May 2, 2011

In Louisiana’s hot and humid climate, it’s often challenging for machinery to maintain durability. In rotating machinery, effective couplings (mechanical devices that connect two shafts) have the potential to extend the lifespan of powerful equipment, such as turbines, pumps and motors.   

In order to compare the durability of two models of couplings, Todd Burford, senior, mechanical engineering, and his team are designing a test rig for their senior Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design project. Their plan is to expose the two kinds of couplings to three mechanisms of failure: misalignment, steam and increased torque.

Sponsored by ExxonMobil Corp., the group’s project will test an older model of couplings with a newer model, the Omega HSU. Burford, a Baton Rouge, La. native, hopes that ExxonMobil will use data from his team’s test rig to continue testing the two couplings over a longer period of time, to determine if the Omega HSU model is more resilient than the former.

Considering the cost of replacing these expensive pieces of machinery, Burford said the team’s project has important implications for ExxonMobil, other oil and gas industry leaders, as well as suppliers of power transmission components, such as Rexnord Industries, the company providing the team’s couplings.

“If we can show that these newer couplings can expand the replacement interval, then it’ll save these companies lots of money over the years,” he said. 

Group members include the following senior, mechanical engineering students: Todd Burford, Matthew Arnondin (Gretna, La.), David Barleycorn (Denham Springs, La.), Jess Castagnos (Donaldsonville, La.), Lee Lagarde (Raceland, La.) and Brant Skal (Denham Springs, La.).

The Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) will host the ME 4202 Capstone Design annual seminar presentation May 4-5 in the Frank Walk Design Presentation Room, 140 ELAB. ME undergraduates worked throughout two semesters on a design project of their choice. Projects are judged by a design panel consisting of local industry leaders and LSU faculty and alumni.

All ME faculty members, project sponsors, faculty advisors, alumni, graduate students, ME undergraduates and the general public are invited to this event each year. To obtain information for next year’s event, submit an area for research, or to become a judge or sponsor, please contact Larry Dufour at or Dimitris Nikitopoulos at 


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