Haluk Akay

Haluk Akay received his PhD from MIT (2022) in mechanical engineering and is currently a postdoc at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, using AI and design principles to utilize engineering knowledge for decision-making in sustainable manufacturing. Haluk has also designed and fabricated carbon fiber racecar bodies, MEMS energy harvesters, consumer electronics, and turboshaft (helicopter) engines.

Research: Representing Engineering Design Knowledge with AI Language Models

I (right) was invited to discuss my research and responsible use of AI with CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, (middle) and Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson (left) in the context of regulation on generative AI and the roles of government, academia, and industry.
Photo credit: Ninni Andersson (Regeringskansliet), May 2023

Motivated by experience in product design at Apple and fabricating microelectronics during my master's at MIT, my research applies AI and language models to address how existing engineering knowledge can be utilized to drive the design and manufacturing of high performance, sustainable products.

for a complete list of my research publications, please reference Google Scholar

PhD Research at MIT

Developed AI language models to extract design knowledge from unstructured engineering documentation.

Postdoc Research in Sweden

Applying PhD methods to industrial symbiosis, climate change mitigation assessment, and design knowledge preservation.

M.S. Research at MIT

Design and clean-room fabrication of micro-scale piezoelectric buckled-beam vibrational energy harvester.

MIT PhD: Representing Design & Manufacturing Knowledge with AI

AI question-answering system to automatically extract structured problem-solving design representations from documentation

  • Developed an algorithm to recursively extract structured engineering problem-solving information from textual descriptions using AI language models trained on retrieving functional knowledge.

Check out the paper for more details:
Reading functional requirements using machine learning-based language processing
Haluk Akay and Sang-Gook Kim
CIRP Annals 70/1 (2021)

  • Validated accuracy of extracted functional structures with a comparison study with 75 human designers performing the same task manually.

Automating design requirement extraction from text with deep learning
Haluk Akay, Maria Yang, Sang-Gook Kim
ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference (2021)

  • Applied language models to quantitatively represent requirements and solutions to characterize functional interdependencies in designed systems.

Design transcription: Deep learning based design feature representation
Haluk Akay and Sang-Gook Kim
CIRP Annals 69/1 (2020)

Postdoc: Data-Driven Design for Climate Action

I seek to apply the methods from my PhD to real-world problems with a focus on climate change in an environment that valued design and sustainability. I won a 2-year Digital Futures postdoctoral fellowship to explore applications of my tools at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s Climate Action Centre in Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Application to industrial symbiosis in Swedish agro-food sector; developed a digital twin of functional relationships in manufacturing systems to guide downstream decision-makers based on changes in upstream adjustments in requirements to preserve circularity

Industrial symbioses are coupled manufacturing processes (left); language models can enable a digital twin of function identifying how upstream requirement changes impact downstream process variables (right)

Language Models for Functional Digital Twin of Circular Manufacturing
Haluk Akay, Antonio Capezza, Maryna Henrysson, Iolanda Leite, Francesco Fuso-Nerini
Global Conference on Sustainable Manufacturing (2023)

  • Application to climate change mitigation assessment methods to semantically process policy documentation and extract latent problem-solving structures to link to mitigation requirements; collaboration with Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) on urban sanitation systems.

In preparation
Scaling sanitation and climate change policy assessment with language models
Haluk Akay, Daniel Ddiba, Biljana Macura, Francesco Fuso-Nerini, Sarah Dickin

  • Application to knowledge preservation in Swedish power infrastructure industry to extract design knowledge from artifacts left behind by retiring veteran engineers.

