The current issue of the University of Houston Momentum magazine announces a new endowed professorship in the mechanical engineering department that is sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Kalsi of Kalsi Engineering, Inc. The “Dr. Manmohan Singh Kalsi and Dr. Marie-Luise Schubert Kalsi Endowed Professorship” was established in 2014 in honor of Professor Gabriel Fazekas.
M.S. Kalsi (MSME ’70, PhD ME ’75) was accepted at the Punjab University College of Engineering in Chandigarh, India at age 16, graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1967. He came to the United States to pursue his graduate studies, and chose the University of Houston after considering offers from several other universities. Professor Gabriel Fazekas had an outsized influence on Dr. Kalsi’s graduate studies, and eventual career path. A Hungarian by birth, Fazekas was educated in Switzerland. Prior to teaching at the University of Houston, he worked for many years in industry, including service as the chief engineer of several large corporations. This extensive industrial experience is what made Fazekas such an outstanding professor of mechanical engineering. Kalsi’s first class with Fazekas was titled “Mechanics of Friction, Lubrication, and Wear”—a course that has had a lasting impact on Kalsi’s professional trajectory in the realm of valve engineering.
While Fazekas was the chief engineer at American Machine and Foundry in 1957, he experimented with the idea of using an O-ring in a slanted groove to produce a hydrodynamic rotary seal. The core idea was to use the slant to force a lubricant film into the dynamic sealing interface in response to rotation. Although the experiments were unsuccessful, Fazekas believed that success could be achieved if better design parameters could be selected through more advanced analytical work. This analytical work, and follow-up testing, is the master’s thesis challenge Kalsi accepted from Fazekas. After creating a one-dimensional elasto-hydrodynamic model and using it to predict performance, Kalsi was able to select seal design parameters that provided stable hydrodynamic performance, even at higher speeds and pressures.
After finishing his master’s degree in 1970, Kalsi began a career in industry with a major valve manufacturer. Although working full-time, he went back to the University of Houston to pursue his Ph.D., choosing more intensive research in the field of hydrodynamic rotary seals as his dissertation. His co-advisors were Professors Fazekas and Patrick Hedgecox. Part of the research involved study of the hydrodynamic lubrication mechanism using an optical interference technique that allowed direct observation and measurement of interfacial film thickness. As a result of this fundamental research, which provided much greater insight into the operation of a hydrodynamic seal, non-dimensional equations were developed that predict minimum film thickness, coefficient of friction, and leakage of a slanted seal.
During Kalsi’s time at the University of Houston, Fazekas challenged him to find a way to apply the knowledge he had gained to create a commercial rotary seal product line. Kalsi founded his own consulting engineering business in 1978, just three years after completing his Ph.D. Before long, he learned of the need for improved rotary seals in the oilfield drilling industry, and conducted tests that led to a commercially successful line of hydrodynamic rotary seals. The research that Professor Fazekas inspired continues to this day, providing continual improvements to our rotary seal product line.
Without the world-class education provided by the University of Houston, and the guidance and inspiration provided by Professor Fazekas, Kalsi may have never gone on to found a successful engineering firm—and he certainly wouldn’t have become enamored with the field of rotary sealing. This new endowed professorship is a way of saying thank you, to both the university and Professor Fazekas. “The professors in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Houston are world-class educators and researchers,” Kalsi states. “This professorship will allow the department to add more top engineering faculty to their roster.” Click here to see a video of an interview of Dr. Kalsi by the University of Houston.