Non-Equilibrium Fluid Dynamics for Micro/Nano Engineering Systems

  • Reese, Jason (Principal Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


This research is about simulating and designing the engineering flow systems that will form a major part of the responses to health, transportation, energy and climate challenges that the world faces over the next 40 years. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 four billion people in 48 countries will lack sufficient water. But 97 percent of the water on the planet is saltwater, and much of the remaining freshwater is frozen in glaciers or the polar ice caps. If the glaciers in the polar regions continue to melt, as expected, the supply of freshwater may actually decrease: freshwater from the melting glaciers will mingle with saltwater in the oceans and become too salty to drink, and rising sea levels will contaminate freshwater sources along coastal regions. Technologies for large-scale purification of seawater or other contaminated water to make it drinkable are therefore urgently needed. At the same time, figures from the US Energy Information Administration project an average growth rate of 2.7 percent per year for transportation energy use in non-OECD countries to 2030 - this is 8 times higher than the projected rate for OECD countries. China's passenger transportation energy use per capita alone is projected to triple over this period, and India's to double. Improving the fuel efficiency of air and marine transport is a strategic priority for governments and companies around the world, and will have the added benefit of reducing emissions and helping address climate change. Micro and nano scale engineering presents an important opportunity to help meet these pressing challenges. For example, early indications are that membranes of carbon nanotubes have remarkable properties in filtering salt ions and other contaminants from water. Also, controlling the turbulent drag on aircraft and ship hulls, which is a major inefficiency in modern transportation, may be achievable by embedding micro systems and/or nano structures over the vehicle's surface. This cross-disciplinary research programme targets the unconventional fluid dynamics that is key to innovating in these visionary applications. The work is strongly supported by 9 external partners, ranging from large multinational companies to SMEs and public advisory bodies, and brings together established research groups from two major UK universities and a national research institute. We will deliver a comprehensive new technique for simulating mixed equilibrium/non-equilibrium fluid dynamics at the nano and micro scale, and deploy it on three important technical challenges that span the range of economic and societal impact, from energy to healthcare. These are drag reduction in aerospace, applications of super-hydrophobic surfaces to marine transport, and water desalination / purification. In this research we aim to:- accurately predict the performance of the proposed technologies;- optimise their design within realistic engineering parameters;- propose new designs which exploit flow behaviour at this scale for technological impact. The research partnership leading this Programme has flourished over 10 years into an international driver for understanding these kinds of thermodynamically non-equilibrium flows, attracting substantial joint funding and producing co-authored research publications. The partnership is poised to effect the step-change in non-equilibrium flow simulation capabilities that is needed to make new technologies at the micro and nano scale practicable, beyond any currently conceived.
Effective start/end date1/01/1116/02/16


  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council): £2,402,942.00