In preparation
Preservation of Swedish Energy System Design Knowledge with AI Language Modeling
Haluk Akay, Axel Götling, Lisa Svanholm, Francesco Fuso-Nerini

  • Extracting reasoning directly from designers at point-of-decision; case study with engineering change orders at Hyundai Motors

Push-pull digital thread for digital transformation of manufacturing systems
Haluk Akay, Sanghyun Lee, Sang-Gook Kim
CIRP Annals 72/1 (2023)

MIT MS: Design and Fabrication of MEMS Energy Harvesters

Buckled beam array snaps between two states of stability under low-frequency excitation (slow-motion video)

(2020) Online talk I gave during pandemic about our low-frequency energy harvesting research at MIT.nano

  • Design and cleanroom fabrication of bi-stable piezoelectric vibrational energy harvesting device

  • Simplified residual internal stress tuning and deposition process to achieve 200μm buckling in piezoelectric micro-beam

  • Increased remnant polarization of PZT from 3.75 μC/cm2 to 23.5 μC/cm2

Micro buckled beam based ultra-low frequency vibration energy harvester
Ruize Xu, Haluk Akay, Sang-Gook Kim
Hilton Head Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Conference (2018)


MIT 2.007 Design and Manufacturing 1 Teaching Staff after final robot competition
Photo credit: Tony Pulsone, spring 2022

I have had the opportunity to teach at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, including project-based, laboratory, and large lecture-style courses.

2023KTH (Sweden)InstructorMJ2507AI in Sustainable Energy Engineering
2022MITTA2.007Design and Manufacturing 1
2021MITInstructor2.778Large and Complex Systems Design
2019MITTA2.778Large and Complex Systems Design
2018MITTA2.778Large and Complex Systems Design
2018MITTA2.674Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory
2015CMUUTF24-101Fundamentals of Mechanical Engineering

Residential Advising

The unique tradition of dropping a broken piano from the roof of Baker House (MIT) on the last day undergrads can drop a class

I spent a total of 6.5 years as a live-in resident advisor (RA) in undergrad dorms at Carnegie Mellon and MIT. My position involved building a sense of community on my hall by organizing events & activities in the dorm as well as excursions into town. I also supported students by being present, getting to know them, understanding when their behavior deviated from their normal patterns and connecting them with any campus resources they may need.

Design Portfolio

Below are a selection of my favorite projects ranging from the speedy (racecar) to one-off inventions (energy harvesting footwear) to the mass manufactured (laptop charger).

Carbon Fiber Racecar Body

I led the design and fabrication of the 2015 Formula SAE racecar body at Carnegie Mellon; 1st place in design finals at Formula Hybrid.

MacBook Charger

I worked as a product designer at Apple on the 60W charger for 13" and 15" MacBooks; component design in California, and new product introduction in China.

Energy Harvesting Footwear

I invented a wearable energy harvesting system at MIT for continuous power generation from footsteps; U.S. Patent 10973276.

Carbon Fiber Racecar Body

Formula SAE is a student racecar competition where engineering teams representing universities spend the academic year designing, building, and testing their vehicle for competition.I was the body system leader of Carnegie Mellon Racing's 2015 car. Working with an industrial designer, other mechanical engineers, and shop staff on campus, we designed and fabricated the safe, stiff, lightweight carbon fiber body for our racecar which went on to win 1st in the design finals at Formula Hybrid.

Based on 2D hand sketches from industrial designer Jake Scherlis, I constructed a 3D SolidWorks model of the nose-cone and side panels. With support from Carnegie Mellon drama school's scene shop supervisor Ben Carter (who runs the largest CNC on campus), we cut out a series of cross-section pieces from medium density foam to glue together forming a plug for the mold.

Above: process overview stacking MDF blocks for the fiberglass mold used for the carbon fiber layup

With help from fellow mechanical engineers Yudi Feng, Teddy Lee, Martin Piekarski, and Aki Odunton, we coated, sanded, and waxed the surface to maximize smoothness. The foam plug was used to create a fiberglass mold which, in turn, was used for the final resin infusion process to fabricate the carbon fiber.

Our team's most generous sponsor, the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG), took care of the final paint coat, including the shark artwork by hand (as they reminded us: stickers are for quitters).

The car went on to win 1st place in design finals at Formula SAE Hybrid 2015, as well as winning the IEEE Excellence in Electrical Vehicle Engineering Award. Check out the video at the top of the page for a compilation of clips from the fabrication process.

MacBook Charger

I worked as a product designer at Apple on the 60W charger for 13" and 15" 2016 MacBook laptop computers. In order to comply with my non-disclosure agreement, confidential design information is not included in this overview.

