiary of General Motors Hughes Electronics) designing, testing, and analyzing automotive electronic control systems. During this period, he held a variety of technical positions including powertrain/chassis project engineer, hardware-in-the-loop group leader, and supervisor of the electronic spark control (ESC) and advanced knock detection groups. Dr. Wagner’s research interests include nonlinear and intelligent control theory, dynamic system modeling, diagnostic and prognostic strategies, and mechatronic system design with application to transportation and automotive systems. He serves as the faculty advisor for the Clemson University Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) student chapter. Dr. John Wagner is a licensed mechanical engineer, Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and technically consults on a regular basis.

Research Areas:

  • Nonlinear and Intelligent Controls: The complexity and sophistication of emerging dynamic systems requires the development of advanced nonlinear and intelligent control strategies. Lyapunov-based adaptive and robust nonlinear control algorithms are investigated to compensate for system uncertainties. The control algorithms are evaluated through rigorous numerical and experimental testing against prescribed performance requirements to assess effectiveness.
  • Electro-Mechanical System Design: The term “mechatronics” describes the application of sensors, actuators, microprocessors, electronics, and control theory to dynamic systems. A number of engineering and scientific tools exist to model, simulate, analyze, and evaluate the performance of multi-domain systems prior to the fabrication of custom prototypes. Research focuses on the design and control of innovative mechatronic systems with experimental testing.
  • Diagnostic & Prognostic Strategies: The growing availability of microprocessor-based control systems offer the potential to attach process diagnostic strategies to detect, isolate, and estimate anomalies with the ultimate goal of system reconfiguration. In addition, prognostic algorithms allow the system’s future availability to be forecasted. Research is underway to develop time series diagnostic methodologies, statistical and wavelet prognostic algorithms, and power flow analysis tools.
  • Applications- Automotive, Energy, and Mechatronics Systems: A variety of automotive, energy, and mechatronic systems are the focus of the nonlinear controls, behavioral modeling, system design, and health monitoring research. The Mechatronics and Hydraulics Research Laboratory, Driving Simulator and UAV Flight Laboratory, Institute for Global Road Safety & Security (IGRSS), and Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU ICAR) permit experimental testing. For instance, research on internal combustion engines smart cooling systems, steer-by-wire systems, automotive safety instruction using driving simulators, and UAV human-machine interface design evaluations have been pursued. These projects emphasize automotive subsystems, mechatronic systems, sensors, actuators, general instrumentation, hydraulics, modeling, simulation, testing, real time data acquisition & control, oral presentations, and written papers.

Research team members can complete their experimental builds through the Department of Mechanical Engineering Machine Shop with supporting technicians, the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences – Machine Shop with a full-time technical staff, and/or use the available equipment in the Cook Engineering Laboratory student machine shop.

Mechatronics and Hydraulics Research Laboratory:

The Mechatronics and Hydraulics Research Laboratory (G01D Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Building) has over 300 sq ft of floor space supporting research on internal combustion engines, automotive steering systems, and electro-hydraulic systems. The test cells have the following equipment available to support research: International Dyno Corporation Model 500 dynamometer, Electro-Mechanical Micro-Dyn 35 dynamometer, Interro Systems emission gas analyzer, assorted gasoline and diesel engines, scale thermal test stand, Omega sensors, and assorted engine sensors and actuators. The Hydraulics Bench is equipped with a Bosch hydraulics pump, two Bosch servo-proportional valves, a Moog servo-valve, assorted sensors, and hydraulic cylinders and motors for chassis control investigations. To support this experimental equipment, the laboratory has high-end personal computer workstations and dSPACE based real-time workstations used for data acquisition and control. The Matlab/Simulink software package with Real Time workstations and AMESim multi-domain computer modeling tools are available.

In addition, a unique testing capability exists in the High Bay Area using university facility steam with a cross flow heat exchanger to support smart cooling research studies.

Two and four stroke engines mounted on dynamometers for design control studies

Active torsion bar hydraulic experimental system to minimize the vehicle’s body roll angle

General purpose hydraulics bench with assorted valves, actuators, and sensors

4.6L engine undergoing preparation, and advanced thermal management system components

Hydraulic driven fan for smart thermal management and smart two-way thermostat valve

Driving Simulator and UAV Flight Laboratories:

The Driving Simulator Laboratory features over 900 sq ft of floor space supporting research and development of mechatronic systems, real time hardware-in-the-loop test settings, and human-interface studies. The laboratory has the following equipment: Honda CR-V based steering simulator with motion platform, dSPACE data acquisition and control system, multiple computer workstations, electric actuators, encoders, assorted sensors, tachometers, torque meters, signal conditioners, oscilloscopes, multi-meters, function generators, power supplies, and Techron linear amplifiers.

View from inside of next generation steering simulator and Professor Wagner with simulator

The UAV Flight Laboratory features 1200 sq ft of space that hosts unmanned aerial and ground vehicle research with a focus on the human-machine interface in collaboration with Dr. Yue Wang. Extensive human-subject testing has been completed to evaluate different haptic feedback strategies for various operation conditions.

Various Research Project Completed:

The Clemson Environmental Technologies Laboratory at Clemson University supported the design, analysis, fabrication, demonstration, and deployment of environmentally beneficial technologies on behalf of the Department of Energy – Savannah River National Laboratory.

Large barrier door (15,000 lbs) testing for motor drive assembly reliability


Programmable logic conveyor (PLC) material handling system with electric motors and pneumatic actuators

The Energy Systems Laboratory was a partnership of the South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies and Clemson University Facilities offering multi-disciplinary education and research facility focusing on all aspects of energy generation and energy management. The entire Clemson University campus services as the basis for the Energy Systems Laboratory.

Solar Taurus 60 gas turbine and Mercury 50 gas turbine

Custom dual fan forced air combustion furnace to support biomass briquette studies and variable speed traveling grate for briquette burning

Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR):

An automotive research and education campus located in Greenville, South Carolina with world-class engine and chassis dynamometers, and a seven post shaker exist to support transportation studies. Research projects and students can be sited at this center to accomplish specific engineering requirements and needs in collaboration with the Department of Automotive Engineering.

Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility (SCE&G Energy Innovation Center):

A state-of-the-art wind turbine testing center with 7.5 MW and 15 MW benches for complete geared and direct-drive nacelles featuring a gearbox and generator. The N. Charleston, South Carolina facility also contains an electric grid simulator designed in part to emulate the wind turbine – grid interface for disturbance studies. Research projects and students can be placed at this center for collaborative research activities with a renewable energy industry sponsor.