With emphasis on thermofluid engineering we use a combination of fabrication strategies, experimental techniques and computational analysis to elucidate energy transport and storage in micro and nanostructures. The knowledge gained from these studies are then applied in several areas, including thermal management, thermal energy storage, water desalination, and solar energy harvesting. The underlying research being multidisciplinary, we collaborate with material scientists, chemists and physicists to develop novel materials, devices and energy systems. The overall goal of our research is to address the rising demands for energy and water.
Fundamental Investigation of Phase-change
Understanding wetting characteristics of liquids on various surfaces and its effect on phase change is critical for many applications. As the characteristic lengths approach micro and nanoscales, in addition to capillary forces, long-range interactions, such as van der Waals forces, can also play an important role. These factors can change the interface shape and motion, and in turn, the rates of heat and mass transfer during liquid-vapor phase change. The overall objectives of our research include detailed experimental and computational study of phase change in nanostructures. We plan to take advantage of various force interactions and apply this knowledge to build chemically-functionalized nanoengineered surfaces to control phase change and mitigate thermal challenges in industrial applications.
Multiscale Analysis of Sorption Behavior
Adsorption based heat-pumps have received significant interest due to potentially high efficiencies and energy savings when coupled with waste heat and solar energy compared to conventional heating and cooling systems. However, such systems are plagued with performance limitations due to energy and mass transport limitations. Our research can identify and quantify transport limitations at various scales - at material-level (nanometers), component-level (centimeters) and system-level (meter). By way of theoretical studies, we also identify how these limitations work together to limit the performance of the overall system. This guides us in recommending strategies and design guidelines that allow fabrication of efficiently-operating energy systems capable of providing climate control or allow thermal energy storage.
Nano-engineered Surfaces for Energy Storage and Enhanced Thermal Transport
While effective heat dissipation is crucial for electronic devices, cooling infrastructure consumes significant energy. Thus, strategies for aggressive and efficient thermal management are necessary. Thin film evaporation can address thermal challenges in high performance electronics [1, 2]. Using nanofabrication technology, microfluidic devices can be manufactured to sustain microscopically-thin liquid films to sustain thin film evaporation. For example, the devices shown in Figure 1 can provide record high heat fluxes exceeding 5 MW/m at relatively low operational temperatures, making them ideal for next-generation electronic cooling . The device can also be designed to prevent dryout, which is one of the critical bottlenecks for phase-change cooling strategies .
Thermal Energy Storage