Robert Parker, L.S. Randolph Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, has co-won a best paper award from the Journal of Sound and Vibration for his research on instability of high-speed planetary gears inside the likes of airplane engines.

Parker won the 2014 Doak Award with Chris Cooley, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University and a former doctoral student of Parker’s, for a 2013 paper that focuses on unforeseen vibrations in high-speed planetary gears – a set of connected gears with smaller gears rotating around a larger central gear – that can be found in airplane engines, as well as cars and even bicycle wheels.

Even a slight destabilizing vibration can cut effectiveness of a gear, impacting engine speed and reliability, according to the research by Parker and Cooley. The pair’s research is not limited to devices or machinery operated by planetary gears, but any gearing system.

“This research allows engineers to better understand, predict, and ultimately prevent the large vibration that can occur in planetary gears,” said Parker, who joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 2012. “This permits use of lightweight planetary gears that perform well at high speeds. With well-designed gears, we can reduce weight and increase the reliability of planetary gears used in aircraft engines, helicopters, high-speed turbines, automobiles, and a range of other applications where planetary gears are used.”

Parker and Cooley will receive the honor at the 22nd International Congress on Sound and Vibration in Florence, Italy, in July.

The Journal of Sound and Vibration describes itself as an independent publication devoted to theoretical and experimental papers that provide new data on any aspect of sound or vibration with an emphasis on real-world uses.

Named after Journal of Sound and Vibration’s founder and academic researcher Phil Doak, the annual award honors the most successful paper published in the journal during the past four years, with the judging panel of senior editors looking at academic excellence, citations, downloads, novelty, and originality.

Parker received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a master’s degree and doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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