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Energy and Environmental Quality

The Energy and Environmental Quality application area covers fundamental studies of the processes used in generating energy, conserving it, and maintaining the environment; and research focused on specific industrial sectors.

The fundamental studies focus on the processes that account for over 90% of the energy humanity uses, so that every engineering improvement in these fields bears directly on the planet’s energy consumption. 

  1. Thermal processes (Heremans, Khafizov, Mazumder, Sun, Selamet) include the experimental study of thermal properties of materials for sustainable energy applications, and heat transfer.  Other subjects are nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics, gas-liquid two-phase flows, high-temperature heat exchangers; and thermoelectrics and spin-thermal effects for waste heat recovery.  Also included are computational modeling of chemically reactive flows and thermal radiation.
  2. Combustion (Sutton, Kim, Selamet), and other mechanisms for energy transfer such as plasmas (Adamovich, Rich).  Experimentally, advanced laser diagnostics probe the fundamental physical and chemical processes occurring in turbulent, reacting, and multi-phase flows that underpin modern energy-conversion systems.  The experiments also focus on the study of the physics and chemistry of low temperature non-equilibrium plasmas with emphasis on fundamental energy transfer processes.  High-fidelity computation and modeling of flow problems are being developed for power, transportation, and propulsion systems. 
  3. Substantial research efforts are aimed at improving power transmission efficiency in gears (Kahraman, Talbot).
  4. Research efforts are also taking place with specific impacts on the enviroment including looking at water desalination, power plant cooling, resource efficiency in unconventional oil and gas, and energy harvesting from waste streams and portable power sources (Prakash).
  5. Kinetic energy harvesting (Cho, Dapino, Harne) to realize self-sustaining electronic systems and power solutions to embedded systems such as in biomedical and industrial engineering applications
  6. Risk, Reliability, and Safety Analysis (Aldemir, Smidts) includes nuclear reactor and aerospace systems safety, probabilistic safety/risk assessment of large engineering systems, non-linear system diagnostics and prognostics, reliability analysis, probabilistic risk assessment, dynamic methods of probabilistic risk assessment, uncertainty quantification in dynamic systems.

Industry-specific research includes:

  1. Ground-based transportation  and larger energy systems aspects related to the interaction of automotive vehicles with the electric and natural gas energy grids (Canova, Guezennec, J. Kim, Midlam-Mohler, Rizzoni, Selamet, Wang; see also CAR): All aspects of energy as they pertain to automotive vehicles – energy for propulsion and storage, powertrain energy efficiency, and the role of alternative fuels, including electricity; system- and control-oriented aspects of these energy systems; battery modeling, aging and diagnostics/prognostics; Internal Combustion Engines; Modeling, estimation, and control methods for reducing energy consumption and environmental impacts of the ground transportation systems.
  2. Air and space (Samimy, D'Souza, Gregory, McNamara, Shen).  Search for improvement of the propulsion and aerodynamic efficiency of aircraft, and reduction of jet noise in commercial and military aircraft. Computational modeling and experimental investigations of gas turbines used in the power generation and aircraft engine industries.  Study of aerodynamic flow control of road vehicles and aircraft, enabling lower drag designs that reduce fuel consumption.  Basic and applied study of complex interactions in dynamical systems that exhibit strong fluid-structural coupling.  Study of structural reliability, sustainability, and risk assessment, fatigue-creep life assessment and prediction, and on-line vehicle structural health management.

Labs and Centers

Graduate Courses

  • ME 5339: Simulation Techniques for Dynamic Systems
  • ME 5427: Introduction to Turbomachinery
  • ME 5539: Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics and Heat Transfer
  • ME 6510: Intermediate Heat Transfer
  • ME 6665: Reliability Engineering I
  • ME 7511: Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • ME 8312: Diesel Powertrain Systems Control