I worked on component+assembly design and tolerance analysis in California, and new product introduction in China troubleshooting and designing fixtures on-site with OEMs.My role in California was that of both a product designer and a systems architect. I made every design decision cooperatively to ensure meeting a structural requirement did not compromise an electromagnetic, thermal, or safety constraint; or above all at Apple, an industrial design choice.

In China my role involved driving the concept from a design to a mass manufactured product; this involved transforming the factory line from a series of manual assembly stations into a continuous automated process by designing fixtures and machines to reliably assemble the components at scale for mass production.

The product development process at Apple prioritized design above all else. Our team invested in medical-grade imaging machines to scan injection-molded parts for smoothness. Even an imperfection too small to capture through surface profile measurement, but still seen optically in certain light conditions was unacceptable.

photographs from Apple (left) and The Wall Street Journal (right)

This experience transformed how I viewed the relationship between design and manufacturing, between labor and production systems, and the significance of early-stage design in determining product performance and externalities to society and the environment.

Energy Harvesting Footwear
U.S. Patent 10973276

During my first year of grad school at MIT, I invented a wearable energy harvesting system to provide a power source to professionals working in remote environments. This patented invention converts regular walking motion into usable electric power.

The key objective of this project was to design a system that could harvest enough energy from human motion to power an electronic device such as a GPS tracker without impeding the movement of the user. During walking, able-bodied humans shift nearly their entire body weight from foot to foot resulting in a consistent source of energy. This also matched user behavior for the use case in remote environments, so I began designing concepts for converting walking motion into electricity.

Regarding the task of converting the mechanical action of a footstep into electricity, I was inspired by the amusing function of a whoopee cushion. I sketched out how elastic fluid-filled cushions might drive a turbine system to generate electric power from foot compressions, and then dived into prototyping.

The initial prototype was a cheap tennis shoe with the insole replaced by a series of inflation bulbs removed from sphygmomanometers (the device doctors use to measure blood pressure). Initial electrical measurements were promising, but indicated only periodic spikes in power generated corresponding with the downstep of the foot compressing the bulbs.

In order to maximize power generation, I wanted to continuously drive the DC motors connected to the turbines, not just when the foot acted in compression. I modified the bulbs to plug their intake valve and increase stiffness such that on the downstep, they "exhaled" blowing air out, and on the uplift of the foot, they "inhaled" sucking air back in as they decompressed.

I designed a custom turbine system to accommodate bidirectional airflow, experimenting with various materials and fabrication methods until choosing a 3D printed enclosure housing two DC motors for its light weight compared to the aluminum prototype I machined.

For the final prototype, I used a "tactical boot" for its increased space and ruggedness for wilderness testing. While walking at 1.0 Hz (one footstep per second), this system generated 86.4 mW power, enough to power a GPS tracker. MIT decided to patent my invention; check out U.S. Patent 10973276.

Bi-stable Buckled Beam Oscillator


I love playing the violin, mostly classical music but sometimes a bit of Irish folk and Avicii.

I had the chance to play at 3 Beth and Vernon Ingram Concerts hosted by Ashdown House (MIT). Above is a recording from the spring 2018 edition where I perform Obertass Mazurka composed by Henryk Wienawski.

Currently I am a Violin II in the KTH Royal Institute of Technology's Academic Orchestra. We performed Tchaikovsky's 5th in February 2023 (finale is above). Check out the KTHAK's YouTube page for more.

Curriculum Vitae


  • PhD (2022) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Thesis: Knowledge Representation for Data-Driven Design
    Advisor: Sang-Gook Kim

  • MSc (2018) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Thesis: Low-Frequency Vibrational Energy Harvesting

  • BSc (2016) Carnegie Mellon University
    Mechanical Engineering


  • Digital Futures Postdoc Fellow (2022 - 2024)
    KTH Royal Institute of Technology

  • Research Assistant & Teaching Assistant (2016 - 2022)
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Product Design Engineer Co-op (Jan. - July 2016)

  • Engine Dynamics Intern (Summer 2015)
    General Electric (GE) Aviation

Link to full CV: